I qualified as an accountant. Despite wanting to be a writer from a very young age, I didn’t believe someone like me – just a girl from a small welsh village with no industry connections – would stand a chance. A career in finance though brought me to the BBC, and that’s when I started to believe in myself.

Claire Evans by Charlie Hopkinson

Claire Evans by Charlie Hopkinson

History was not my best subject. In fact I hated history at school. Probably because we mostly focussed on the two world wars, but it was all rather dry. I remember having to learn that there were seven causes of the First World War and nine for the second. I remember the numbers, not the reasons. And of course, the reality was so not that simple. I actually became more interested in history when my chemistry teacher tried to explain chaos theory – that’s when it hit me – that history is a breathing, unknowable thing, and so much more fascinating than the future.

I don’t really look as young or attractive as my cover photo. Obviously.

The Original title of the book was The Inheritance of William Lamb. I was initially resistant to changing it, but titles are so important, and The Fourteenth Letter really works I think. Writing a book is a singular activity but publication and marketing is a collaboration.

This book is one of the few pieces of writing I have ever finished. All those decades spent as an amateur writer left me with a trail of unfinished novels, plays and screenplays. What I eventually realised was that, for me at least, I needed to plan my projects right to the bitter end before I even wrote the first word. It doesn’t work for everyone, but if I don’t start with a plan, the tail off into nothing is inevitable.

I struggle to learn languages. French was probably my worst subject at school, and my struggle to learn any foreign language (I’m trying Spanish at the moment) always seemed at odds to me with having such a love for my own language. But  being fluent in another language – to read stories in another tongue - remains a massive goal for me.

My hero is based on me, not my heroine. My friends immediately recognised me in William Lamb. In fact one of his lines – “ the latest I’ve ever managed to be is on time” – was something I once said of myself. I loved switching the traditional male and female roles in the book. Savannah Shelton is very different to me - a gunslinging, wise-cracking fuck-you kind of girl. I want to come back as her in my next life.

I was in the room when Strictly Come Dancing was born. I take no credit whatsoever, I was but a passive observer as the idea developed out of a brainstorm at a BBC away day. Magic.

I once trod on Dustin Hoffman. The last of my showbiz anecdotes. It was at the BAFTAs, I was in heels, and was a tad squiffy. Plus, he is rather short and I really didn’t SEE HIM.

I’m highly allergic to mushrooms. Which makes me very easy to kill. If you ever read of my early demise, I trust that at least one reader will take it upon themselves to see who stood to inherit or make an insurance claim and thoroughly investigate the circumstances of my death. Who knows, like William Lamb, it might be the start of a life changing adventure….

Recommended Articles