You probably know all about Shaman’s Drum, Ailsa’s award- nominated novel, unless you have been living in a cave and missed all the publicity she sent around about it. So let’s get some background on this Hell’s Granny.
“Mixed up” is a good way to start. From her parentage, mother Scots/Irish and father English Jewish which meant they were disowned by both families, to her current status, carrying both a French and British passport but always being mistaken for Dutch or German…a born stateless person. Add to that she was born on a train, nearest station West Hartlepool, a place with which she has no connections at all and you’ll understand that from the beginning, Ailsa was meant to be confused.
Moving to Hawick where her Scottish mother thought they would be happier after her Daddy died when Ailsa was four, she was ostracised and bullied as being English. This was the terrible winter of 1960/1 and if the whole town hadn’t been snowed in from October through to March they might well have moved out again immediately.
Two moves later found Ailsa and Mama in Cornwall, a place she had dreamed of living ever since she first went on holiday there and although the bullying (this time for not being Cornish) continued, it was an idyllic childhood and where she first started to pick up on her Celtic roots, explore the magical past of the standing stones and develop her life-long pagan ways.
What else would you expect but Drama College for this exuberant and unashamed show off? Thumbing her nose at the headmistress of her snotty girls’ school who refused to endorse her application due to “a complete inability to comprehend mathematics”, Ailsa did what she was always going to do in life – set out on her own and made it so.
The inability in maths has never bothered her but a total inability to say “No” to adventure has been her downfall on many occasions although it has also put her in situations that were enormous fun. She ran away to sea having married an officer in the Merchant Navy but unfortunately he beat her up. Never mind, she got to see a lot of the world on Shell Tankers and now says the few broken bones and stitches were probably worth it.
Once back on dry land she married again and began a series of fascinating jobs but her limited concentration span meant that she always moved on to something better or got a nicer offer. It was again her aversion to the word “no” that saw her co-opted into the Royal Air Force and teaching survival until an early detection of cervical cancel gave her the option of flying a desk or leaving. Obviously she left. If she wasn’t going to be out in the wilds, doing assault courses, hitching lifts in stunt planes and begging to fly a Hercules, she wasn’t going to play. She still misses the unarmed combat and wishes she had known it when husband number one was around.
A series of jobs followed including veterinary nurse, secretary, PA, switchboard operator (where she could use her gift for vocal mimicry to amuse herself no end) administrator of an international body for Riding School Proprietors and finally teaching English overseas to adults.
She and her second husband arrived in France in 1991 on their boat Serendipity but shortly afterwards he disappeared off with his boyfriend to the Czech Republic, leaving her living alone in a tent with the boat up for sale.
Now with husband number three (a retired Royal Navy officer) she has taken early retirement due to ill health which is how she finds the time to write. Although officially a card-carrying invalid due to her Bipolar condition, twisted spine, several bits of innards that are missing etc., she still lives life to the full. No longer being able to ride her beloved horses, she has switched back to her teenage love, motorbikes and gives the local adolescents a run for their money if they try to race her.
In all this frantic life only one thing has been stable – her spirituality. Although pagan she has studied world religions as much as possible and counts amongst her many friends representatives of all of them. Diversity rules! This provided the background for Shaman’s Drum in which she can write with authority on different forms of paganism.
If you dared to ask her what her future plans are she might reply “The gods only let you make plans for the glee of screwing them up for you.” On a more sardonic day the answer would be “Keeping breathing would be nice.” If you are a good friend she will confide that one day she would like to move back to the UK or anywhere else where her accent doesn’t get her into trouble…. yes, it’s still happening.
It is available from
Her Website is HERE
Four Go Mad in Catalonia is on Smashwords
Cameron Lawton’s work is published by MLRPress