I was born in Liverpool, the daughter of a soldier, so my childhood was spent in barracks in many places including two war zones. I grew up in Nairobi, Tripoli, Malta, Cyprus, Germany and the UK but never called anywhere home. Up to the age of 17, I lived in 28 houses, tents and flats and went to 17 schools. I’m fascinated by those with strong roots because I have none.
Without stability, army brats can become solitary and self-sufficient or go off the rails. I escaped into books – my safe zones – away from marching soldiers and the colour khaki.
I was the third cohort to study English and Drama at Birmingham University, but I didn’t fit. My PhD thesis was on children’s language where English and Psychology melded and my fascination with words came full circle.
While lecturing at Keele university, Oliver & Boyd accepted my proposal for a writing scheme, Write From The Start. Cancer Research funded Growing Up in Smoke followed, then while recovering from illness, Shattered: Life with ME. The wonderful but now defunct Women’s Press published two of my books under the name Helen Braid.
My debut novel, White Lies, is based partly on my elderly father’s memories of his time in Kenya fighting the Mao Mao. My second novel, Run, Alice, Run, is a retort to a society that makes older women feel irrelevant and invisible. My third novel, The Red Beach Hut, my personal favourite, was published in October 2017.
When not writing, I run Linen Press, the only independent women’s press in the UK.
And I’m in the final throes of a seven year project building a house, hands on, in the South of France.