AN ISLANDER with limited sight has published her first book — written on typewriters in lockdown.

Shanklin resident Anna Southwell not only realised her 24-year long dream of publishing the first book in her Island-based

young children’s fantasy series Oliver Gruffle, but she kept a solemn promise she made to her late husband.

She is delighted to have Oliver Gruffle – Secrets of Harmony Haven – Book 1: The Runaways published.

She said: “I first came up with the idea 24 years ago. I’ve been evolving the stories all along, adding different ones. I’m up to 12 so far. I just can’t stop inventing stories. I’m obsessed with it now.

“With this coronavirus, I was kept busy and I didn’t go into depression or anything like that from being alone, because I was in my magical world, typing away and thinking of new stories.

“The one thing I’ve always loved is the Island and that’s why I wanted to base the stories here.

"I hope when children read these books, they can come to my little world and enjoy them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.”

Anna’s Oliver Gruffle stories feature animals and other fantasy characters from her imagination, all inspired from her real passion for animals.

“I had a lovely Border collie dog called Kim, and she was very wise, and she seemed to know every emotion you felt.

"I was never allowed any animals as a child. I was always wanting a pet. I remember riding a bike on the Island and discovering some wild feral kittens and it was a hard lesson to learn that I could not keep them.

"My last cat I owned as an adult was from a rescue home.”

Anna, formerly a secretary and typist for an Island builders’ merchants in Ryde, explained the challenge of writing the books with her sight impairment.

“I wrote them all on a typewriter. I got through so many typewriters because I just bash away at them, but to be quite honest, because I’m visually impaired now, I know exactly where the keys are – from my touch-typing days – so it’s been a lifeline for me to continue to write new stories and correct ones I’ve written in the past and bring them up to date.”

Anna hasn’t let her sight problems affect her, although it was a shock when she was first diagnosed.

She said: “One day my eyesight suddenly got very bad and I woke up one morning and I had completely lost sight apart from vision in my right eye.

"Then I woke up another morning with blurred vision, so I had to go straight up the hospital, and they diagnosed macular vision in the right eye, but I have still got a small amount of vision in that eye."

She has benefitted from getting involved with Sight for Wight.

Anna also cared for her late husband, who had dementia. She would read him her stories.

She said: "I would read to him and do all the voices and he would sit there, thrilled to bits. He said to me, ‘The one thing I want you to do, is try to get this into print for children to enjoy’.”

The book is published by Beachy Books Partner Publishing. Copies are on sale at Isle of Wight Traders in Newport or available to order via the Beachy Books website