Nan becomes published author for the first time aged 72 – after 40 rejections
Jane Allison, 72, had wanted to write a novel based on her great grandmother for years, but never quite got around to it. But after knuckling down and persevering, she’s shown it’s never too late to follow your dreams
A grandmother who wanted to be a published author for years has finally seen her dreams come true at the age of 72.
Jane Allison, who worked as an English teacher throughout her career, spent her days talking her students through poetry and novels.
“The girls would say, ‘You’ll write your story one day Mrs Allison’,” Jane told The Mirror.
But with her career and raising her children, Philip and Caroline, Jane never found the time to sit down and put pen to paper.
When she retired with her husband John, Jane hoped she might have more time to make her dream become a reality. But still, life got in the way.
“I retired to Colchester but I was still teaching one-on-one at a tutorial college. After that, I stopped teaching completely, but then I was busy being a grandparent,” she explained.
While Jane ran around after her four young grandchildren, the novel was put on the back burner again.
Then, in 2017, she finally found the time to sit down and start writing, with an idea in mind she’d considered for years.
“My great-grandmother, who I called Gram, had four sons and a daughter. In the First World War, all four of her sons were sent away to fight – luckily, they all came back, and one of those sons was my grandad,” Jane said.
Jane’s Gram, Sarah, ran the station platform at Ackworth Station in West Yorkshire throughout the war, because there were no men left in the town to take on the job.
She also spent time working at a Quaker school during the war.
Using her Gram for inspiration, Jane penned a tale about Emma, who was taking on similar jobs during the war.
But in a fictional twist, a forbidden love comes along, making married Emma’s life much more complicated.
Jane was only young when her Gram passed away, but she has fond memories of the woman she describes as “the matriarch of the family.”
She recalled: “She used to wear a grey hooded coat, and she’d hug me until I had no breath left. I remember the smell of baking bread in her big, old fashioned kitchen.”
After more than a year of writing, Jane finally finished her novel. But the next hurdle proved to be the most difficult as she approached publishers with the story.
“I was getting zero back. It was soul destroying, really,” she said.
“I loved these characters and I wanted them to be out there and be known. But after a while I thought ‘oh well, it doesn’t matter’.”
After she had no luck, Jane’s son, Philip, reached out to a friend in the industry who gave him a list of 40 publishers who might be interested in her story.
“I sent it to every single one, but they all said they were very interested but it wasn’t for them. After all that time, I thought ‘never mind’,” Jane said.
Just when she’d given up hope, Jane’s daughter-in-law Catherine told her about a new publisher, Cahill Davis Publishing, that might be interested in her book.
Thinking little of it, Jane sent off her story in January 2021 – and to her surprise, they wanted to publish it.
She said: “When I sent the book off, I didn’t think the response would be any different to the norm. But when they got back to me and said they wanted to publish it, it was like a door opening in heaven.”
After more than a year of trying to get her novel out into the world and at 72 years old, Jane received the first hard copy of The Gardener’s Wife just two months after getting the offer.
Describing the moment she held the book in her hands for the first time, she said: “I can’t tell you how wonderful it was.”