Why did you start to write?
I had always wanted to write a book but, working full time as a magazine editor, thought I didn’t have the time. I kept telling myself some day I’d do it but some day never came. Then I had one of those seize-the-day moments. I was at work and received an email that said a woman I knew quite well had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and didn’t have long to live. That woke me up. I realised none of us know what’s round the corner and some day might never come so if you really want to do something you have to get on with it now. I went home that night and began writing my first novel Delicious.
How did you get published?
I was very lucky. Lots of authors have a collection of rejected manuscripts. My first novel was picked up by an agent who got me a book deal with my present publishers Orion. There was a lot of rewriting before my work was fit for publication though.
Where and when do you write?
I have a studio in my garden that is full of books, a sofa for the dogs to lie on and a desk for me. Ideally I’d be sitting at it early in the morning and write until about 3pm which is when my energy levels dip and I start feeling sleepy. At that point I need to get up and move. Often I’ll go and ride my horses. This provides valuable thinking time and is when I’ll solve issues I’m having with characters and the story.
Why do you set your novels in Italy?
It’s where my father comes from and as a child I spent summers there. When I started writing those memories fuelled my stories. Italy is a country I love and continuing to set novels there gives me every excuse to keep going back. Most recently I’ve spent time in Puglia, Basilicata and Sicily.
How much research do you do?
It varies. On research trips to Italy I have my best ideas and soak up the sounds, smells and flavours. But writers have to be able to walk in other people’s shoes so once I’m back home there is always more research to do and it generally involves having other people share their perspective, expertise or personal story. I’m a very curious (OK nosey) type and I’m always interested in other people’s lives and what drives them.
What sort of novels do you love/hate to read?
I can’t be doing with anything too dark/depressing/gory and I hate very flowery prose but otherwise I enjoy all sorts of fiction. Some of my favourite authors are Alice Hoffman, Kate Atkinson, Chris Cleave and Diane Setterfield. My most favourite book ever is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
What’s your advice to anyone who wants to be a writer?
Read a lot, write the sort of book you enjoy most and try to work on it regularly. Even if you can only manage 500 words a week you’ll have an entire novel eventually.