We chat to journalist, broadcaster, playwright and author of The Greening Margaret Coles about her life, work and loves
Life-changing career moment
Landing my first job in radio gave me the chance to do things that I had always wanted to do, as a reporter, presenter and producer, and subsequently led to a career in broadcasting and journalism.
When I first entered the cell of Julian of Norwich, the medieval mystic and theologian, I had this wonderful feeling of elation, joy and deep peace. I needed to know more about her and ended up writing a book about her!
The memory that I feel enriched me the most, is of when I helped my sister to prepare a Christmas dinner for the elderly residents of a care home. I was inspired by the way her Christian faith impelled her to open her heart and help others.
A mother’s love
My mother’s love changed my life. She was kind to everyone. When she had passed over I came to realise just how much of an impression she had made on family, friends and neighbours through her practical acts of kindness.
I was devastated when I was unable to get a grant to study at drama school, despite having offers of a place from three leading schools. Whatever might have happened if I had taken a different path, I believe my life’s journey has brought me to the place where I’m meant to be.
Life of leisure
If I didn’t work, I would write, travel, sing, act and sketch more! I’d also buy more art – in particular the work of the Welsh artist Kyffin Williams.
I don’t waste time regretting the past and worrying about the future – I try to live in the moment.
Having read her book, the Revelations of Divine Love, I became captivated by Julian of Norwich, the medieval mystic and subject of my book.
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. The best way to learn how to write is by reading, and there could be no better example of perfection than this.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, made me realise what is possible to combine characterisation, description, dialogue and wonderful story-telling, and was a fabulous example to try to follow.
The Idiot by Dostoyevsky. This was a book that opened my mind, demonstrating how you can take one strong, compelling narrative thread and play it out.
a)I’m happiest when walking on the Hampshire downs. One of the characters in The Greening (itals) describes how, on a walk in the hills, he suddenly feels that he is “a part of everything, that the land, sky, trees and I were all one”.
Can’t live without
In reality, there’s nothing I can’t live without, if I have air, food and water. The things I would rather not do without are many; they include books, music and the company of the people I love. I also need time to meditate. Meditating keeps me focused and in touch with my intuition.
Keeping in tune
I can’t imagine that anything could sound more like the voice of God than Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs. I listen to Welsh folk songs from time to time, also – they’re part of my cultural heritage.
Close at hand
The three items I always carry with me are, a pencil, notebook and earplugs. I must have the pencil and notebook so that I can make “word drawings” of people and places that I want to remember. I hate noise and find it very distracting, so I always have a pair or two of earplugs in my handbag.
Margaret’s latest love story, detective tale and mystery book is partly inspired by the writings of 14th -century mystic Julian of Norwich, the first woman to write a book in the English language. Priced £7.19, hayhouse.co.uk