Ann Richardson has been a researcher and writer for many years. She is fascinated by other people's thoughts, experiences and emotions and loves to write books where they can express their views in their own words. American by birth, she lives in London as do her two children and two grandsons.
Stories from the Heart
Some writers like writing crime novels. And some readers search them out. Others are more interested in romance. There is even a thriving literature on zombies, so I am told.
My interest lies elsewhere. I like trying to understand the inner heart -- the deeper feelings that arise as new joys are discovered or new challenges faced. And I like to hear the voices of people talking about their experiences -- real voices, talking honestly, in their own words. These are the books I write.
Wise Before their Time: People with AIDS and HIV talk about their lives
It started over twenty-five years ago. I had a gay friend with AIDS who was very active in that community. He was organising an international conference of people with HIV and AIDS to be held in London where I live. In a moment of inspiration, he had asked people applying for places at the conference to send 'their story' along with other information about themselves.
I was very excited to learn this because I knew such stories would make a fascinating book. But I also thought that there would be a benefit in supplementing them with interviews, as people will often tell an interviewer much more than they will write. (My working life was spent doing interviews for social research, so I was very familiar with the process).
And that is how my book, Wise Before their Time, was born. We interviewed over twenty people from all over the world, all attending the conference, used the writings of over twenty others, and put their stories into this book. The stories are staggering. All from young people experiencing stigma in many forms and facing death.
They talk about the difficulties of telling their parents, partners and friends of their diagnosis, their work to help others in the same situation, all while facing mounting health problems. Sir Ian McKellen wrote a Foreword saying 'these stories are as powerful as any great classic of fiction' What more can I say?
My friend and co-author died before the book came out.
This book sold very well when first published in 1992, but went out of print. In late 2017, I relaunched it with a new cover. It tells the human stories behind that dark period. See http://myBook.to/Wise
Life in a Hospice: reflections on caring for the dying
Not long after, another man involved with HIV took me to a hospice because he had an errand to do. I was immediately captivated by the tranquil atmosphere and felt this was a place I wanted to be. I applied to work as a volunteer in a local hospice and ended up doing so for four years.
And this was the seed for Life in a Hospice, based on interviews with over thirty workers -- nurses, doctors, chaplains, managers and even a very reflective chef -- in two hospices. They talk about why they do such work and its impact on their own lives at home. Many said, whatever the difficulties, it was a 'privilege' to be with people and their families at this important time.
From their stories, one learns a lot about humanity at its very best. They gave enormous thought to how to make people's last days and hours meaningful. And to meeting people's last requests -- to give one example, one tells of a man who wanted to die under a tree and they were able to do this for him.
This book was first published in 2007 to considerable acclaim (it was Highly Commended by the British Medical Association). But I took the rights back, gave it a new cover and relaunched it in 2017. It is selling well. See http://myBook.to/Hospice
Celebrating Grandmothers: grandmothers talk about their lives
Time passed and I periodically wondered what to focus on next -- and then I became a grandmother of two little boys. Much to my surprise, I found this to be a fascinating role. And yes, I decided to write a book about it.
I interviewed nearly thirty grandmothers from all different walks of life and put these together into Celebrating Grandmothers. There are, of course, happy stories of the pleasures of small children in the house again. But there are also stories of difficult family relationships and sheer distance affecting the role. Being a grandmother is shown to affect women's sense of themselves and their place in the family.
This book was published in 2014, although republished in 2017. It seems to be frequently bought by young parents as a thank-you present for their mother. See http://myBook.to/Grandmothers