‘Gobsmacked’ Myrrha Stanford-Smith makes novel debut with The Great Lie

An 82-year-old woman is celebrating after landing a book deal for her debut novel.

Teacher, theatre director and grandmother Myrrha Stanford-Smith, who lives in Holyhead, north Wales, said she was “gobsmacked” to be handed the three-book agreement, which saw her first work The Great Lie appearing in bookshops last week.

Stanford-Smith, who is also a trained actor, has always held a passion for creative writing.

After receiving positive feedback on a short children’s story she sent in to BBC Radio Wales last summer, she secured a deal with publisher Honno for a trilogy based around her swashbuckling Elizabethan hero Nick Talbot.

The adventure reignites, in fictional form, the rivalry between William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. The Great Lie sees 16-year-old Nick, the son of the late first Earl of Rokesby, run away with a troupe of travelling players who take him to London – where he soon comes to Marlowe’s attention.

Stanford-Smith said of the deal: “I was gobsmacked. I had to put the phone down and ring them back as I was so taken aback by the whole thing. I had to pull myself together before I could even pick up the phone to call back.

“It was out of the blue. I’d been waiting for the manuscript to be sent back really, rejected. It was such a wonderful surprise,” she said.

Stanford-Smith was born in Brighton and trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before working with theatre director and impresario Sir Tyrone Guthrie in the West End and later moving into teaching and directing.

She said: “It was so lovely to have the book in my hand with embossed cover.

“I read it again just for pleasure – to have my book, my words, in my hand as my very own book, it was wonderful.

“It’s on the bookshelves now next to my favourite authors in pride of place with a gap for the next two in the trilogy.”

When Stanford-Smith retired to Anglesey, rather than take a break from the theatre she realised a long-held dream by founding Ucheldre Repertory Company in the early 1990s. She still works with the company as both a director and teacher and is directing a production of Richard III this autumn.

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