Former celebrity stylist turned author Ceril Campbell writes exclusively for Female First upon the release of her new novel, Secrets In The Dark.

Secrets in the Dark

Secrets in the Dark

I am sure we all experienced some level of anxiety in our personal lockdowns. The fear of the unknown: the once solid ground under our feet turning overnight into quicksand in an ever-changing, new-normal landscape filled with overwhelming news coverage of hospitalisations, of intensive care intubation, of loneliness and separation from loved ones and rising death tolls.

My anxiety was fuelled by the enforced separation and lack of human contact and hugs from my children, together with the fear of hospitalisation from breathing difficulties brought on by Covid-related pneumonia earlier in March. Brain fog also seemed to be an issue, together with a limited capacity for concentration in between regular and compulsive fifteen-minute fridge visits to consider what I could find to snack on that I hadn’t already just eaten mindlessly.

I forced myself to think positively and banish any negativity in my first waking moments of the day. As soon as we were allowed, I started a daily morning walk, as far away as possible from the armies of sweating, spitting joggers who now filled the local streets. On my Thames-side walk I found myself surrounded by nature. I appreciated every single extraordinarily beautiful and unusually abundant flower bud and blossom that bloomed larger and more extravagantly than ever before, with their vibrant colours contrasting against the cloudless clear blue sky empty of aircraft. With no traffic or plane noise I could now hear birdsong too and I felt grateful to be alive in this strange new world we were all experiencing. Seeing the world in this intense and vividly coloured floral version bought joy, calm and clarity into my lockdown prison that had, until now, felt oppressive, dark and lacking in direction.

With this pandemic, all my motivational speaking work within schools and organisations for positive body image, self-confidence and the effects of social media on mental health had ceased as had my regular radio and TV work. I considered the options of what I could now do to fill my days in lieu of eating; binge-watching Netflix; planting tomatoes, beans, spinach and herbs in my tiny South West London patio garden; and posting positive social media messages and images of my banana bread baking failures. Zoom exercise classes had all been attempted and swiftly rejected. I needed new motivation for focus.

A year earlier, I had written and finished a draft of my first novel, ‘Secrets in the Dark’. It was as yet unpublished, and required a major edit. Sometimes life has unexpected ways of coming to our rescue and a wonderful publishing editor and I came across each other serendipitously online. She read and loved the book, even in its less–polished form, and believed it could become a page-turning best seller in the women’s fiction genre – a Jackie Collins-style ‘bonk-buster’. She proceeded to give me renewed focus and enthusiasm, with a detailed chapter by chapter analysis of tweaks I should consider and re-write.

With homework and a deadline to work to I focused and concentrated for increasing stretches of time until the book was finally finished. I have never been more proud than when I first saw the finished paperback version, with its eye-catching front cover photo by Rory Campbell, featuring my late mother’s vintage red evening dress lying discarded on some steps. To find out to whom it belonged and why it was there, you may just have to read the story.

Secrets In The Dark by Ceril Campbell is out now on Amazon through Satin Publishing priced £14.99 in paperback and £4.99 as an eBook.