1. At a Georgian museum in Bath, UK, I spotted a model of a turnspit dog in a wheel cage mounted to the kitchen wall. I discovered that this kitchen slave, a breed now extinct, was trained by having hot coals thrown at his feet to make him run faster. The dog captured my imagination and led to the character of Turnspit, the grumpy, thin-skinned dog of my Tudor historical fantasy, The Goldhanger Dog.

Wanda Whiteley, The Goldhanger Dog

Wanda Whiteley, The Goldhanger Dog

2. In an unaccountable moment of madness, three years ago I flew to Transylvania with £10,000 in cash and bought a small cottage and smallholding that same day, sight unseen. The night I arrived, the male villagers were walking in a line with their dogs and guns, heading for the copse a couple of fields away. The shepherd’s girlfriend had been attacked by a hungry bear. I wondered then: have I made a very big mistake?

3. I was so captivated by a radio interview with Judy Westwater, who had been a street child in Johannesburg in the fifties, that I ghostwrote her story. The book, Streetkid, spent four months on The Sunday Times (UK) bestsellers list in 2005. In the process of researching it, she and I managed to track down a lion tamer who had helped Judy fifty years before, after she had run away to join the circus. It was an emotional reunion when he turned up at her book launch.

4. I never experienced a glass ceiling in all the years I worked in publishing. Every one of my senior bosses were women, and there was never a feeling that you couldn’t progress in the industry or that your intellect and aptitude weren’t properly valued. The industry was, however, very white – and still is – although I hear that steps are being made in many companies to hire more black and Asian employees, as well as to publish more diverse books.

5. I used to hate rejecting an author’s manuscript in those years I worked as a publishing director. Crushing someone’s dreams after all their months of hard labour was a horribly cruel part of the job. Since I started my own critiquing service (manuscriptdoctor.co.uk) I’ve found the work of tutoring new writers extremely fulfilling. I try to be unswervingly honest, as well as constructive.

6. When I wrote The Goldhanger Dog, I discovered that I was prey to many of the same pitfalls I saw in the work of clients. ‘More haste, less speed’ will be inscribed on my tombstone. It is strange how impossible it is to view one’s own work objectively. I always compare it to the impossibility of psychoanalysing oneself. You just can’t see the issues, although they’re obvious to everyone else.

7. I write very quickly. The words flow from my brain to my keyboard at lightning speed. One of the best things I ever did as a twenty-something was to do a two-week touch-typing course. At an accurate 80 words per minute, I could lounge around at work and still appear to be as productive as everybody else.

The Goldhanger Dog by Wanda Whiteley is published by Lammas Publishing on 26th May 2022