Like my central character, Elvira, I love animals. Dogs, guinea-pigs, orang-utans, wolves and tigers all feature in the book.
I’m lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the world, near the Dorset coast. Elvira walks ‘her’ dog along the beach: ‘The sand was white and stretched as far as I could see in front of me.’
I teach adults with special needs, such as dyslexia and Aspergers, who are returning to education. Getting a second chance in life is also a theme of my writing. I find using print to empower marginalised characters very satisfying.
I’m a big fan of other ‘Up-Lit’ books where someone’s life changes as a result of the kindness of others. Little Big Man by Katy Regan and My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal have been recent favourites.
Life is always improved by a biscuit. My character Elvira, is an expert on biscuit brands and their packaging: ‘I liked trying out different brands and varieties and comparing them. It added another dimension to my life.’ My own favourite is a milk chocolate digestive.
I’m a late starter to fiction writing. Before I became one myself, I thought writers belonged to a secret club that was impossible to join. But really we’re just ordinary people who kept going with a good idea. This experience has taught me that new directions are always possible in life and that it’s never too late to start.
Shallow, I know, but I love fashion and style. The best bit about going to the hairdresser’s is getting my hands on all those glossy magazines and thinking how I could copy that look on a budget!
I find cooking relaxing. There’s nothing like having the kitchen to myself and a good play on the radio. Elvira finds Delia Smith’s fail-safe recipes comforting: ‘She went through things step-by-step and wore a cardigan in her picture.’
I write in the very early morning – 5.30 – before anyone else gets up. I write in bed with a notebook and a pencil with a rubber on the end. The cat is curled up on the quilt, there’s a cup of tea beside me and I’ve got two hours of peace and quiet!
Besides writing fiction, I like making things. I’m lucky enough to have my own tiny room stuffed with fabrics where I can make clothes, textiles and quilts. The only trouble is I’m running out of beds and walls to put them on!
The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr, out 12th July, RRP £7.99, Picador