I was born and raised in Tunbridge Wells in Kent, where I still live. Like my partner Ruth, I left school at 16, and went to secretarial college for 2 years. I worked in a solicitors office and then managed a hairdressing salon before having four daughters in quick succession from 1986 to 1992. Unfortunately my marriage broke down and I had to manage working and looking after my girls. I was always pretty organised, but my life became a military operation juggling work and family!
I subsequently worked for a management consultant, an estate agent, at a sales and marketing agency where I met my second husband Andrew (although I didn’t know he was going to be a part of our lives until after I left the company), at a business book publisher and at a children’s publisher both in International Sales and Rights. This last company was where I was lucky enough to meet Ruth, and the rest is history as they say. So my husband and business partner have both been met through work!!
My husband and I left our respective employment and set up a small medical publishing company and a freelance sales agency business for publishers into Asian markets. My husband did all the travel and me, you’ve guessed it. . . all the organisation. There is definitely a pattern here! The agency business boomed and the publishing business just bobbed along, but I was craving something more interesting and exciting. I just didn’t know what.
Ruth and I had always stayed friends even after both leaving our jobs and in her case, moving 300 miles away. She and her husband would come and stay with us, and we would visit her in Cornwall, and obviously we talked about the projects that she was working on. I could never understand how she was happy to produce such amazing books for other publishers but never wanted to publish for herself. She would say, “I just love writing and having worked in sales most of my life, I don’t want to go back to that”.
But I think I put a germ of an idea in her head, and one day while we were out and about driving, she dropped into the conversation the idea that we should work together – but she definitely just wanted to write books. I think I went a bit quiet. However, after thinking about it for a while, I called her and said, OK let’s do it!
It hasn’t all been plain sailing that’s for sure. Setting up an international publishing company is an expensive and very time-consuming proposition. However I am SO glad I said yes. We go through the ups and downs together, supporting each other when things are tough and celebrating the highs together, too. I think, and I hope she thinks too, that we work really well together (From Ruth: 100% Can’t believe how lucky I am to have Shan as my friend and partner).
Ruth, however, is definitely the amazingly creative one. . . I am always saying to her that I don’t have a creative bone in my body (From Ruth: I don’t agree! Shan is much more creative than she realises) – although I do know what I like. And once again, my organisational skills have come into play.
Like Ruth, I have loved books from an early age. I remember my parents taking me to a secondhand book swap shop, where you could buy secondhand books, and then once read, you could take them back and get a percentage of the price you paid, towards your next book. I remember one of the first books I purchased was a hardback title called Born to Nurse. I read and re-read that book so much that the jacket was very broken and bashed. I never took that one back. It stayed on my shelves for many years, and I made all of my daughters read it. None of them have become nurses though!
Having four children and now with six grandsons ranging from 7 months to 11 years, I have been able to indulge my love of books completely. Only the other day my eldest daughter was looking on my bookshelves for a book for her 3-year-old and she came across one from her own younger days. . . “I can’t believe you have still got this mum!” she said. “Why haven’t you given it to a charity shop?” Yes! I admit it. . . I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to books. I find it very difficult to walk past a bookshop without going in.
Taking time out from work for me involves heading to a tennis court whenever I can. To say I am competitive on court is a bit of an understatement! I also love meeting up with friends for dinner, cooking, pilates, travelling and of course reading.
I am also incredibly lucky that three of my daughters and all of my grandsons live in Tunbridge Wells, so I am able to take an active role in helping the girls with their boys and that brings a lot of joy into my life. My youngest lives in California and is due to be married in May, and I know she can’t wait to start a family. So my travelling may have to increase with regular trips to the West Coast of America to lend a helping hand!