By now I’m sure that many of you will have heard of the death of Penny Jordan. She slipped quietly away in the last few hours of the old year, enveloped in the love of her family, knowing – thanks to her wonderful sister, who kept in touch with her friends throughout – how very much she was adored and admired and I’m very glad about that. But I’m still utterly devastated that she’s gone.
Quite simply she’s the reason I’m here, doing what I’m doing. Without her I’d still be messing up people’s furniture orders in Laura Ashley, failing to work the till, feeling unfulfilled and frustrated and taking it out on my family. I'd still believe that the only skills I had (daydreaming and putting words together) were utterly unmarketable. Penny didn't give me a career exactly, but she gave me something far more valuable - the confidence to strive for one myself, and the self-belief that I could achieve things I'd always written off as being far beyond my reach. She made my world bigger and brighter, and she made me able to lift my head up and look at it properly.
I've often referred to her as my Fairy Godmother, such was the transformative effect she had on my life. She called herself my 'writing mum', which doesn't do justice to her shimmering glamour but is equally fitting. She was the first person I told when I got 'the call'. She was the person I talked to when I needed advice on anything from contracts to career direction, the one I shared champagne and chocolates with (at my kitchen table at 10 in the morning) when I won the RNA Romance Prize, the person to whom I dedicated my first book. It was Penny who inspired, instructed and informed my writing more than anyone else, who made me feel shy and awe-struck by her effortless elegance, her humour, humility and capacity for sheer hard work, and who gave endlessly without ever taking anything in return.
I will miss her more than I can begin to say.