A Burnley author who beat breast cancer whilst undertaking a degree in history as a mature student has released her third novel centred around overcoming domestic violence.
Having started writing a few years ago, Burnley-born Barbara McHallam has described her new self-published novel, titled Matches, as "a modern contemporary love story" as we follow the twenty-something protagonist Jess as she circumnavigates the trials and tribulations of 21st Century romance.
"When I retired, I wanted something to do and writing a novel is something I've wanted to do for years and never had the time," explained Barbara, who worked as a bank manager before taking early retirement. "It started off as a love story - a modern fiction contemporary love story - but ended up being about overcoming domestic violence.
"The genre shift came as I grained more confidence in my writing," she added. "The main type of novels that I read is detective thrillers and police novels, and doing research for Matches I made sure I asked Lancashire Police a few questions."
Having retired, Barbara began her studies for a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and then a Master of Arts in History at the University of Central Lancashire in 1999, during which she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy to make a full recovery.
"I was in my second year of university when I was diagnosed, and the university were very obliging and understanding," Barbara said. "When it happened, I just thought: 'That's it, it's happened, get on with it and I'll come out the other end.'
"I managed to get through; I was very tired by the end of it, but I got the all-clear in 2002," Barbara continued.
Having taken to writing with the aplomb that she brought to her degree, Barbara has also written a non-fiction book on Infant Mortality in late Victorian England (the topic of her dissertation at university) and has been published in lifestyle magazines and is also a member of the Burnley writing group, Pennine Ink.
"I think my studies have influenced my writing in that when I first went to university, they'd say 'You need to write 3,000 words,' and I'd think 'How on Earth do you write 3,000 words?'" Barbara said. "But then my latest novel is 120,000 words! So university helped me realise I can do it."
'Matches' is available to buy on amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Matches-B-McHallam/dp/1546850015