Maureen Lee is one of the UK’s best-loved saga writers. All her books are set in Liverpool and the world she evokes is always peopled with characters you’ll never forget. Maureen is a born storyteller and her many fans love her for her powerful stories of love and life, tragedy and joy in Liverpool.
Born into a working-class family in Bootle, Maureen Lee spent her early years in a terraced house near the docks – an area that was relentlessly bombed during the Second World War.
Despite leaving school at fifteen, Maureen was determined to succeed as a writer. After her sons grew up, she had the time to pursue her dream. Her first book, Stepping Stones, was published in 1994 and after a string of bestsellers, she’s never looked back. This year is her 20th year as a published writer.
Maureen’s new paperback The Seven Streets of Liverpool is out today and we were lucky enough to have quick chat with the bestselling author herself.
What memories do you have of your early years in Bootle?
Of being poor, but not poverty-stricken. Of women wearing shawls instead of coats. Of knowing everybody in the street. Of crowds gathering outside houses in the case of a funeral or a wedding, or if an ambulance came to collect a patient who was carried out in a red blanket. There were street parties, swings on lampposts, hardly any traffic, loads of children playing in the street, dogs without leads. Even though we didn’t have much money, Christmas as a child was fun. I’m sure we appreciated our few presents more than children do now.
What was it like being young in Liverpool in the fifties?
The late fifties was a wonderful time for my friends and I. We had so many places to go: numerous dance halls, the Philharmonic Hall, the Cavern Club, theatres, including the Playhouse where you could buy tickets for ninepence. We were crushed together on benches at the very back. I also used to make my own clothes, which meant I could have the latest fashions in just the right sizes, which I loved.
Your books often look at the difficult side of family relationships. What experiences do you draw on when you write about that?
I didn’t always find it easy to get on with my mother because she held very rigid views. She was terribly ashamed when I went to Europe. She said, ‘If you leave this house you’re not coming back!’ But when we got to Switzerland we got fantastic jobs at the United Nations – it paid four times as much as we got at the English Electric. When I wrote and told her, she suddenly forgave me and went around telling everybody, ‘Our Maureen’s working at the United Nations in Geneva’.
My mother-in-law was a strange woman. She hated the world and everyone in it. We had a wary sort of relationship. She gave Richard’s brother an awful life – she was very controlling and he never left home. People tend to keep their family problems private but you don’t have to look far to see how things really are and I try to reflect that in my books.