Susan E. Kaberry and Beth Cox

Susan E. Kaberry

Beth Cox Q&A

Beth Cox reveals the inspiration behind her new memoir, Britannia Street

When life unravels for Beth after the break-up of a long marriage, she finds herself reaching back for answers. Into her past as a troubled, pregnant teenager in an unhappy household.  Into the life of her great-grandmother, using her skills as a researcher and psychotherapist to unearth the truth behind long-guarded family secrets …

What was the starting point for your memoir?

My Great-aunt Annie’s old-fashioned dining table!  I inherited it when I was just 18.  This legacy prompted an extraordinary revelation, which really resonated with me at the time.  Forty years later, when I delved further into our family history, I discovered more connections between the past and my own experiences as a young adult.

How did it feel to revisit painful, personal memories?

It was certainly difficult; I was very sad at several points in the narrative. But I came out of it feeling that the act of story-telling – of writing my memoir – was a healing process.  It moved me on; it was a positive experience.  Exploring the past through a psychotherapy lens gave me a new perspective on things.  And seeing it all written down on the page provided literally a different view on the matter! 

What would you like to say to your younger self?

Believe in yourself!  I would advise any young people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives to talk to an adult whom you feel you can trust and who won’t judge you. Fortunately, there is more pastoral help available these days in schools and teachers and other authority figures in general may be less judgemental.  

Which did you find easier – writing memoir or fiction?

Memoir!  I was using my own voice and I had a lot of material to work with. Fiction, especially historical fiction, which is what I’ve have written, requires a great deal of research and presents all kinds of problems.  For instance, how do your characters speak?  Do they have modern voices (as in Hilary Mantel)?  Or, do you attempt to conjure up some cod-mediaeval language which sounds ridiculous? It’s a tough call!  In my first novel, The Chatelaine of Montaillou, I attempted a sort of compromise, but in my latest, The Good Shepherd and the Last Perfect, I’ve gone down the more modern route.

Greatest inspiration?

Impossible to choose just one!  I like the way the journalist and author, Clover Stroud, writes so honestly about motherhood and loss.  I admire Primo Levi, who writes without self-pity and doesn’t shy away from extremely painful and disturbing issues. I have also been inspired by the ‘Me Too’ movement and the many brave women who are speaking out truthfully about their experiences. 

And your next writing adventure?

I’ve just started writing about my different roles within the NHS.  I began nursing in the 1960s which then morphed into becoming a nurse tutor and trainer, a counsellor and finally a psychoanalytic psychotherapist!  I feel very privileged and fortunate to have enjoyed such a long, varied and rewarding career working for this wonderful institution.

Author biography

A former nurse and psychotherapist, Beth Cox started writing fiction when she retired after a life-long career in the NHS. She began writing Britannia Street as a student on the MA Creative Writing programme at Manchester University. Beth has also written two historical novels, published under the name, Susan E Kaberry. Beth lives in Didsbury, Manchester with her husband and two miniature dachshunds.