I was the quiet one at school, too shy to speak up but always observing. I wish I could go back and tell my young self that if I spoke up, people wouldn’t laugh at me, and that it’s ok (and indeed necessary) to get things wrong sometimes.

Emily Barr

Emily Barr

At university I worked on the student newspaper much more than on my degree. I just wanted to be writing, in one format or another, and when, during my first term, I ventured into the union basement and dared to wander into the offices of London Student I knew I had found my home. I had to catch up with the academic work eventually, but when I think of university I think of the student paper.

I listen to conversations everywhere I go and often write them down. Then I find the notes and it takes me ages to remember what on earth it’s all about.

I once had two ladies sitting behind me on a train, talking incessantly. I was writing, and it all went quiet when, I realised, they were reading over my shoulder. Then one of them loudly whispered to the other: ‘I don’t think it’s going to be winning the Booker prize’.

I wake up early to write before anyone else in my house (children and rabbits) wakes up and wants my attention. If you’re awake before you want to be, you might as well be getting on with your book.

I love travelling. I would spend all my time and money on travelling if I could. One of Flora Banks’s rules for life is ‘don’t go to Svalbard in winter’. I wrote that in the book so many times that in the end I had to go. I now think you should go to the Arctic in winter: it’s amazing.

I live in Cornwall, where Flora’s story begins. Penzance is my favourite place in Cornwall, which is why Flora lives there. I use it as a bolt hole when I want to get just a little way from home and do some writing.

I have two rabbits, and one of them looks like Donald Trump. They escape into neighbours’ gardens every now and then and run around laughing at us and trying to eat the carefully cultivated plants. Luckily our neighbours are extremely nice.

I’m vegetarian and by far my favourite meal is breakfast. Generally by the time I get to breakfast I’ve been writing for a few hours and have taken a child to school, so it’s more brunchy than anything, and features eggs and as many vegetables as I can find.

If I can’t sleep (and I often can’t), I have discovered that nothing at all sends me to sleep apart from ‘Chill with Bob Ross’ on Netflix. It’s like a general anesthetic to me, but in a good way. I can feel wide awake, watch a few seconds of Bob Ross, and the next thing I know it’s morning and the laptop’s still open on the bed.