Does this book have a special meaning to you? i.e. where you found the idea, its symbolism, its meaning, who you dedicated it to, what made you want to write it?
This book has special meaning to me in a number of ways. It opened my eyes to writing historical fiction, which I had not thought to do, but absolutely love. It also provided the potential for a series, which equally had not previously occurred to me. I’m passionate about the issues the book covers as well as the characters themselves and it has been a privilege to bring all that to readers.
Where do you get your storylines from?
I’m interested in the world around me. I watch what’s going in; listen to conversations. I let my mind take time to think and play ‘what if?’. I do also have a very vivid and pictorial imagination and it wouldn’t be the first time I have been left in some doubt as to what is real and what I’ve made up. I can find an idea in almost anything and love teaching mind-mapping to help others to do likewise. I can take any item and spin out the ‘what? where? why? who? when?’ type questions far enough to come up with a whole story.
Was this book easier or more difficult to write than others? Why?
Each book has its problems. This was the first one for which I’ve had to make the tough call of when to stop researching and start writing. The characters rather took over after a while. They didn’t like the ending I was planning and went in a different direction. As it turned out they were right and it’s been interesting hearing readers talking about the end of the book. I guess, as a planner, it helped me realise that sometimes you have to turn away from the plan in order to provide the best story.
Writing a book is, for me, like carving a beautiful sculpture out an idea and the raw words. Little by little you see it take shape and as you chip a little off here and a shaving from there, gradually the image takes shape and is transformed into something beautiful. The art is knowing when to stop.
Do you only write one genre?
No, I’m quite a versatile writer. So far, in addition to fiction in contemporary, crime and historical genres, I have written non-fiction in the fields of business, dogs and about the craft of writing, humorous creative non-fiction around my dogs’ daily diary, their political manifesto and a guide to commuting on London’s Underground. I have also written both songs and poetry. Quite a broad range by anyone’s standards.
Give us a picture of where you write, where you compose these words…is it Starbucks, a den, a garden…we want to know your inner sanctum?
I live a slightly odd, but very lucky life. Where I write varies widely. I have a lovely office in our house in Yorkshire. It’s light and airy with the ceiling going up to the apex and semi-circular windows. I’m surrounded by books and dogs and dog beds and have a log burner in the corner. I also have a desk in our summerhouse so that I can work with the dogs playing outside on good days. That might not sound all that odd, but my husband is working away in Switzerland at present, so I am also quite likely to be found travelling between the two. In which case my workspace becomes the car, the hotel room or wherever I happen to be. In Switzerland we live half way up a mountain, which can mean working with cows outside my window, looking in at me.
As long as I have my computer and a pen and paper I can work anywhere and do.
And finally, of course…was there any specific event or circumstance that made you want to be a writer?
If Descartes said, ‘I think therefore I am’, mine should perhaps be ‘I am therefore I write’. It would be hard to separate the two. I’m an introvert with a mind that goes faster than I can cope with. Writing is my brain’s overspill. If I leave all the thoughts inside my head it gets clogged up and can’t think. If I let them flow onto paper so I don’t forget them, then my brain can deal with what’s left. Except then it fills up with more thoughts and I have to write them down. Even as a child I would write everything down. I don’t know when or how it started, but I’m not that likely to stop now!
What made me want to be a writer rather than just write? That was realising I could make people laugh or cry, lift their mood, make them want to change the world, just by what I put on the page. That part is addictive!