Where do you find inspiration for your books?

All sorts of places: conversations with friends, newspapers, magazines, overheard exchanges on the bus. With a Friend Like You was born out of a conversation about two close friends who had fallen out. 

House of Dreams

My latest, House of Dreams, came to me after I’d heard someone on the radio talking about how we only meet our parents a third of the way through their lives. However many conversations we have with them, it’s not the same as knowing them in their youth and understanding what made them who they were, and in turn what makes us who we are. So I took three siblings who were going to their childhood home to scatter their mother’s ashes. Over a long weekend, various family secrets spill into the open about what made her the woman they knew.

Do you try and read the online reviews you get on say Waterstone’s website?

I try not to read reviews. It’s such a boost when someone says something positive about my novels but I tend to brood on anything said that’s unfavourable. While sometimes constructive and helpful, that can also be terribly dispiriting.

With A Friend Like You_MMP_PFP_CMYK

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

I wouldn’t write about child abuse but I think just about everything else is fair game.

What did you do before becoming a writer?

I was a publisher for many years, acquiring and editing fiction and general non-fiction for a major publishing house. I became a journalist before writing TV tie-ins to programmes such as Place in the Sun, Location, Location, Location and House Doctor. I then moved on to becoming a ghost writer for a number of celebrities before I got up my nerve to write my first novel What Women Want.

Which author inspires you?

So many, but among them stands out Anne Tyler whose novels are such cleverly crafted novels of domestic detail. Most of them are set in Baltimore where she lives, but what she writes about has universal significance. She’s funny, observant and wise.

Which genres do you read yourself? Everything except science fiction – I don’t know why not, but I’ve just never caught the bug.

What is your biggest motivator? I don’t know exactly. Love of a good story. Books being in the blood. It’s a mystery. But fear of failure and bankruptcy probably comes into it somewhere?
What will always distract you? Anything, if I let it! But of course the Internet and social media offer endless opportunities for distraction without my ever having to leave my chair! Oh, and the contents of the biscuit tin which I try, and fail, to keep empty.

How much say do you have in your book covers?

My editors have always asked my opinion and so far have listened to what I’ve had to say and tried to change things if they agree and if they can.

As a child were you a great reader?

I can remember my father saying I never read anything unless it had pictures in it! It’s true I did like my comics when I was young, but I did read a lot of children’s fiction too, moving on to green-backed Penguin crime, writers like Mazo de la Roche and Georgette Heyer when I was a bit older. I’d hole up in my bedroom with whatever I was reading, some biscuits and an orange stuffed with sugar lumps. Heaven.

Which bookshop is your favourite?

That’s such a hard question to answer. I like any bookshop that’s well-stocked and has staff who are helpful. I particularly like browsing in small independent bookshops. I live in central London where there are very few now. However, I rarely come out of Daunts on Marylebone High Street empty-handed.

What can you not resist buying?

Rediscovered novels that are being republished and finding a new modern audience. The last I bought was Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple (Persephone Books).

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

Not really. I get up, have breakfast, fall into my writing room and get stuck in. Some days I have other work to do, so my novel will go on hold. But on a good writing day, I read and fiddle a bit with what I wrote the day before then crack on. I stop for a break and possibly a walk (good thinking time) at lunchtime and then write through the afternoon. I’m fuelled by an endless supply of peppermint tea and the snacks I try not to have.

How many books in your own to be read pile?

Too many to count. As books editor of Woman & Home, I have an endless supply of new fiction sent to me by publishers. Looking round my room now, I’d say they were over a hundred waiting to be read. Sadly, I won’t be able to get to all of them, much as I would like to. By my bed, there are more!

What is your current read?

I’m in the middle of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. I’m just finishing The Story of a New Name and about to start Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, the third one. I’m completely engrossed by the continuing story of Lila and Elena, friends since childhood, set against an ever-changing world.


With a Friend Like You is out now in e-book and paperback.

House of Dreams is published on November 5th.





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