This is where you might expect to read that I went to Cambridge (I did, in fact. On a day trip. I went punting in the rain, if I recall), that I have an MA in creative writing, and that I have 2.5 adorable children. I was given a Catholic upbringing, which Hilary Mantel claims is essential for all writers. Apart from this, I am quite unqualified, coming to it via a roundabout route. If this disappoints you, I apologise. However, if you have that gnawing feeling there’s a book inside you trying to get out… I’m here to tell you that, unfettered access to a computer aside, the only other thing you need is a little spare time. Oh, and the ability to disconnect: from Facebook; your mobile phone; those two dozen vitally important junk emails that appear in your inbox every day. And you may have to wave goodbye to a good deal of your social life. (As my partner constantly reminds me: if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.) Alison Bavistock described writing as lonely, isolating and fattening. It is also extremely liberating and theraputic. I assure you: it will be worth it.
My family has a history of artistic tendencies. My paternal grandfather was a commercial artist and my maternal grandfather was a musician and composer, whose children all found work in the profession. My Uncles, both flautists, played on Fool on the Hill, while my mother’s various claims to fame include being an expert on Tudor music and performing on the infamous Finger of Fudge advert. As children, we were all encouraged to attend music and ballet lessons, pushed onto the stage and into compulsive exam-taking. My experiences left me with a hatred of classical music, terrible stage fright and panic attacks on entering exam rooms.
During my formative years, I won a Blue Peter badge for naming Goldie the Labrador; had two pieces of work displayed in the Vision On gallery; won a silver shield for playing ‘The Entertainer’ on the descant recorder in the Kingston Music Festival and played James Galway’s gold flute. None of this mattered. Much to my shame, I failed the interview to appear on Crackerjack for not knowing the names of all of the Beatles.
I left school at the age of sixteen armed with an RE O level and a life-saving certificate, ignoring only careers’ advice available to convent school girls: that all smart girls should aspire to becoming nurses or schoolteachers. I chose insurance. Or rather, that was what the job centre had on offer, and it was only a twenty-minute walk from home, so I wouldn’t have to get up very early. Sorted.
After suffering from depression throughout my teenage years and my 20s, I developed a keen interest in psychology. The middle child of five, I am particularly interested in the influence that position in the family has in determining personality.
Travel has played a major part in my adult life, but I also have a keen love of Britain and the British countryside in particular. This stems largely from a 10-year stint with the Boy Scouts, firstly as a cub leader and then, since knowing I should not swear resulted in compulsive outbursts, with the less shockable Ventures (who taught me a few new ones to add to my reportoire). I still take regular walking, climbing and photography trips, and think of Ambleside in the Lake District as my second home.
My partner of fourteen years and I live in a part of Surrey that claims to be a London Borough, in a ridiculously impractical timber-framed house. If we ever move, it will be because we have run out of space for our CD collection.
I wrote as a hobby for a number of years while clawing up the career-ladder, but it increased in importance to me, gradually taking over. In 2008 I took a leap of faith and ‘retired’ from full-time work, just at the onset of a major recession. In my working life I have regularly written articles for the insurance press. Occasionally, they are published under my own name.
The turning point came when I attended the Winchester Writers’ Conference and learned about The Daily Mail First Novel award, open to all unpublished writers. That was Saturday: the closing date was the following Monday.
In October 2008, my first novel, Half-truths and White Lies, was selected as the winning title. It was published by Black Swan in April 2009 and has been translated into German.
PS: Also, I cannot ski.