I go to the theatre much more often than is good for my bank account. But, every time, as the lights dim and a hush settles over the audience, I get the same sense of excited anticipation that I had when I was a child. Sometimes, I’m disappointed in a production but that has never stopped me looking forward to the next one.
There’s nothing I like more than walking and talking. Getting out of London with a friend and going on a long country walk with a picnic lunch is one of my favourite ways of spending a day.
Before I became a writer I was an acquiring editor and publisher. It was something I wanted to do ever since university and I got my first break when I came to London, answered an advertisement and got a job as an editorial assistant with Corgi Books. After that I worked my way up the career ladder until I was acquiring, commissioning and editing books at Penguin – my dream job.
After cutting my teeth as a journalist writing interiors and travel pieces, I wrote a number of books that tied in with TV programmes such as Grand Designs, Place in the Sun and House Doctor. Isn’t everyone interested in getting a glimpse into other people’s homes and the way they live?
Being a celebrity ghostwriter had its ups and downs. The books always were written to tight deadlines with enormous time pressure but meeting the subjects and being dropped into their lives to find out about them in such detail was a privilege and fun. Without having done that, I would have no idea what it was like to be a couturier, an international Red Cross nurse, an elite athlete or a singer – not to name just a few!
I recently did a short course in botanical painting. A friend paints at a professional level and I’ve always thought it looked such an absorbing and satisfying thing to do. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush since I left school and it was far more difficult that I was expecting. Measurements, drawing and colour have to be absolutely exact. However I’m trying to find time to practise and have enrolled on a second course next year.
I’m very happy knitting in front of the TV but I absolutely hate sewing the pieces together. I have a baby’s cardigan that I knitted in good time for my granddaughter but she’s grown too big for it before I’ve got round to making it up!
I am never without a novel on the go. I read anywhere whether I’m on the bus, in the hairdresser, waiting for someone – even sometimes in the interval at the theatre. As books editor of Woman & Home, I mostly read contemporary novels but I love dipping back into the classics when I can – could be anything from the Brontës to the Russians.
There’s nothing like a good box set and a few nights of serious binge watching. I particularly like catching up with something late in the day that there are several series already to get stuck into. That was how we watched Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and The Affair. At the moment I’ve just started watching Ozark.
Because I spend so much time hunched over the keyboard, I try to exercise as much as I can – when I remember. I walk all over London which helps my writing – there’s something very invigorating about being on one’s own and being able to let ideas percolate up from the subconscious where they stubbornly remain otherwise. I’m also a fairly keen pilates practitioner. I should practise every day but in fact I only manage two one and a half-hour sessions a week. It does even out those kinks in the body though.
Fanny Blake is among the line-up at the inaugural Writer’s Summit in London in November, giving aspiring and new writers an insight into her writing life. Her latest novel Our Summer Together (Orion) is out now.