I LOVE GREECE. My mother and husband are both Greek and I love my summers there. The island we go to is my ‘happy place’. If I ever feel sad or stressed, I go there in my mind and imagine the deep, vivid blue of the sea, the sound of the crickets and the warmth of the sun.

Irena Brignull

Irena Brignull

I USED TO WANT TO BE A TENNIS PLAYER. As a young teen, tennis was a massive part of my life. I was pretty obsessed with it, playing for my county and the south of England and then getting my Oxford blue at university. Watching the Wimbledon fortnight is still a highlight for me, but babies and work, plus an old arm injury, mean I don’t play so much these days.

I HAVE THREE CHILDREN. I adore my three and would have loved another but realise now that might have pushed me over the edge. I’m not nearly organised enough. I love being a mum but I won’t pretend it’s not hard combining writing with parenting sometimes. I have trouble switching from the world of my stories to real life sometimes. My kids tell me to snap out of it though. I’m dreading the day when they leave home. Even when one of them goes away for a sleepover or a trip, I get a pang every time I see their empty bedroom. Our intention is to lure them back with holidays and good food.

I AM A FEMINIST. I’m not sure I’ve actually written that down before but I’m very conscious of the women who worked and fought so hard for me to lead this life of mine. I’m also aware that there is still work to be done, turning that huge ship of public opinion through rough political and cultural seas. I hope I do my bit - supporting others, inspiring my children, finding and using my voice.

I LOVE OLD MOVIES. I don’t remember much television when I was growing up but I was allowed to watch old black and white movies that played on weekend afternoons. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were a particular joy. As were Westerns. My absolute favourite was ‘Some Like It Hot’. We had it on video, so my siblings and I watched it over and over. It still wows me to this day.

I AM ALWAYS HUNGRY. My appetite is not very ladylike unfortunately. These days, I try and stick to healthy snacks but a bit of dark chocolate usually sneaks in there. I just love food – the eating of it as well as the cooking. And, for me, home cooking is often best. Hearty portions, not too fussy, shared with family and friends.

I FEAR FOR OUR PLANET. I think about my impact on the environment a lot – every time I throw something away, or shop, or use my car, or leave the lights on. Part of it is living in a city when I was brought up in the countryside where it’s much easier to feel connected to the land. Part of it is having an asthmatic son and knowing the potential cost of dirty air. But mostly it’s not wanting to pass on to my children and grandchildren a problem too late for them to solve.

I WISH I COULD WRITE LIKE ANNE TYLER. There are so many writers that I admire but Anne Tyler’s novels always move me. I have written about magic in my books – the traditional magic of spells and charms as well as that found in nature, friendship and sisterhood.  But Anne Tyler weaves her own magic out of ordinary, flawed human lives. The emotional power of her stories always takes me by surprise. It creeps up on me, crafted out of the gentle wisdom in her writing and that sense of kindness and understanding.

MY FAVOURITE TV SHOW IS MAD MEN. I still get a thrill at watching a movie on a big screen but I don’t get to go to the cinema nearly as much as I’d like. I do watch tv instead, and my favourite show in recent years has to be Mad Men. As a screenwriter, I tend to think ahead while I watch, predicting what a character will say or do next, guessing how a storyline will end. But, for me, Mad Men was refreshingly unpredictable. I loved the slower pace, the period look, the casting, the fallibility of the characters, the lack of sentiment and melodrama. I miss it.

I MET MY HUSBAND AT UNIVERSITY. We’ve been together for 25 years. I feel like we’ve defied the odds, sticking together through good times and bad. We’ve grown up together, I guess, and we’ve probably affected each other’s character in untold ways. He is my best friend. The father of my kids. My love story.

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