When one door closes: how a career shift turned out a debut novel

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Written byClaire Hunte

Local author Marianne Rosen’s debut novel, The Doors of Riverdell, is published on 25 November and is set in Ludlow. The first of a four-book, modern family saga, The Doors of Riverdell places a fictional house in the real setting of Dinham Weir and explores what it means to both have a home and belong to a family. Marianne who has lived in the Ludlow area for over 20 years and ran a local interiors business, shares with LGL what led to her newfound career and how Ludlow has inspired her new book.

Marianne in her former life as interior consultant

Marianne in her former life as interior consultant

LGL: Marianne, we understand your family business is farming but you had a first career working on interiors locally, it’s a dramatic switch, what happened?

MR: I ran an interiors consultation business in and around Ludlow for over 20 years, collaborating with Draycott and Charles, The Ludlow Curtain Company, Brock Fabrics and other local businesses. Why did I turn from one career to another? In this case, it really was a matter that as one door closed another opened. In 2016, as I was gearing up for the intense Christmas season, I found myself suffering from a chronic bout of carpal tunnel syndrome. By the end of the season, I lost all feeling in my right arm. Operations beckoned but, after a long hard look at the probabilities, I decided it was time to change direction. Having harboured a life-long dream to be a writer, it seemed life was presenting the perfect opportunity. It took two years to wind down my business, another year to find my stride as a writer and a final year to work towards publication.

LGL: What was that journey like moving from business owner to writer?

MR: It was daunting, but I think it’s good advice to start with what you know. When I closed my business, I started by looking at what my skill set was. I had all this amazing experience of working with families on beautiful, inherited homes and understanding the dynamics of what makes a house a home. The Doors is very much about that experience, set against a background I know — the fantastic town of Ludlow and the intimacy of a large, adored home.

Beyond that I am a very practical creative person. I know from experience that skill is garnered, you have to learn what you are doing, practice it, seek feedback. I sought out a community of writers to learn from. I set clear targets and working processes and stuck to them. It wasn’t always smooth. My first draft was sprawling and messy, my editor was brutal.

Marianne Rosen. Buttercross in Ludlow

Marianne Rosen. Buttercross in Ludlow

It’s been a huge learning curve, but I count myself as blessed. I’ve always known I wanted to become a full-time writer. If something matters enough, you have to be prepared to start from nothing and learn the ropes. Don’t be afraid to let go of who you are to become who you want to be. Four years after my working crisis, I’m about to become a published author, with another three books in the pipeline.

LGL: With your well-practiced eye, can you share what makes a house a home? What things does one need to make a grand house a home?

It really is all in the details. The intimate collection of what excites a person, whether that be fabrics, furnishings, pictures, books, ornaments. No matter how stunning the architecture or elaborate the decor, the human eye is drawn to those details of the people who live there.

LGL: Unforeseen circumstances forced you to change careers, you were fortunate to be able to pursue a life-long dream, what advice would you give to those who are forced to contemplate or consider other avenues as a result of the pandemic?

Be kind to yourself, take steps, not leaps. If you have an idea, follow it from one point to the next. It’s okay to not know exactly where you are going, and it’s a lot better to feel you’re setting your own path than being controlled by forces outside you. Fear is the flip side of excitement. You’d be amazed at how getting over that first terrifying step can give you huge energy and determination. So, make that step smaller.

LGL: Along the same trajectory, lots of people are considering moving to rural areas for space and lifestyle changes among others; what would you say to those wanting to move to an area like Ludlow as an answer?

I’d spend time renting first, move location a few times before you choose your home. It takes years of living somewhere like Ludlow to really know the town and surrounding countryside. If you do make the move, join lots of local groups. Ludlow, like many small towns, thrives on networks of communication run by small voluntary groups and long-standing friendships, that can take time to access. So, join all the groups, that’s what I’d advise!

The Doors of Riverdell is available as an ebook and in print from 25 November 2020 or pick up a copy at the Castle Bookshop in Ludlow when it reopens.


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