I can’t drive, and when I started learning for the first time last year I only managed a few lessons as it made me so depressed. Whatever part of my brain that might once have been good at learning new skills quickly seemed to have shrunk to the size of a pin. I’ve been waiting for driverless cars for so long now.

Olivia Sudjic

Olivia Sudjic

When I wrote my first novel, I hadn’t written any fiction since school. I hadn’t completed any creative writing courses or anything like that and had no idea if I’d be able to do it. I learnt as I went along, but it doesn’t count as a new skill because I could already do sentences.

I’m excellent at thinking up combinations. When I was little I worked out the ideal salt/sweet ratio for a snack that involved twiglets, cheddar cheese, an apple and a glass of orange juice, no bits. I force my talent on people sometimes. If I see a friend eating popcorn in the cinema, I’ll sneak some peanut M&Ms into the container for balance.

I’m terrified of the thought of childbirth. There’s a recognised phobia (tokophobia) but it’s not quite that bad. My nightmare that recurs when I’m anxious is that I’m in labour and have to get myself (alone) to a hospital, in a car, but I still don’t know how to drive. When I saw the episode of Peep Show in which Mark pretends to learn to drive (but doesn’t) then tries to drive the pregnant Sophie to hospital to give birth, I couldn’t laugh. I was shaking. I also think being a midwife is one of the most amazing jobs you can do.

I started to get anxiety attacks this year. I never realised how many friends have the same thing until I started speaking to people about it.

I find it very difficult to think before I speak. I also have a weird way of speaking – a “low tongue” is the way I describe. This often means no one knows what I’m on about, which makes me nervous, which makes me ramble or say totally nonsensical things. The tongue thing is because I used to have a brace in my mouth that was more like a medieval instrument of torture. It was a kind of wire plate that skewered the inside of my cheeks and lacerated my tongue if I brought it above a certain height while speaking. So I learned not to, and now It’s habit. My teeth, incidentally, look just the same as before.

I’m a Capricorn. I love stability, planning, structure, and lists. I’m also rash, superstitious, impulsive and emotional. Maybe that’s my rising sign. I don’t know what a rising sign is actually, or what mine might be. But I’m always impressed by people who know how to use shortcuts on computers, function smoothly and rationally when map reading under pressure, or making calculations such as splitting the bill.

I’m an only child used to entertaining themselves, it’s impossible to make me bored.

I love animals – dogs, elephants and donkeys especially. If I wasn’t a writer I’d like to run a donkey sanctuary.

My favourite thing in the world is being read to.

Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic is published by ONE/Pushkin Press, £14.99. Also available on audible.co.uk

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