1. I love travelling. Even though I adore my home, sometimes I think I’m at my best when I’m far away, out of my comfort zone, somewhere completely new. It brings out my braver side and my writer’s brain does a little happy dance at all the new experiences. Some of my favourite travels include Mexico, Egypt, Israel and of course, Italy. The last place I visited was Stockholm. I recently renewed my passport, as a gesture of optimism that the current climate will improve, and now it’s in my desk drawer, waiting for adventures…
2. I’ve always felt torn between London and Wales. Wales is where I grew up; London is where I lived for many years after uni, so it’s where I discovered myself as an adult. I divide my time between the two, even now. I love the buzz and thrill of a big city, where absolutely anything I might want to do or learn or see is on offer – and also the clean air, silent nights and sweeping views of the welsh countryside, where my soul can rest and I can get back to basics. Sometimes I feel split between two lives, at others I feel lucky to have the best of both worlds.
3. I am a compulsive writer. It’s as if all the stories I dreamed up over the forty years before I got published are all queued up waiting to be written and insist that I just keep bashing them out. My schedule is a bit relentless and I know self-care and rest are important but the internal drive to just keep going is phenomenal (obsessive?!?) It’s exhausting and thrilling.
4. I really love getting older, as a woman. Not a common opinion, I know, and I’m not saying it’s not hair-raising in many ways. But it’s so interesting… the process of moving into a new phase of life, of getting to know oneself all over again, shedding so many of the things that held me back as a younger woman. Archetypally, this stage of life is known as priestess, sovereign or enchantress. Magical words, inspiring concepts. I’ll take that!
5. Like so many writers, I have a notebook fetish. Big ones, small ones, hardback, softback, bound or wirobound… I can’t resist them. I keep them in a silver chest. Yes, I really do.
6. I met my partner at a photoshoot to promote my first novel, Amy Snow. On publication day, the PR team had arranged a bunch of activities for me with Richard and Judy, including a TV appearance and an afternoon in a radio studio. In between was a photoshoot and Phil was one of the photographers. We were friends for years after that before finally getting our acts together. As if winning my dream career in a competition run by Richard and Judy wasn’t enough!
7. One of my favourite hobbies, back in the days before lockdown, was going on drama courses! I have no plans to tread the boards as a career instead of writing – in fact I’m not very good – but that’s one of the joys of it. When I sing, act or dance, I’m out of my depth, I know it’ll never get serious and I use a completely different brain from my writing brain. The last course I did was a musical theatre course culminating in a showcase that saw me doing the Charleston and singing a solo that Richard Gere sang in the movie of Chicago! I’m not saying it was pretty. I think “mortifying but exhilarating” sums it up!
Even now that The House at Silvermoor is out in the world, I find it hard to believe that I actually finished it! It was conceived in a fit of inspiration initially sparked by the book Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey. My agent and I both thought a novel set on the South Yorkshire coalfield would be a great idea and I decided to set it at the turn of the century because it was a period I hadn’t written about before and I like to try something new. Only after it was all decided did I realise that it wasn’t just the period that was new this time – I didn’t know the South Yorkshire area either and, despite my maternal grandfather having been a coal miner, I knew nothing about the coal industry! I had set myself quite a task...