I have a beach hut on Wells beach
The iconic beach huts at Wells were one of the inspirations for The Lost Letters. They don’t often come onto the market but I was lucky enough to be able to buy one about five years ago. The best times of the day are the early morning and the late afternoon. Sometimes in the summer I sneak down to my hut before the rest of the family wakes up, and we have spent many an evening sitting on a practically empty beach with friends and a bottle or two of wine!
My first short story
The first story I wrote was for a competition being run by the clothing company Hush and the London Writer’s Club. All the entries had to have the word ‘hush’ in it somewhere! I wrote a story called ‘Bite in the Air’ about a girl coming of age during civil rights movement in America and it was short-listed and published along with the other short-listed entries. I can still remember the excitement of reading the email telling me I’d made the shortlist while sitting in a multi-story car park in Norwich.
I love to dance! Embarrassingly I am always the first on the dance floor at parties and often the last to leave. If I am sitting at my computer feeling stuck for something to write I often have a quick dance around the kitchen to get my energy levels going! I even managed to persuade my husband to have jive lessons before our wedding so that we could do a proper first dance!
First ever job
My first job was as a cook in Melbourne, Australia during the year before I started university. I went into the restaurant to see if they had any waitressing jobs and they asked if I could cook breakfasts. I said yes and bought a lot of eggs, bacon and sausages on my way home, which I then practised cooking all evening! I stayed at that restaurant for six months, eventually doing evening meals as well as breakfasts, and when I left to go travelling the owner threw me a surprise party. Hopefully it wasn’t because they were relieved to see the back of me…!
I find it hard to choose my favourite author, particularly since I believe that how much you enjoy a book can depend so much on where you read it and what you happen to be going through in your own life at the time. However, I do have huge affection and admiration for Anne Tyler. I simply love her books, particularly the way she makes her characters feel so real and how the prose flows so effortlessly. And I don’t think I have ever read better dialogue.
I was nearly a scientist
I accepted a place at university to read science, but then decided my maths would never be good enough and changed my mind. It was a good decision! The area of science I was most interested in was astrophysics and I don’t think I would have understood even the first lecture. I switched to law instead but almost didn’t become a lawyer either. I got offered a marketing job that I actually accepted before changing my mind at the last minute and becoming a barrister. I only started writing much later in life.
I always use notebooks when I write
My handbags, bedside table and car are all full of brightly coloured little moleskin notebooks. Ideas about plot or snippets of conversation can pop into my head at any time. I used to think I would remember them – after all, how could I forget such a brilliant idea?! Sadly, I discovered the answer was very easily! Now, if I have an idea, I always scribble down enough of it to remind me about it at a later date. Sometimes, if I’m driving, I have to pull over and write an entire section of dialogue…
My favourite item of clothing
I have an Armani blue denim jacket that my husband gave me for Christmas about fifteen years ago. Somehow it seems to go with everything from floaty dresses and skirts to cargo pants, and it never dates - at least I don’t think it does… I will probably wear it at the book launch of The Lost Letters because it always makes me feel good and gives me confidence.
I once climbed Mt Kilimanjaro
Once summer when I was a student I did a truck trip across part of Africa and also got to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. It was the most wonderful experience. We completed the last section of the trek through the middle of the night, so we could see the sunrise from the top, and the temperatures were so low we had to keep walking or freeze to death! Nowadays it probably wouldn’t be allowed but I actually did the whole thing wearing a trusty pair of old baseball boots!
The best advice I have ever been given.
To be honest, the most useful piece of advice I have ever been given was incredibly practical and actually in relation to parallel parking: only start to straighten up when you can see both the headlights of the car behind in your wing mirror! Believe me, it works! But the advice I like best is this quote from E L Doctorow: ‘Writing is like driving at night in the fog, you can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’