It’s taken a pandemic to make me realise the job I’ve done for almost nineteen years is far from ordinary. For a while there, those of us on the National Health Service frontline were treated like heroes, with a weekly doorstep round of applause, priority shopping at the supermarkets, and free food. So much free food. I’m not going to lie, it was great to be appreciated, but none of us really bought into the hype and believed we were fit to be lauded. We turned up for our shifts, worried about the shit PPE, caught covid, recovered, and came back, week in, week out, to do it all over again. In truth, many of us were relieved when the free stuff dwindled and then stopped altogether, and the regular pot-banging and hand-clapping came to an end. Not because it hadn’t been nice, and certainly not because it hadn’t been a welcome morale boost, but because we didn’t believe we were doing anything special enough to deserve it.
It was only when this blog hop rolled around that I put any serious thought into what influences my writing. Stepping outside my work boots, I considered my job from a layperson’s perspective and realised that what seems like a bread-and-butter day to me absolutely isn’t normal. It isn’t normal to go into the house of a complete stranger and see them at their most vulnerable. It isn’t normal to cradle a four-week-old cot death because her devastated mum can’t bear to, and then go straight to an elderly woman with a fractured hip who also needs every bit of your compassion. It isn’t normal to deal with the sick, the scared, the violent, the volatile, and the dying, and never know from one call to the next which of those you might have to deal with.
These same themes consistently crop up in my novels, all of which feature ordinary women keeping their heads down and cracking on through circumstances that anyone else would consider extreme. I write emergency responders because I know how we work and think, and how we learn to laugh about stuff so it doesn’t end up breaking us. I know how knackered we get, how much we swear, how much crap we eat, and how good a terrible hospital brew tastes at 3 a.m. in the middle of winter.
My books might be darker in tone and content than the average lesfic, but they aren’t all doom and gloom. As I’m writing this, my mate just texted me a photo: her ambulance windscreen with a box of biscuits a passerby had put on it. It’s these little gestures that keep us going, even when things seem pretty bleak. It’s Meg sliding across the kitchen floor in bed socks she’s pinched from Sanne, Rosie making Jem a toilet-roll flower, or Sarah and Alex sharing mud-splattered granola bars. These are my lesbian fiction equivalents of a box of biccies left on the front of an ambulance. I don’t write fluffy romances, and I don’t read them, because – even now, even in 2020 – I don’t want the escapism, and I love being able to bring elements of my everyday into my fiction. As the saying goes: it’s a dirty (and messy, and smelly, and upsetting, and uplifting) job, but someone has to do it.
My new novel Unbreakable – a thriller/police procedural will be released in October 2021