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Mum who couldn’t read or write until she was 39 is now a...
Karen learnt to read and write aged 39, while working as a cleaner (Picture: William Lailey / SWNS)
A mum who couldn’t read or write until she was 39, has become a best-selling author, and has penned 27 novels.
Karen Woods, now 53, says she had trouble concentrating at school and would often skip lessons.
It wasn’t until colleagues at her cleaning job suggested she take an adult literacy course, that she realised she had a knack for storytelling.
Karen wrote her first crime novel 14 years ago and is now hailed as Manchester’s ‘Queen of Crime.’
Karen says that reading and writing has completely changed her life and hopes her story can inspire others who have had a bad start in life.
Speaking about her childhood, Karen said: ‘I was brought up on a council estate, and my mum and dad split up when I was 13.’Karen Woods, now 53, wrote her first book around 14 years ago after taking an Adult Literacy course (Picture: William Lailey / SWNS)
Two years later, aged 15, Karen left school after falling pregnant and tragically gave birth to a stillborn baby at seven months.
By the time she left education, she hadn’t managed to learn to read and write.
After leaving school, Karen worked as a cleaner, and at 39, she was offered a promotion.
The only problem was that she would need to write emails as part of the new job.Karen has now written 27 books (Picture: William Lailey / SWNS)
She said: ‘When I used to work as a cleaner and got the promotion, I lost loads of sleep thinking they would find out I couldn’t read or write.’
‘I thought I could blag my way around it, but they sent me on an Adult Literacy Course, and as the lessons went on, I started to take an interest.
‘Once I got the certificate in my hand, I realised anything was possible – I could read and write and was the same as everyone else.’She also does inspirational talks in prisons (Picture: William Lailey / SWNS)
Later on, during another course – this time for wellbeing – Karen finally revealed that her dream was to write a novel, and just three months later, she finished her first book, Broken Youth – which she hand-wrote.Have you ever taken an adult course?Comment Now
Despite all the odds, Karen’s book was picked up by Manchester-based Empire Publications, and since then, she has gone on to write a further 20 books for the publisher.
Karen said: ‘I’d written Broken Youth by hand and had to type it up – it took me hours, but I did it.
‘I went to a local paper who published it in segments, and after that, I got a call from Empire Publications – they loved it.
‘When the book first came, I used to sit and hold it and think about how it was a story I wrote.
‘Over the years, I ended up writing 20 novels for Empire Publications – Broken Youth and Grow Wars were best-sellers on Amazon.’
More recently, Karen signed a book deal with HarperNorth, who have published her last seven books.Prisoners say Karen’s books remind them of home (Picture: William Lailey / SWNS)
‘I submitted to HarperNorth in 2020, and they offered me a two-book deal – it was the first time my books were in Asda and other supermarkets.
‘Now, I’ve had three ‘two-book’ deals with them.’
While writing books is her true passion, Karen hasn’t stopped there.
Outside of novels, she has written and directed six sell-out shows at the Lowry Theatre and Middleton Arena, as well as being an ambassador for adult learning and a Patron of Read Easy.
She’s also appeared on multiple TV shows, including Loose Women and The One Show.
‘I do writing as a hobby – I still do cleaning and everything else that a mother does,’ Karen added.
‘I’ve only just signed a new book deal, so I probably get £4000 every six months – it’s nothing major at the moment.
‘I also work in a school on the behaviour team and love working with kids who are not in mainstream school. I see myself in all of them.
‘I do inspirational talks in prisons – prisoners say my books remind them of home.
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‘I want to inspire women over forty to chase their dreams – it’s never too late.
If you get a bit of confidence and self-belief, anything is possible.
‘I feel I represent all those people who had bad starts in life. I want to inspire women who think they can’t do what they want because they’ve got kids.
I’m on my 27th novel now, and my dream hasn’t stopped there.
‘I write real books and real problems, and now I’m Manchester’s Queen of Crime. I’ve always wanted to wear a crown.’
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