When my sister and I were young, we ran an imaginary orphanage/child actor agency. Our dolls and teddies were under our care, whilst also being contractually obliged to give us 10% of their earnings. I can see that this was a serious conflict of interest. My sister is now an artist, so we’re both still making up stories, in our different ways.

Sarah Haywood by Rachel Ryan

Sarah Haywood by Rachel Ryan

The main character in The Cactus, Susan Green, came to me fully formed as soon as I started writing the novel. It was as though she was tapping on my shoulder demanding to have her voice heard (which is exactly the kind of thing she would do).

Although I loved English at school, I plumped for sciences at A’ level and had a place to study Physics at university. I changed to Law, but always hoped that, one day, I’d make a living as a writer.

If you visited my house, you might think I have a knack for decluttering, but in my attic, I have every toy and book that my sons have ever touched or even glanced at. I’m incurably sentimental where my children are concerned. Don’t get me started on Toy Story 3.

It’s at my desk that I work out the fine details of my stories, but the big plot and character ideas come when I’m either in the shower or walking home after taking my younger son to school.

I can’t write in total silence; it makes me feel self-conscious and interferes with the creative process. The low hum of a library is perfect, but when I’m writing at home, I use an app that plays muted coffee-shop sounds. I end up taking a lot of hot-drink and loo breaks.

I love cats of every size, shape and colour, but I’m particularly obsessed with ginger ones. Pippin would sit on my laptop keyboard as I was working on The Cactus. I now have Connie and Rudy, who check at regular intervals that I’m busy earning money for cat food.

I used to investigate complaints about lawyers. There’s always a human story behind every case, and it was those stories that interested me more than the legal niceties. My job involved writing dense, fact-heavy reports, but I longed for the freedom to use my imagination – and to slip in some humour from time to time.

I have a natural tendency to prevaricate, and if I don’t have a deadline looming I’ll engage in endless time-wasting activities. I signed up for an MA in Creative Writing almost solely to give me a fixed date for completing my novel. I’m lucky enough to have a two-book deal, so have another deadline to keep me in check.

I support Liverpool Football Club and try to get tickets to as many home matches as possible. For me, a football match is a gripping story being played out in real time, with all the same highs, lows and plot-twists.