The New Year started for me with very sad news. The wonderful novelist Maureen Lee died on New Year’s Eve.
Maureen was a best-selling author, writing and publishing many short stories, and some 24 novels in her long life, including the enthralling family sagas set in and around her home city of Liverpool. In 2000, her book Dancing In The Dark was named novel of the year by the Romantic Novelists Association.
But she was more than that. She was my mentor and friend.
We ‘met’ some thirty years ago. Our first contact was via the pages of The Observer newspaper. She’d written a piece about the difficulty of balancing the life of a novelist with that of a wife and mother. I wrote a cheeky little reply which was printed in the following week’s Letters page.
Soon afterwards, Maureen got in touch. I never found out how she got my details! We corresponded and eventually met for lunch in London. We hit it off immediately. Thereafter we kept in touch and met for lunch every summer, until quite recently.
Maureen was always supportive of my writing, frank with advice, and generous with help. Although her works regularly appeared in the Sunday Times Bestsellers lists, she was never grand or puffed up. Having said that, she didn’t pull her punches if she didn’t like something! Her books featured strong female protagonists and Maureen herself, though modest about all she’d achieved, was certainly a strong woman. Her tribute in The Bookseller is well deserved.
It’s largely thanks to her that I persisted with Note to Boy and, eventually, got it published. When I was signed to Unbound, Maureen was one of the first to crowdfund it. She was also one of the first people I contacted when Note to Boy was eventually launched. I’d hoped to see her last summer to thank her properly but, thanks to Covid, it never happened. And now it never will.