Author Interview …

Author Interview …

Q: Did you always want to be a writer?

A: No, it was something that sneaked up on me when I was in my late twenties. I certainly didn’t think of ever being a bona fide author, I just thought of it as an enjoyable hobby.

Q: Did anyone or anything particularly inspire you to write?

A: The one single thing that inspired me to write was a love of reading. From a very early age I loved to lose myself in a good book and one day I began to wonder if I could take that sense of escapism to another level and lose myself in a book of my own making.

Q: Where do you live?

A: I’m fortunate enough to divide my time between living in Cheshire in a small rural hamlet and Lake Como in Italy. Purely by coincidence (or maybe not!) my home in Cheshire is a converted barn, which some years previously I had used as the setting for my novel A Sense of Belonging. It felt very surreal when my sons and I moved in after that book was published as every time I opened the front door I expected to see my characters in the courtyard.

Q: Is your writing environment important to you?

A: It’s extremely important. When I’m at home in Cheshire I write in my study which opens onto the garden so when I’m ‘stuck’ I can step outside and refresh my brain with a bit of a wander, which usually involves some weeding or dead-heading. My desk, walls and shelves are cluttered with things that have a special meaning to me, including a zillion photographs of my sons who have long since left home. In Italy my work area is much smaller and therefore less untidy. When I’m ‘stuck’ there, I can step outside onto the balcony and watch the boats passing by on the lake.

Q: What guilty pleasures do you have?

A: Come Dine With Me is currently top of the list. I love it! The wonderfully cutting remarks really make me laugh.

Q: Any other guilty pleasures you’re prepared to admit to?

A: Cars. I’m a demon petrol-head. My pride and joy is my A5 3.0D Sport. It’s gorgeously bright red and a complete dream to drive.

Q: Do you have a recurring dream?

A: I have several and they’re usually indicators of how stressed I am. They’re the usual kind of anxiety dream – teeth falling out … unable to reach the pedals whilst driving … unable to find a toilet. I also regularly dream of water. I grew up by the sea and firmly believe that it’s a part of my psyche. I realized a few years ago that nearly all my novels feature water one way or another, whether it’s the sea, a river, a pond or a lake.

Q: How do you think your childhood shaped you as an adult?

A: I spent a lot of time on my own when I was growing up and as a result I’ve always been very self-contained. When I’m fully absorbed in my writing I can happily go for several days without feeling the need to talk to anyone.

Q: What were your favourite subjects at school?

A: French, History and English. I quite liked Rural Studies, but then that was mostly an hour of messing about in a greenhouse, so what’s not to like? There’s a scene in Gardens of Delight that I pinched from one of those ‘messing about’ lessons, it involves a hose and some flowerpots … Sadly I was a total dunderhead when it came to Science and Maths. I still am. And don’t ask me what my IT skills are like.

Q: What scares you?

A: Public speaking. There’s nothing scarier than standing up in front of an audience for a book event.

(To find out more, read Erica’s article, My Very Public Humiliation; the perils and pitfalls of the promotional tour.)

Q: Which comes first, the characters or the story in your novels?

A: The characters always come first, it’s their interaction that creates and drives the story.

Q: Your latest novel, The Queen of New Beginnings, has a strong male perspective, is this something you enjoy doing?

A: I’ve always enjoyed writing from a male perspective and the character of Clayton Miller was a particular pleasure to write. In fact he was the catalyst for
the story. He first came into my head when I imagined a man cynically composing his own obituary. He then established himself in my thoughts as an intriguing character who I wanted to get to know better. Within in no time I could hear his voice and knew exactly how he would interact with those around him – this was long before I actually started writing the book. I saw him as a misunderstood man, lost and adrift, a man who was his own worst enemy. But mostly I saw him as being quirkily likeable with his heart in the right place. The fact that he was comically inept added greatly to the appeal of his character. I love the scene when he’s trying in his typically cack-handed way to make toad in the hole for dinner with Alice.

Q: And Alice?

A: Alice was, of course, the perfect counterpart to Clayton. With the eccentric father she had grown up with, she was always going to take Clayton in her stride.

Q: If The Queen of New Beginnings was made into a film, who would you cast as Clayton?

A: I think Martin Freeman would play him brilliantly.

Q: One last question. Complete this sentence: Love is …

A: … fickle.