Wigan writer inspired by Downton drama
A Wigan writer has achieved her long-held dream of publishing a novel - with a little help from one of TV's best-loved period costume dramas.
Chloe Openshaw, from Appley Bridge, has published The Secret Solitaire which is set in 1901 and follows a young girl, Anna, through her turbulent life working in service.
Chloe had harboured the ambition to break into the world of fiction for many years and finally found her subject while watching popular show Downton Abbey.
However, the inspiration was not straightforward as her idea was to chronicle the servants and those whose reality was very different from the glamorous, lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous shown on the silver screen.
Chloe, 38, said: “Anna has a twisted family background and she discovers who she is in the book.
“I started watching Downton and I got my inspiration for writing about people in service at that time. However, the troubles that went with that weren’t really included on the TV.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted but also something I never thought I would actually be able to achieve. It’s a bit surreal to have it in print but I’m going with it.”
Chloe, who uses the pen name CJ Openshaw, took around two years to finish The Secret Solitaire, juggling her writing around her job in HR for the NHS and a busy family life with her supportive husband John and their four-year-old son Woody.
She says one of the biggest factors in her becoming an author is the rise of self-publishing, with Yorkshire- based firm 2QT arranging for The Secret Solitaire to appear on Amazon.
She said: “Previously it was so hard for a new author to get printed any other way than through the big mainstream publishing houses.
“Now anyone can do it if they’ve got a book they want to write. I got in touch with 2QT and they helped a lot with editing and going through the publishing process.”
Before writing The Secret Solitaire Chloe had published several poems but not been able to break into getting prose in print.
She says she has a number of previous manuscripts at home but will definitely be leaving them in the drawer, working instead on her second book which is set in the 1980s and deals with the effect of Alzheimer’s on a family.
Chloe says it was autobiographies that first sparked her interest in writing and the darker streak in her fiction comes from her love of the books of horror master Stephen King.
She studied at the University of Worcester and also spent around a decade in London before returning to her home borough.
The Secret Solitaire, by CJ Openshaw, is out now on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.