It was after having her second child that Katharine Gardner decided to pursue what she’d always loved most – writing.
The former Lancaster teacher entered a magazine competition to write a story on ‘the battle between good and evil in the universe’. No pressure then!
Each Friday evening she wrote on an old style typewriter until the deadline and was amazed when she came first runner-up with The Lives of Stanley Pritchard.
Fast forward to today and Katharine has three married daughters plus two grandsons, and is a full-time writer who published her first novel just before Christmas.
Writing under her maiden name of Katharine Ann Angel, Katharine was born in Kent although she has lived all over the world.
Her dad was a doctor who became an anaesthetist in the army so they moved house countless times to Singapore, Malaysia, Germany, London and so on.
This led to boarding school for Katharine in Bath.
She said: “I’d read far too much Enid Blyton so I was very excited about how much trouble I might get into, imagining midnight feasts and tricks on teachers.
“I often sat on the beds of other girls and concocted stories to help them sleep or to scare them witless!”
Sadly, when Katharine was 18 her dad suddenly died from a stroke.
“Consequently I messed up my A-levels and ditched my plan to study English and Fine Arts at university,” she said.
“Instead, I hitched around Europe for two months with my Dutch penfriend. After countless adventures, we ended up in London where I worked as a cleaner, then a cook in a college. A year later I joined the students there to study for a BA in Theology.”
She met Andrew from Lancashire and they married in London in 1981.
She said: “I’d always wanted to be a teacher so I did a PGCE at the West London Institute of Higher Education in Richmond.”
In 1984, the couple moved to Preston where their first two daughters were born. After moving again, to Lancaster, daughter number three arrived.
Her girls attended Moorside School while Katharine taught at Ripley St Thomas’ which she says was a “total privilege”.
The family returned to Preston in 1995 and Katharine ended up working in the community teaching youngsters excluded from mainstream school.
“My motto is one person at a time,” she said
“The world is full of people with so many burdens and we can’t help everyone but everyone can help one person, so we opened our home to others.
“Many adults and children came to live with us, either privately or through fostering, some for days, others for years.”
Katharine put her experiences with the children she had fostered or taught to good use when three years ago she decided to risk leaving teaching to write full-time.
She submitted a short story called Obi and the O about an illiterate 10-year-old who is always in trouble at school.
This led to the publication of Being Forgotten – eight short stories about issues faced by teens she had come into contact with as a teacher or foster mum. Each story can be used as a basis for discussion to aid understanding of certain behaviours.
Her latest achievement is her novel, The Froggitt Chain.
“I decided to write a novel,” said Katharine.
“ I literally wrote something. Facing a blank screen, ‘something’ became my first word. I didn’t even know what that something was until I carried on writing. The Froggitt Chain grew out of that seed.”
Katharine has already started work on her second novel, The Burglar’s Baby.
And she’s got two series for teenagers who struggle with reading just waiting for the right educational publisher.
It certainly looks like Katharine’s writing career is going to be a prolific one.
*The Froggitt Chain is stocked by Waterstones and published by 2QT Publishing of Lancaster.