Lotte began her writing career age 70 and has since written more than 20 children’s books, including the best-selling Lotte’s War. She has recently written her autobiography, which details her earlier life as an actress and dancer – and her first novel, In the Fast Lane, is shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize.
“Writing is like therapy for me. With my autobiography, I found it useful releasing all of that past pain I’d kept bottled up for so long. Being an actress, you get so used to hiding things; it’s part of your job in a way. I worry that people today are in too much of a rush to give time to their feelings – but letting it out is cathartic.
Members of my family were very cross about the way I spoke of my mother in my autobiography, but we had a very difficult relationship. The older I got, the more rows we had. Eventually, in my teens, I came to live with my dearest granny and she saw me through the most extraordinary life as an actress. She had witnessed my mother’s strange reaction to me and took me in.
I’ve been active all my life. I’m frightened to stop actually. I was a trained ballet dancer and was in the opera ballet at Covent Garden in Aida and several others. Eventually I got too tall and moved into acting. Throughout that time, I hadn’t got a boyfriend. I desperately wanted to marry somebody but I made such mistakes with men. I was panicking by the time I finally got married at 38.
I eventually met my husband when I was babysitting of all things. It turned out his wife had been having an affair and he had the most awful divorce. We fell in love and we’ve been together ever since. When I met him I felt safe for the first time. We’ve had tragedies with losing children and things, but we’ve stuck together through thick and thin. I had Zoe when I was 39, then I lost several children, then I finally had Daisy. I just loved being a mother. I gave up acting immediately and devoted myself entirely to them.
I love children – I think the reason I feel young is because I’m always around them. I’ve been to hundreds of schools to share my experiences as an evacuee 80 years ago. The old and the young are so alike really, they just need a bit of love and comfort. They are so effervescent. There’s nothing like reading to your children at night. I always encourage them to write stories as it keeps their imaginations alive.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned is to be kind, because there is such a lot of hurt between adults, which isn’t always intended or even realized.