I quit being a human rights barrister to be a writer. Financially that was a foolish decision, but I was driven to start writing a novel after working on an Eritrean asylum appeal and learning about a whole world of dramatic human experiences that are happening all around us in the UK and are rarely talked about in the mainstream. Once I’d started writing creatively, it was like a drug.

Ellen Wiles

Ellen Wiles

I live at the top of a tower block and love how, in the summer, London looks like a magical forest city with scattered roofs peeping out of the foliage.

I’ve had lots of near-death experiences, but one was body-boarding down a rapid in the rainy season under the Victoria Falls, being sucked down a whirlpool for what felt like minutes, and then spat out in the path of a jagged cluster of rocks. I was dragged away by the expedition leader at the last minute, and just as I recovered my breath at the other side, I saw that a crocodile was metres away, watching us with a yellow eye.

I co-wrote my first story age four with my dad on his Amstrad word processor in bright green courier font. It was about a rebellious princess. We didn’t save a copy.

I now have two kids under five who demand at least five bedtime stories a night, and are turning into some of the most absurdist, hilarious storytellers I know (that is when they’re not masquerading as grumpy teenagers or throwing themselves wildly off staircases).

I do yoga every day if I can. I discovered it by accident during a student backpacking adventure in Thailand, when I had chronic back problems from playing the flute for hours every day, and it changed my life. My kids are already way better at downward dog than me and like to use me as a climbing frame if I attempt it while they’re around.

I was vegetarian for almost twenty years until, newly pregnant with my second child, and walking home with heavy feet, I suddenly had a craving. I walked into my local butcher and said, ‘excuse me, hi, I’ve never bought or cooked meat before, but I think I need a steak’. It made her day.

I am doing a PhD on live literature alongside novel writing, and a few years ago I founded an experimental project called Ark to create immersive short story performances in library spaces involving multiple art forms.

As I approach the end of my thirties I feel an increasing need for multiple parallel lives in which to try out all the things I’d like to do. Failing that, I wouldn’t mind being reincarnated as a golden eagle – I got the idea when I accidentally went paragliding one day in the Alps. That’s another story.

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