If I wasn’t an author, I’d be a chef. After writing, food and cooking are my biggest passions. In fact, I was a chef for a while, and I adore the camaraderie of a commercial kitchen. Whenever I’m out for a meal and the door to the kitchen swings open, I have a strong urge to run in, grab a white jacket and checked trousers and start tossing things in a pan.
Sudden noises make me jump so much I spill my coffee – you know that Catherine Tate character who screams when the doorbell goes? That is totally me.
I’m fascinated by water and I love the sea, especially when it’s rough and dramatic. All three of my published novels are set partly by the sea, and my latest, What She Lost, is a very watery novel. There’s something frighteningly magnetic about deep water – there’s a scene in the book where Eleanor leans over railings to look into the depths of the River Thames and has to resist a terrifying urge to let herself go. I’ve felt just like that!
I always wanted to be a writer, but I left school at 16 with only one GCSE (O level, in those days). My parents weren’t well off or educated, and writing seemed an impossible dream. I now have a degree in English, a Masters in writing, qualifications in teaching and journalism, as well as several non-fiction (health) books and three published novels to my name. If you want something badly enough and are prepared to work hard and make sacrifices, you can probably do it.
I believe in love at first (-ish) sight. When I met my husband, I knew within days that he was The One. Within a few weeks of meeting, we decided to get married. In the end, it took us two years to get round to it, but it was still quite romantic, especially as my first marriage had been so desperately unhappy. My ex was controlling and emotionally abusive. It took me years to find the courage to take the children and leave, and I swore I’d never marry again…
I believe age-gap relationships can work – my husband is 10 years younger than me and we’ve been together for 22 years.
I believe in age-gap friendships, too – one of my very best friends is 20 years younger than me. I also have much older friends. My husband’s grandma was in her 80s when I met her and we became close friends – my first novel is dedicated to her. She was 96 when she died five years ago – I still miss her.
I was very young mother, which is probably why I often address young motherhood in my books. I had both my children before I was 23. If I’d had them later, I’d have been better informed and better off financially, but I think I had more time and energy at 23 than if I’d had them at 33 or 43.
I value friendship very highly and I have some truly wonderful friends. One of my favourite ways to spend an evening is laughing and chatting over good food and wine with close friends.
I’m a dog person. We have a big, black lab/springer cross called Henry and I love him to bits.