1. My first language was Catalan – I was brought up in my mother’s native Catalonia for the first two years of my life. My father was a writer – he did radio plays. He was born and brought up in Wales, although I didn’t learn Welsh!
2. Writing The House of Marvellous Books was like doing a giant crossword puzzle – with so many characters and plotlines, every word had to fit into place. Technically, it’s the most complex thing I’ve written.
3. I write first thing in the morning, for three hours at most. After that, it’s gone. But if I have a deadline, I can go all day, on a more mechanical basis.
4. It can take me several years to write a short story.
5. Walking and gardening are my meditation – the writing arranges itself while I am physically active. Trying to sit still and meditate sends my blood pressure up!
6. I started out as a local journalist in south-east London. In those days, it was a quiet little suburb. I covered things like the giant marrow that won the local vegetable competition, and boy scouts’ expeditions. When the fire engine went past our building on a shout, they would pause the siren and give us a ‘toot-toot’, just in case we’d missed them. Then, later, the prettiest of the girls, Sallie, would go up to the station and get the story – usually a microwave fire. We worked on ancient Remingtons and typed everything out on two slips of paper with a carbon in-between. The editor knew his parish like the back of his hand and you could not get away with being slipshod or inaccurate. It was great training for a writer.
I went into publishing in my late 40s. It was wonderful - like finding Aladdin’s cave. Shedloads of books, and so many interesting and authentic (eccentric) people.
7. I grew up believing you had to choose either to have a family, or to write, but not both – bollocks from an old-fashioned, male-dominated industry. Myths about the tortured (alcoholic) lonely artist are a terrific waste of talent and time, and sadly, have cut many writers’ lives short. Thankfully, times have changed. With a large family (four children) I have always worked. As well as paying the bills, I think it keeps you in touch with reality – more or less, anyway!
About The House of Marvellous Books
Tucked away in a near-derelict library in the centre of London, The House of Marvellous Books is a publishing house on the brink of financial disaster. With assistant Ursula asleep at her desk, head publisher Gerard going health and safety mad, and chief editor Drusilla focused on finding a supposedly priceless but famously missing manuscript, there is hardly anyone left to steer the ship.
Young Mortimer Blakeley-Smith, junior editor, charts the descent of the House in his logbook as it lurches from one failure to the next. Will mysterious Russian buyers, lurking in the wings, finally sink the ship? Or will Drusilla find the legendary Daybreak Manuscript and save the day?