Delight of debut novel for first time author based on Powys

KATHY Biggs worked for Age Concern before being fired 6 years ago.

She is now living proof that age is no barrier after publishing her first novel, 64 Years.

The Luck is about an Irishman who leaves home and starts a new life in America as a duster.

Yet Kathy, who lives in Llanwrtyd Wells, is the one to sprinkle some stardust on her own life, which has changed so dramatically in recent years.

From being fired six years ago to writing a first novel at sixty, she is in some ways the embodiment of the book’s protagonist, Darragh O’Grady.

County Times: Kathy Biggs with her debut novel, The Luck

Kathy Biggs with her debut novel, The Luck

Kathy, a Yorkshire native who has called Mid Wales home for nearly 40 years, having moved from Bradford to Glascwm in 1985, revealed she never harbored any dreams of writing, so it wasn’t as if the sacking was a blessing under lie in disguise.

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After closing the Age Concern chapter of her life, Kathy wondered what would happen next.

County Times: Kathy Biggs with her debut novel, The Luck

Kathy Biggs with her debut novel, The Luck

She signed up for a creative writing class and describes it as the light bulb moment. “After half an hour I was captivated and have never looked back,” said Kathy, who enrolled in an eight-week course organized by Aberystwyth University and hosted at the Wyeside Arts Center in Builth Wells.

“After being fired, I was looking for what to do next. The job was information overload and I figured after that I wanted to do something to get something out of it.

“I never thought about writing before, but then I signed up for that first class and it was like a light switch flipping on.

“In the following years I took more courses and participated in some competitions. I had some positive results, so I decided to try a novel.

County Times: Kathy Biggs, pictured with Llanwrtyd Mayor Jim Davies at book launch event in October

“I attended these courses for about 18 months before I started writing The Luck. The storyline came from a homework assignment we had set as part of a writing group I was with.

“I wrote a piece and continued it. I took it on and made it into a short story, then it started getting close to novel length and the story just kept coming. It was a story that I really enjoyed writing.

The Luck is set in 1930s rural America. O’Grady has dreams of buying an airplane and becoming a feather duster. While flying off course one day, he sees from his cockpit an abandoned farmhouse below and is intrigued by it, so he buys it, even though he is said to have a tragic past. He settles at home, marries the indomitable but damaged Beattie Darling and has a family.

County Times: Kathy Biggs published debut novel, The Luck, at 64

Kathy Biggs published her debut novel, The Luck, at 64

“His only goal is to live a good life and be a good man, and he hopes this tragic past doesn’t catch up with him, but it didn’t,” said Kathy, who describes the book as being about family, relationships and ups and downs of life.

“The idea came when I was younger. I was a student nurse and some friends and I went to America for a month.

“We rode cross-country on Greyhound buses, from New York to San Francisco and back, a total of 3,000 miles. The size of America really struck me.

“I’m from Yorkshire and thought it was great, but America blew my mind. I think it must have worked its way into me because when I started writing the novel that’s automatically where I set it. I felt that he needed the infinity of America.

The Luck has received good reviews and has been selling well since it was published on 6 October by Aberystwyth-based Honno, which focuses solely on publishing the writings of Welsh women.

Kathy sent her labor of love in hopefully 2021 to publishers and received a response from Honno, who offered her a contract. A special local book launch was held in Llanwrtyd, where Kathy and her family moved in 1999. The event was held at Victoria Hall on 21 October, with Mayor Jim Davies opening the evening.

“I had this whole career and then I was released at 64,” said Kathy, who turned 65 this month.

“It was a question I was asked in the interview with the editor at the Llanwrtyd event, what advice would I give to someone.

“It’s all part of the story. You’re not too old to do something completely different.”

Honno has already accepted Kathy’s second novel, set in a scrap yard in Swansea, and due for release in June next year.

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