Author Frances Maynard is set for more success with her second novel, which leaves readers with an uplifting feeling. Laura Hanton finds out more.

A BESTSELLING author whose books have kindness at their core is celebrating the publication of her second novel.

Maggsie McNaughton's Second Chance is written by Frances Maynard, 66, who lives in Poole.

The novel, which was published on Thursday, is part of the 'up lit' trend, which has seen people opt for inspiring and uplifting books.

Maggsie McNaughton's Second Chance explores the power of friendship and the written word, following the character of Marguerite McNaughton as she navigates life with a dyslexia diagnosis and something to prove after a stint in prison.

"Maggsie's chances in life have been blighted by her learning difficulties, as is so often the case," Frances said. "The story follows how she turns her life around. She's a kind of Cinderella, except the magic comes from her own grit and determination."

Frances teaches English part-time to adults with learning difficulties, including those with Asperger's and dyslexia, and says a lot of what her protagonist experiences is based on stories shared by her students. The novel progresses as the flawed heroine begins to realise that everybody needs someone, sometimes. Even her. If only everyone could be trusted...

Frances spent the first 20 years of life living in Weymouth, where her mother ran a chain of guest houses. She attended St John's Primary School, which has since been demolished, and Dorchester Grammar School, but admits she never enjoyed her time at either.

"I didn't like school at all," Frances said. "I wasn't any good at maths. I remember that panicky feeling you get when you don't understand something."

Yet she admits she has never met an English teacher she didn't like, and named the characters of her first novel after those who'd taught her. Although she went on to study English at university, Frances didn't become a published author until August 2017, when she was 64.

"I would read these wonderful authors and think they were just mythical beings," she said. "I was a late starter, but that just proves that it's never too late to do anything."

It was a stroke of luck when Frances' husband bought her a copy of Good Housekeeping and there happened to be a writing competition tucked inside. Frances submitted an application and her entry was shortlisted, giving the budding author the much-needed confidence boost to kick start her career.

In 2015, Frances was a finalist in the First Novel Competition run by Mslexia, a British magazine supporting women writers. One of the judges of the contest, Juliet Mushens, asked to be Frances' agent, and the pair edited the manuscript of the author's first novel, The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elivra Carr. The book was then sent to auction: five publishers showed an interest, but it was eventually bought by Sam Humphreys at Mantle/Pan Macmillan.

"It was surreal," Frances said. "Absolutely surreal."

Her debut novel has gone on to be widely successful. In 2018, Frances was the runner-up in The Society of Authors McKitterick Prize, receiving a cheque presented to her by Stephen Fry.

It has taken about two years for Frances to write her second novel. Her process is very particular, and involves writing early in the morning, while she is still in bed, using a pencil and hardback notepad.

"There aren't any distractions and it can feel easier to write before real life creeps in," Frances explained. "Writing with a pencil means you can just rub something out - you're not hampered by the fear of making mistakes."

Frances wants to target readers who are looking for something light and enjoyable, which also makes them think.

"I want to make difficult issues digestible," she said.

With their focus on young marginalised woman and prevailing sense of optimism, Frances thinks both her novels fall into the genre of 'up lit', an emerging trend which places an emphasis on everyday heroism, human connection and love. Although realistic in recognising that happy ever afters do not always exist, the genre is uplifting at its core. Refusing to censor negative aspects of life makes the uplifting elements of these tales more powerful, such as acts of kindness, community and friendship. Trailblazers of the genre include the bestselling novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeymoon, as well as Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time and Rowan Coleman’s The Summer of Impossible Things.

Frances will be giving library talks in Poole and Parkstone this autumn, as well as running a virtual book tour.

*Maggsie McNaughton's Second Chance is available to purchase online and from all bookstores now.