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Author Who Learned To Read, Write At 39 Wants To Inspire Other Moms

A best-selling author who started learning to read and write at the age of 39 while working as a cleaner has published 27 novels.

A best-selling author who only learned to read and write at 39 while working as a cleaner has now written 27 novels.

Karen Woods, 53, wrote her first book at 39 after taking an Adult Literacy course – and has now written best-selling books and sold-out theater shows.

Hailed as Manchester’s Queen of Crime, the author credits reading and writing with changing her life and says she wants to represent people with bad starts in life.

Now, Karen has signed book deals with publisher HarperNorth, and has appeared on TV shows, including Loose Women and The One Show.

Karen said: “I was bought up on a council estate and my mom and dad split up when I was 13.

“All of those excuses don’t matter, 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 be the inspiration for women who think that because they’ve got kids, they can’t do what they want.

“Nothing is set in stone if you believe in yourself. I’m on my 27th novel now and my dream hasn’t stopped there.

“I write real books and real problems, and I’ve been called Manchester’s Queen of Crime. I have always wanted to wear a crown.”

Karen Woods, 53, wrote her first book at 39 after taking an Adult Literacy course. WILLIAM LAILEY/SWNS

Karen left school at 15 when she was pregnant and tragically gave birth to a stillborn baby at seven months.

When she left education, she hadn’t learned to read or write as she had trouble concentrating and would regularly skip school with other students. She worked as a cleaner and at 39 was offered a promotion – but was told she would need to write emails as part of the job.

She attended an Adult Literacy Course and after two attempts, passed the test required to graduate from the program.

“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,” said Karen.

“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 realized anything was possible – I could read and write and was the same as everyone else.”

While on a wellbeing course, she revealed that her dream was to write a novel – and just three months later, she finished hand-writing her first book Broken Youth.

Against all odds, Karen’s book was picked up by Manchester-based Empire Publications, and since then, she’s written 20 books for the publishers.

Now, Karen has had book deals with publishers HarperNorth, who have published her last seven books, and has written sell-out shows at the Lowry Theatre and Middleton Arena.

Karen has signed book deals with publisher HarperNorth. WILLIAM LAILEY/SWNS

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.

“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, I’m an ambassador for Adult Learning and a Patron of Read Easy. I havve written and directed six sell-out shows at the Lowry Theatre and Middleton Arena.

“I do writing as a hobby – I still do cleaning and everything else that a mother does and have only just signed a book deal, so I probably get £4,000 ($4,886 USD) every six months – it’s nothing major at the moment.

“I also work in a school on the behavior 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 – Northern Girls Love Gravy is always booked out in prison, and prisoners say my books remind them of home.

“I want to inspire women over forty to chase their dreams – it’s never too late.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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