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Actress in her own write.

MERSEYSIDE actress and author Maureen O'Brien was 27 years old when she discovered she couldn't have children of her own. At a time before procedures like IVF to provide hope, the news was particularly devastating for both her and her husband, Michael. She recalls: ``I think most young women have a view of their life that includes looking into the future at a kind of cloudy area, which represents the question of whether they will have children or not. ``This harsh realisation that I wouldn't be having my own children forced me to weigh up my life. I decided that I would have to put the energy and creativity that one uses in bringing up children to different use.'' Maureen, 59, did just that and as well as forging a successful career as an actress she later turned her hand to writing and her sixth novel was published this week. The eldest of eight children, Maureen was born and brought up in Merseyside, and her family lived in one of the first houses built in Kirkby. After attending Notre Dame school in Mount Pleasant, she went to the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She was a founder member of the Everyman theatre before she landed a part as Vicki in Dr Who, alongside William Hartnell and Peter Purves. It was in her twenties that Maureen was struck down with a mystery illness.

Maureen says: ``I lost a great deal of weight and grew weaker and weaker. Even though I had countless blood tests they could find nothing wrong with me.'' It was only after she almost died that doctors discovered she was suffering an extremely rare illness - tuberculosis of the ovaries. Maureen eventually regained her health but learned that her illness had taken away her chance of ever having children. At first, Maureen resumed her acting career. Then a friend encouraged her to write a children's play. ``I had written all my life,'' says Maureen, ``but I had never thought of writing as much more than a hobby.''

The play was well received and Maureen's career as a writer had begun.

Her sixth novel, Unauthorised Departure, is a love story combined with a murder investigation. She says: ``It took me six years to get over the devastation of not being able to have children, but you have to.

``And who knows if I would have had the energy or the time to write as well as act if had become a mother - that I'll never know.'' n Unauthorised Departure, by Maureen O'Brien, pounds 16.99.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 18, 2003
Words:428
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