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Susan Howatch's Second Journey page 27

Susan Howatch, 57, is author of many novels, including most recently The Wonder Worker. She spoke with B&C from her home in London.

While you now live in London, for a time you lived in Salisbury, which is the background for the Starbridge novels. The town seems to have had a profound affect on you.

When I was down in Salisbury I had a very small apartment which was about a hundred yards from the west front of the cathedral. So for about three years I lived with that building. It had the most extraordinary effect on me. I was hypnotized by seeing it in all weathers and times of day and night. Gradually it got to me.

I wasn't a churchgoer. I wasn't particularly religious when I went down to Salisbury, but I became interested. Various things happened in my professional and personal life that were quite upsetting, and I began to wonder what life was really all about. I wouldn't call it a midlife crisis. I always think a midlife crisis is when you cling to your youth. I would say instead it was the beginning of what they call a "second journey." This is when you reach a crossroads in life and you're keen to move on. I began to read about Christianity and the church, and I was living with this enormous architectural monster outside my window, so there were many things that fused together and produced the Starbridge books.

It was quite a change from your previous writing.

My personal life was a wreck at the time, and I'd come to the end of the kind of books I used to write. When I wrote the last of my long sagas and it was just treated like another airport book, I was discouraged. I felt I was just beginning to say something interesting, but nobody wanted to know. So when I wrote the first of the Starbridge books, I didn't submit it to publishers. I put it away in a drawer because I wasn't actually sure whether I wanted to publish it. I wasn't sure whether God wanted me to publish it. Should I go on writing novels or should I go back to college and do a degree in theology and ...

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