I met my other half when I was eighteen. In February next year we will have been married for 22 years, together for 30. Every year on our wedding anniversary we say we’ll give it another year. We don’t want to rush into a big commitment.
I have had more careers than Barbie. I think that’s the only comparison that can be made between me and the famous doll, although I do have tiny feet. I have been a Comprehensive School teacher, managed a coffee shop in London, sold perfume in Paris… I currently teach Creative Writing at Richmond Adult Community College, which I’ve been doing for over ten years as well as writing. That’s it for me, I think, since I’ve always wanted to write. Although there was that training course for astronauts…
I am a huge Joni Mitchell fan, have been since I was eighteen, and like to use writing breaks to wail along to her while I make my umpteenth cup of coffee. Gets the air into the lungs although I notice my neighbours have put their house up for sale.
I have a black miniature schnauzer called Lola who has her own Instagram account called DogsDoBooks, in which she enacts works of literature. The Dog in the Striped Pyjamas and The Invisible Dog were my favourites but I have managed to lock myself out of this account and haven’t got round to figuring out how to get back in. I wonder if Lola is behind this.
I lived in Rome for five years. I moved there with Paul, my husband, when my kids were one and two and came back when they were six and seven – oh, and by then there was another, my youngest daughter who we called Francesca Romana, which she pronounced Francesca Banana for the early years of her life. We didn’t correct her because, well, why would you?
I like making birthday cakes for my family and friends. I have less time to do this now but the easiest was a jacuzzi which I made for two of my friends. It was basically a round chocolate cake fenced in chocolate fingers, with blue icing. Rather brutally, I bought two cheap dolls and cut them in half at the waist, Sharpie-penned bikini tops on them and shoved them in. The most ambitious cake I made was a tailor’s mannequin. Due to the demands of sponge and gravity, the mannequin had to be for the fuller figure to stop it from collapsing.
I have been with my writing group, whom I met on the MA in Creative Writing at Kingston University, for ten years. Without them I would never have been able to keep writing. They have given me feedback and encouragement all the way, and when I did finally break through, they bought me the most beautiful ink pen, which makes even filling out forms a pleasure.
My debut novel, Valentina (published by Blackbird Digital Books), is actually my fourth book. It took me ten years to break through, and like many writers, I could line my downstairs loo with rejections. I was thrilled when Jenny Geras, my editor at Bookouture, wanted to publish my follow up, Mother.
I am painstaking in my writing process, often reading the entire novel aloud to make sure the sentences fall the way I want them to, that the dialogue sounds realistic, because I know that if these things are right, it will result in a pleasurable as well as, I hope, gripping reading experience.
It is important to me to write about people my readers can identify with, not people with loads of money, gym-honed bodies, designer clothes and yachts. The biggest thrill for me is when a reader either contacts me or writes a review to say that they were transported in some way by something I wrote. When that happens, it is and will always be, I think, a miracle.
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