A South Yorkshire mother and daughter who have published their first children’s book took up writing when the daughter was told she only had three to five years to live.
Suzanne Maguire was given the devastating news when she was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and decided she wanted to write a book to leave for her two sons, Lance and Aron.
She set about writing fantasy adventure The Gorry Brothers First Leap with her mum, Eve.
They decided that some of the profits should go to SITraN, which is part of the University of Sheffield. Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience is pioneering research into motor neurone disease and other diseases that attack parts of the nervous system.
Professor Pamela Shaw is head of the institute and it was she who broke the news to Suzanne, who lives in Auckley, Doncaster.
Suzanne describes how she felt when she heard the news. “Initially I had no idea what MND was. Afterwards the penny dropped. I was petrified.”
Eve added: “I was with her for support. She was brave enough to ask is it a terminal disease.”
Suzanne said: “I wanted to know for my boys’ sake.”
That was 11 years ago and both believe that writing has helped Suzanne to live longer than expected.
Eve said: “It was mind over matter and helped Suzanne to take her mind off it. We were both distressed.”
Suzanne said: “For the first three months I was ringing my mum every day. She kept promising everything is going to be okay. She was extremely supportive and 11 years on she’s not broken her promise and I’m still here.”
She continued: “When I began writing it wasn’t intended to be published. When we finished it and I was still here we put our heads together and thought maybe, with permission from the boys, it can do some good and raise some money for SITraN.”
Eve added: “When you’re first told you can’t see any hope. After three months of feeling that way we got together over a cup of tea. We thought we’ve got to do something about this. We decided we needed to use mind over matter and since then it’s been wonderful.
The mum and daughter have always been close but after Suzanne’s diagnosis she decided to move from Thurgoland near Barnsley to live next door to her mum so she could with help with Lance and Aron, who were seven and nine at the time.
Suzanne’s diagnosis coincided with her divorce from the boys’ father. A lot more changed about her life at that time and she had to give up work because of her illness.
She said: “I was a size 10 and went to the gym. I had the opposite lifestyle to now. I was immediately advised not to exercise.
“I was once told that there could be a connection between exercise and triggering off MND. You tend to find younger people with MND have a sporty background or lifestyle, unless it’s inherited.”
She said that she has been encouraged to put on weight by doctors at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital as it seemed to have a positive effect in experiments done on mice.
Suzanne laughed: “When I have my downers about my weight, my fiance of 10 years reminds me, ‘You’re a happy mouse!’”
Suzanne said she had been thinking about writing before but the illness spurred her on. “For a couple of years ideas had been going through my head but I wasn’t confident enough as I hadn’t had anything published.
“I’d thought about it but hadn’t put pen to paper. It wasn’t until I had a huge jolt that it became reality. I needed to write.”
She had grown up watching her mum write on a little Imperial portable typewriter. Eve joked: “I could paper a house with the rejection slips! I had one or two stories published.”
The way they work is that Suzanne writes the stories, her arms propped up on cushions. Then Eve “tidies it up and adds a few characters” and they pass their work on to trusted friends to give honest feedback.
They published their first book, The Gorry Brothers First Leap, online and got a good response so now have published it with Matador. It is the first of a trilogy and the next, The Witch’s Revenge, is under way.
In the story, Lance and Aron go to Sherwood Forest for a holiday and end up being pulled through a portal in time into a future where people are mutating into half animal, half humans.
The boys also meet wizards, fairies and witches in the future Sherwood and are being hunted by an evil warlock and his servant, a boggret.
The duo are already doing book signings dressed as witches. Sometimes Lance joins them in a blue wolf costume.
Suzanne says she still gets down but she has achieved one ambition. “I never thought I’d see my boys grow up. Now my eldest, Lance, is 20, and he is leaving home to study animation in Manchester. Aron is still in sixth form.
“Not everyone is as fortunate as me. On Facebook, two-thirds of my friends from all over the world have MND.
“Last year we lost a young man who was only 42 from Immingham who had two small children. It’s very gratifying to be able to continue my life and see my two boys grow up. I’m extremely grateful.
“If I didn’t have the writing and the boys I possibly would have just given up.”
Eve added: “I wouldn’t let her.”
l Go to www.thestar.co.uk to see Eve and Suzanne Maguire talking about their books