I wrote my first story when I was seven for my younger sister Caroline. It was about Sally Dumpling, a fairy with curves. She lived in a yellow rose and her best friend was a robin.
When I was 18 I was a film extra in The Go-Between and spent six weeks wearing beautiful Edwardian costumes at Melton Constable Hall in Norfolk. PIC
I write standing up and find this makes me more alert. I have rigged up a tray on legs on top of my desk to bring my laptop to the right height. I've been doing this now for about three years.
When I start out on a novel I create a sheet for each of the main characters. I think about their backstory, about what they like to eat and drink, their favourite music and what they fear most. Even if none of this makes its way into the novel I find it helps me to think about the characters as real people and to make them live in my mind before I start to write their story.
I worked for seven years at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in charge of the TV and radio output and some public diplomacy campaigns. This influenced my first novel The Lie of You. One character is Finnish (Heja) and the other character is half-Portuguese (Kathy). I wanted to portray a woman from the North and one from the south of Europe because of insights I’d gained at the Foreign Office. PIC
I collect small lead figures that show the working lives of people; they are small relics of social history. My favourites are a nurse with her patient on a stretcher and a man with an anvil. PIC
In my second novel After The Storm I describe how a young English couple get onto a boat with an American couple who they’ve only known for 24 hours to sail from Belize City to an island in the Caribbean Sea. I actually did this sail as a novice sailor. I kept a notebook and this was invaluable in creating the book’s setting. The characters however are fictional. PIC
I love grey cats. My first cat, when I was nine, was grey with a white throat and I called her Prunella. My next cat, twenty years later, was also grey with gold eyes. I called her Poppie and she lived till she was seventeen and a half.
I also drew on my personal experience in my two StoryWorld novels Woman of the Hour and Behind Her Back. Like my heroine Liz Lyon I was a TV producer and a single mum. The world of work has such potential for conflict and drama. I'm surprised there are not more books dealing with women's working lives and the difficulties of balancing your work-life with your family life. PIC
I love books in which landscape plays a major part. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx is one of my favourite novels.
Jane Lythell’s fourth novel Behind Her Back is published by Head of Zeus on 10 August 2017: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Behind-Back-StoryWorld-Jane-Lythell-ebook/