Newsletter archive

Living as a Writer with Scoliosis

It’s 1969, and I’m sixteen years old and standing in a small, bare room, attending a routine school medical at my school in Salisbury. I’m cold, and worse, I’m excruciatingly embarrassed because I’m in my bra and pants. The doctor glances at my back and brusquely tells me she’s going to refer me to my […]

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Have you a deadline?

This question is often put by writers to fellow writers, and my answer is generally ‘yes’. I didn’t have a deadline – or a contract – for my first few novels, and wrote them on spec, but from THE SECRET YEARS on I’ve had both. Which means that I’ve been writing to a deadline for […]

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Finishing a book

You’d think it would get easier. It doesn’t, though. I finished writing my twenty-first novel a month ago and only now feel I’ve recovered sufficiently to recall the process. Starting a novel is like standing on the summit of a mountain and looking down at the fascinating, colourful scenery below, spread out invitingly for you […]

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Lost Times

The cottage we’re renting for a week in June is on the Kingston Lacy estate in Dorset and is owned by the National Trust. Pink and thatched, it has low ceilings and doorways on which my husband whacks his head at frequent intervals. To one side of it is an overgrown orchard; behind, a patch […]

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Open Studios 2017

The traffic’s busy, driving through Cambridge to pick up my sister Danielle from the village where she lives. By the time we return to my house, my husband is already welcoming early visitors to his studio. I hastily park the car and Dany rushes indoors to hang her prints, arrange tea-towels and cards. Phew – […]

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Can you have a hero called Trevor?

After writing twenty novels, I’m running out of names for my heroes. Women aren’t a problem. There are plenty of lovely girls’ names and I don’t think I’ll ever be scrabbling round for a suitable name for a heroine. No, it’s the men. I’ve started to recycle them. I’ve had two Richards, two Joes, a […]

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Discovering The Jeweller’s Wife

During the course of writing a book, I get to know my heroine. I find out about her. The jeweller’s wife is Juliet Winterton, and she is the central character of my latest novel, which will be published in paperback this September. Although there are other important female characters in the novel, Juliet is the […]

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Choosing a Setting

It is the task of the writer to create a world for the reader to live in, to immerse herself in. It makes no difference whether that’s an imaginary world (Westeros in ‘Game Of Thrones’, Middle Earth in ‘Lord Of The Rings’) or a re-creation of a real one (the Tudor England of Hilary Mantel). […]

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First Lines, First Paragraphs, First Pages

It starts with a buzzing into my brain of something I’d like to write about, explore… a fragment. Sometimes the first germ of an idea concerns a relationship, at other times I want to write about a particular place or time. The first spark can be inspired by a line of verse or an article […]

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Childhood Reading

Between the ages of five and fifteen I lived in a house on the edge of a large area of woodland in Hampshire. It had once been a gamekeeper’s cottage belonging to the ‘big house’, an eighteenth century grand manor, set in parkland, that was by that time deserted and used to store furniture. Our […]

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