Welcome to Cafe and Bookstore spotlight. I invited writers to share what they consider to be a defining moment in their lives that resulted in a major positive change. This is the last post in the series and I hope you have enjoyed reading these inspiring stories.
My guest today is Joyce Hampton who made the decision following a serious injury to use the recovery time to write her first book.
About Joyce Hampton
I was born in Stratford E15 and moved around various areas of London before finally settling in Surrey with my husband John and our two cairn terriers.
I began writing in 2012 and my first book was: Looking back – A century of life in Bethnal Green, this book evolved from tracking other people’s recollections as the primary source material, partly family anecdotes, of the amusing, sad or serious into a written record. This research was supplemented by cross-checking documented events, in London libraries and archives to ensure that the book is both easy to read as well as being factually correct. I gradually found that I had created a walk through time account of the Bethnal Green area of the 19th and 20th centuries, which includes the Bethnal Green tube disaster of 1943.
My newest book is The Story of the Huguenots: A unique Legacy. It is a 500 page book but with a difference as it is a FACTUAL NOVEL in other words it has the factual history of the Huguenots but written in the expected format of a novel in the belief that the reader will find it more engaging and will want to discover more about this amazing group of people. The book is divided into four parts (all within the one book). I also take bookings for talks and lectures on the subject, including, as an example, a slot at the annual Write Idea Festival in London which was to a very appreciative audience of over 100 people.
I knew that there was a book inside me waiting to be written.
Like many people, I always felt I had a book somewhere inside me, but it was finding the time to seek it out and get it into the big wide world which prevented me doing anything about it!
I have always loved reading especially history, but it was the day that three discs in my spine collapsed that proved to be my life changing moment. It was a lovely sunny summer’s day the birds were singing the bees were definitely buzzing and I was happily weeding a flower bed. My back ached from bending over and I had ignored earlier in the day the strange sensation in my lower spine – suddenly what felt like an electric shock cut though my lower spine and my legs crumpled beneath me…..
Several weeks later, once the diagnosis had been made and the painkillers began to kick in, I realised I needed some lifestyle changes……hmm……..would now be a good time to write that book?
2013, was the beginning of this new venture…. I was going to find that book inside me and write it…. after all everything happens for a reason! As I started to mull over my subject matter one evening, I tuned in to watch the early evening news on TV. At the beginning of the London News programme I saw an elderly lady standing in what appeared to be a muddy fenced off building site but it was in actual fact the designated area for the new Stairway to Heaven memorial, to all those who perished in March 1943. She began to speak about this WWII disaster which had happened at the partially completed Bethnal Green tube station and that’s when I decided on my topic!
My father’s family had lived in Bethnal Green and its environs for many decades, but I only had a scanty recollection of this local history from whispers heard about long afterwards. But, two things were about to change all of that. One was a meeting with Sandra Scotting of the Stairway to Heaven charity and the other was the re-discovery of a much-treasured hand-written diary by my aunt. I decided that the book should reflect social change and armed with notebook and pen I paid a visit to the local library in Bethnal Green where I spent an entertaining morning with a local history group. By the end of this visit I had a plan, based on local residents’ knowledge, and so began to research and write Looking Back – A Century of Life in Bethnal Green.
This is the book cover of the paperback and one of the chapters covers the event both before, during and after the Bethnal Green tube disaster when 173 men, women and children lost their lives.
The photos show the incomplete entrance to the station and people sheltering down on the platform and in the space where the rails would be fitted post war. The book covers the years 1862 to 1962 an immense period of social change not only in London but across the world as countries became embroiled in two world wars, but not all is gloom and doom I promise.
During the writing of this book I made many friends and learned so much about the ever-changing life in east London, it even led me to eventually take over as the Chairwoman of the Stairway to Heaven charity.
You can see here a photo of the completed memorial, we still raise funds for its upkeep. For more details please go to Stairway to Heaven Memorial
Having written this book, there really was no stopping me and my next subject was to be the Huguenots!
Huguenots are French protestants and I had known almost all my life that my father’s family had originally been Huguenots and that they had fled from France to escape persecution.
What an amazing journey I have been on to write this book. I have criss-crossed various areas of France during wonderful research trips and made many friends in far flung regions of the world, including – Australia, Canada, America, Mexico as well as Germany and the Netherlands. I even met a very helpful French taxi driver in Toulouse who helped me find a certain building important to Huguenot history.
Again, I chose the route of identifying what people would like and even expect a book about the Huguenots to contain and from all the shared hopes and requests of these willing helpers I was able to write about 500 years of history not only in France but across the world. Along the way I have again made some wonderful discoveries including distant Huguenot relatives on both sides of the Channel as well as some of the everyday items that were invented by Huguenots and which still enhance our daily lives. This book has just been relaunched as a second edition in paperback and as an e-book.
So, where will this life changing event of a few years ago take me next? I think the answer is, it will take me, as an author, on future, for me untrodden paths, where I shall happily explore more subjects to write about. I have also discovered another niche – giving talks about various aspects of history that affect our daily lives, I frequently blog about key events too and I have also begun to give talks on-line. You can find out more on my blog
I think it is fair to say that from adversity there was a new, and as it turns out, and exciting beginning for me; without the spine issues I would probably not have found the courage to begin writing.
Fate certainly does move in mysterious ways – and for me, I am delighted it has.
Joyce’s books are also in Eversion.
One of the reviews for The Story of the Huguenots: A Unique Legacy
What I had been searching for some time was a concise yet comprehensive history of the origins, sufferings and contributions of these brave and industrious people. The author does not fail to deliver on any of these, and the writing style Joyce Hampton employs makes the entire story so easy to read that even if you knew very little about the subject beforehand, you will gain so much learning and enjoyment from reading this. I particularly enjoyed the way In which the major events, such as the Edict of Nantes, as well as the Revocation, are described and evaluated whilst simultaneously the reader is provided with personal accounts of people’s often horrific experiences of such religious intolerance. You’ll be able to feel what they went through, and of course, many of these lessons still resonate with us today. Sometimes neighbour helped neighbour; sometimes, they didn’t. The story is as up to date as any such story can be – twentieth century events are narrated, and you’ll learn of events that took place even in 2017 too. I do not hesitate to recommend this book to all.
My thanks to Joyce for sharing her story of the life changing moment that prompted her to write her first book…I know that she would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.