I’m more likely to send you a letter than to email you. Okay, that’s not quite true. But my phone is decidedly un-smart, I’m not on instagram or twitter, I’ve forgotten my facebook password and I don’t check my email every day. If I can avoid electronic devices, I do.
My first degree was in Theology and Religious Studies. I love the scope of this subject – encompassing history, philosophy, literature, biblical studies, languages and the social sciences – and the fundamental nature of the questions it raises.
The cultural and creative history of warfare fascinates me. After a number of years away from academia I returned to study English Literature at King’s College London. My PhD focussed on writing of the Second World War, with a particular emphasis on three groups of people – civilians, nurses and prisoners of war. The thesis asked how the human body was described and conceptualised in literature, at a time when it found itself under immense threat.
My studies taught me the value of letters. Alongside other forms of life-writing, letters can provide a wonderfully subjective, human perspective upon moments of historical importance. They also offer a glimpse into an individual’s life; the writer’s relationships, concerns, ideas and emotions reveal themselves to us, if only briefly. During my research I spent many hours sifting through personal papers in various archives. There is something magical about handling original documents; it feels like a connection, an intimacy, is established through the material item.
My writing process is rather torturous. When researching and writing I’m never quite able to believe that a project is going to come together until the last minute. I think best through writing, so ideas are often unsettlingly undeveloped until a late stage. As a result the otherwise enjoyable process of composition is punctuated by moments of considerable panic!
I like muddy boots and log fires. Although I have lived in London for over ten years I grew up in Wiltshire and am still, at heart, a country girl.
I have an affinity with Germany and all things German. I love the spiky medieval towns, the vineyard-clad sweep of the Rhine, the densely-wooded Schwarzwald; the sexiness of Berlin and the easy-going refinement of Munich. Set me down in a Bavarian Biergarten with a Currywurst and a Weissbier and I’m more than happy.
I have a weakness for crime writing. There is something peculiarly comforting about curling up with a good whodunnit. Perhaps my enthusiasm can be traced back to my old school, which boasts some top-notch crime writers amongst its alumni, including Dorothy L. Sayers and Minette Walters.
In contrast to the stories I write about in Yours Always, my own romantic history is pretty tame: the obligatory awkward fumbles of adolescence followed by a string of unrequited attachments. Then in my final year at university I met a nice man, who I married eight years later.
I was pregnant whilst working on the book. Completion of the manuscript thus became a battle between intellectual endeavour and biological necessity. Luckily for me, my daughter eased matters by arriving late.