a. I most like the fact that I seem to have a lot of stamina and energy. I seem to have quite an appetite for work which helps as I teach full time as well as trying to write most days.
What do you wish you’d known before you started writing?
a. I’m only just beginning to understand characterisation after decades of writing – I wish I’d been able to get under the skins of characters better. And second, the more you write, the better you get, but you still need to prune/ditch most of what you’ve written.
Share a romantic moment in your life.
a. I left a great job as a journalist to train as a teacher and then moved to China to follow my boyfriend. He did become my husband and we are still happily married 20+ years later, and although I still miss the journalism from time to time, it was totally worth it – we’ve had wonderful
4.) Is there one subject you’d never write about as an author? What is it?
a. Although I don’t think I have any themes or topics that are taboo, I know I’m really unlikely ever to write a horror story. Crime, romance and adventure certainly, gruesome events, but I am very easily spooked and hate watching horror films so I really don’t think I’d write in that style.
5.) Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
a. The standard one is read as widely as possible, which I totally agree with because it helps you work out what you like, what you don’t like and gives you ideas about style, about theme, about the way other writers play with language. But my other tip would be to be a magpie – browse not just books but art galleries, go to concerts (classical as well as contemporary), watch movies and TV, chase up obscure myths and legends. Really analyse what you like, what works for you, what compels you. Give yourself time to fill the wells of inspiration.
6.) If you could be the original author for any book, what would it be? Why?
I find it easier to think of this as being a different author – the writer I’d most like to be is Chekhov although he had quite a tough time and died much too young. But for humanity, perception, humour and sheer brilliant writing, he’s my guy. The book I’d most like to have written is Middlemarch by George Eliot. It’s amazing, complex, generous, acute, humane and romantic.
7.) What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?
Read too much. Especially re-reading of my favourite books. My parents confiscated copies of Harriet the Spy and Gone with the Wind because they felt I re-read those two books too often.
8.) If I came to your house for dinner what would you prepare for me? Why?
a. Provided you had no food allergies, I’d probably prepare a starter of aubergines, chickpeas and prosciutto with harissa, Italian chicken with garlic & rosemary in a white wine sauce with green beans, cheese and a green salad with my own honey mustard dressing followed up by my favourite pudding, the chocolate Nemesis from the first River Café cookbook. I’m a huge fan of Mediterranean food, so there would definitely be Italian and Middle Eastern elements, but chocolate is really, in my view, the only true ingredient for dessert.
Thank you for your lovely questions, a pleasure to answer them!