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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Books That Changed My Life: ANNE COATES @Anne_Coates1 @urbanebooks #booklove #amreading #writerslife

Ever been influenced by a book? I have, many times, although I haven’t always realised its full impact until much later. Today, author ANNE COATES shares with me the books that have changed her life…

About Anne

AnneCoates copy

My debut thriller, “Dancers in the Wind”, was published by Urbane Publications in October 2016. This book is a result of an interview I did for a national newspaper and afterwards I thought “What if…” and so Hannah Weybridge came into existence and she continues her life in “Death’s Silent Judgement” published in May 2017 again by Urbane Publications. “Songs of Innocence” is the third book in the series.

Journalism has led me into diverse fields from human interest stories to health and beauty to travel and parenting. I founded the website:  hosting articles and reviews by other writers and parents. This led to two parenting guides again published by Endeavour Press.

Before that I had written three books (two for Wayland) including “Your Only Child” (Bloomsbury) plus two books about applying to and surviving university published by Need to Know.

I live in SE London with three demanding cats and enjoy going to the theatre and cinema and socialising with friends.


My mother, who loved nothing better than losing herself a good book, taught me to read before I went to school. We didn’t have many books at home but she introduced me to the wonderful world of libraries. The one book that has stayed in my memory from my early life, was her reading Alice in Wonderland to me. She had been to stage school and could certainly deliver a recitation. It was something which bonded us – the madness of Wonderland – as she had a wicked sense of humour. Later on she read everything I wrote – journalism, short stories, translations and my non-fiction books. Sadly she died before my first crime novel, Dancers in the Wind, was published.

Unsurprisingly, I was a fan of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven books. My favourite was The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat. I loved the idea of solving mysteries and these books inspired my to have my own “club” which met in our garden shed. What was discussed there, remains there and in mitigation I was only nine. Plus we did have one adventure that became a mystery but that’s another story.

When I was thirteen I contracted double pneumonia and pleurisy and was so ill I couldn’t be moved and had to have daily visits from the GP. As I recovered I began reading my mother’s copy of Gone with the Wind. It terrified me as every other person seemed to die of pneumonia. Made me realise how fortunate I had been. In my early teens I progressed to horror, absolutely adoring Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out. I took to wearing a cross and folding my arms across my chest in bed just in case I died in the night. Little did I know that I’d end up living in the area where Wheatley went to school (Dulwich College).

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was one of my O level texts and the perfect introduction to James Joyce’s work. I used to remember chunks of quotations and managed to upset my mother when I told her she was “a child of tired loins” as her mother had had her when she was in her forties. I thought I was being so smart but my mother took it as an insult to her parent and was not impressed. Lesson learned.

La Peste (The Plague) by Albert Camus was the first book I studied at A level necessitating a huge leap from my O level French. Our teacher suggested we read it in English first to get an idea of the narrative. I found the translation boring. However I loved the French version and was reduced to tears by the ending each time I read it (I studied it for my degree as well). It made me realise how important it was for a translation to evoke all the nuances of the original text and I took this to heart this when I went on to translate features and then two novels.

I read Radcliffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness after my boyfriend at the time had finished it. I’d been unable to get a word from him as he had been so (unusually) absorbed. I was equally so. It was probably the first book I read about lesbianism and I knew nothing then of the furor its publication had caused in 1928. Something in this book resonated deeply within me but I didn’t know why. At the time I felt incredibly lonely in the relationship, which broke up soon after. A couple of years later I discovered that the ex had been struggling with his own sexuality and had come out. Lots of things became clearer.

I went to Rouen University and studied comparative literature for a year and while there I discovered Simone de Beauvoir. The Second Sex helped crystallise and focus my feminist viewpoint, as had reading Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. They were the much-needed counterbalance to the poetry I adored especially Byron’s lines “Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart, tis woman’s whole existence.” I was intrigued by the “open” relationship between de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. When I found a second-hand paperback copy of de Beauvoir’s L’Invitée (She Came To Stay), I was enthralled by the idea of seeking revenge/killing off the competition in fiction. I borrowed this concept many times in my short stories!

After graduating I worked in publishing and then magazine journalism before going freelance. James Baldwin’s books exploring racial and social issues had a profound effect on the way I viewed the world and I still have most of his books on my shelves from If Beale Street Could Talk to Giovanni’s Room. They are probably as relevant today as they ever were. My working world was filled with books in one way or another and I abridged books for Reader’s Digest and Orion. Cutting Middlemarch, one of my favourite books, by fifty per cent was one of the most difficult editing jobs I have ever had. However cutting books – both fiction and non–fiction – has given me the discipline to write concisely.

Becoming a parent offered a whole new range of books to be treasured although my daughter Olivia never did enjoy Five Minute’s Peace by Jill Murphy as much as I did – I think she knew I was making a point. We shared many books and that has been one of the joys of parenting for me: looking at life through younger eyes and experiencing things differently. Olivia introduced me to new authors and I remember sobbing through Skellig by David Almond. I read all her GCSE and A level texts and it was a fascinating to discuss them with her.

Nowadays I wait with baited breath to hear her verdict on my books!

*** What a fascinating mix of titles! Thank you, Anne, for sharing them with me – and happy publication day! Barbara x ***

About Anne’s new release, SONGS OF INNOCENCE


A body in the lake. A sad case of suicide or something more sinister? Hannah Weybridge, still reeling from her friend’s murder and attempts on her own life, doesn’t want to get involved but reluctantly agrees to look into the matter for the family. But the past still stalks her steps and a hidden danger accompanies her every move.


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