I grew up in Paris. I played the piano and devoured books, mostly French ones. My English wasn’t as fluent then as it is now. I saw the world in colours because I had synaesthesia. I still play the piano and learned how to sing ten years ago. I write French songs. It’s my parallel life.

Alba Arikha

Alba Arikha

My father was a painter, my mother a poet. The atmosphere at home was inspiring and stifling at the same time. I fought against it for many years, then became a writer myself and there was nothing left to fight about. That’s what my memoir, ‘Major/Minor’ is about.

I live in Green Lanes, North London. It’s filled with Kurds and Cypriots, both Turkish and Greek My husband and I renovated a house and moved here three years ago. It’s a bit like being in Istanbul. Our friends thought we were mad, but we love it.

I try to write every morning. I have a study facing the garden. I wake up early and drink large quantities of strong coffee. I have breakfast with my daughter before she leaves for school, then I go back to work, forcing myself to stay there until lunchtime.

When I write a novel, characters inhabit my head and don’t leave until the book is finished. Giving them a backstory, a raison d’être, is one of the elements of writing I find most rewarding.

Writing a memoir was a more complicated process. It involved dealing with facts, and delving into a darker, more personal place than fiction requires. I worried about hurting people in the process.

Although I’ve lived in London for twenty-two years, I still hanker after Paris.

The smell of a French bakery and the taste of a millefeuille is enough to make me want to move back there. However, every time I return I realise that London is my home. Then again, my notion of identity has always been a bit blurred. My background is culturally mixed. To this day, I’m not sure where my roots really lie. Maybe that’s why displacement is a recurrent topic in my books.

I started teaching a few years ago. Seeing raw talent on the page is very exciting. Many people write, but not everyone does it well.  I tell my students that they must write the sort of books they would like to read. Therefore they must read. All the time.

Many of my ideas come when I’m walking the dog. It particularly helps when I’m stuck. Another trick someone taught me a while ago is to leave my sentences unfinished for the next morning.

The older I get, the more I crave the Mediterranean. I’ve threatened to buy a place in Greece for so long, that I really think it’s now only a matter of time. I’ll find a house facing the sea and convince my English composer husband to follow. We’ll learn the language, make our own olive oil and I’ll write books about the London I left behind.