I had some sad news yesterday. One of my personal favourite romance writers died during the Christmas holidays. Mills and Boon author Mary Wibberley, from Worsley near Manchester, died at the age of 79 after a short illness.
Mary's first novel, Black Niall, was published in 1973, after which she went on to pen a further 47 romantic fiction novels and was a firm favourite with Mills and Boon fans throughout the years.
She caught the writing bug when she had an article printed in the Manchester Evening News when she was a child, dreaming of being an author as a schoolgirl and continuing to write whilst working part-time and bringing up her two children with her adored husband Derek.
After seven manuscript rejections she finally got the letter she had been waiting for when she was 38.
As well as Mills and Boon novels, Mary also produced a guide for budding romantic fiction authors, To Writers With Love, and continued to encourage others to tell their own stories, especially at the annual Swanwick Writers' Conference which she attended for more than 40 years.
When I was first trying to write for Harlequin Mills & Boon, Mary’s novels were some of the ones I read with the greatest pleasure. I loved her alpha male heroes and her spirited heroines. I still have my copy of her book Fire and Steel with the hero Garth Vanner and heroine Arwenna. I must have read this several times over.
I was lucky enough to meet Mary, first at a writers’ day in Eccles where I was giving a talk. She was a big lady in all ways, tall, statuesque, warm, approachable and generous. I remember that she invited all the sp was filled with family and numerous cats and dogs. Later I saw her at the early Author Days and Association of Mills & Boon Author s meetings.eakers back to her house which
Mary’s how to write romance guide – To Writers With Love was a great help to me when I was learning my craft – it read very much like hearing her talk, as if it was her voice in my ears as I read it. I still have my copy that she signed for me personally and when I heard the sad news of her death I took it out to look through it again.
I plan on rereading Fire and Steel this weekend in memory of her – and I’m going to go through To Writers With Love to remind me of her sound, practical and down to earth advice before I teach my course in Fishguard again in February. I specially loved the chapter titled Pardon Me, You’re Treading on My Fantasy – a staunch rejection of anyone who scorned romance novels as rubbish.
‘So don’t be apologetic when you become successful and get your first romantic novel in print. What you are writing is escapist fiction and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Fairy Tales have been with us since the beginning of time, Everyone needs fantasy in their lives.’
Well said, Mary!
She opened the introduction to To Writers With Love with the words -
When I put down my pen for the last time and go to that Great Writer's Workshop in the Sky, my first task will be to ensure that there are unlimited supplies of paper (narrow feint, no margins, A4 size), my second that there are a few thousand pens (Bic crystal, black, medium point). If there aren't, I'm not staying.
I hope she has all the paper and pens she wants now.