Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I left my job as a journalist a few years ago to spend more time with my family, try my hand at writing novels and to complete an MA in creative writing. My first book is out this summer, Everything Happens for a Reason (published by Orenda Books). It tells the story of Rachel, whose baby dies just before he is born. On maternity leave without her son, she is trying to make sense of her sudden loss when a misguided well-wisher tells her that “everything happens for a reason”. She becomes convinced she knows the reason: The day she found out she was pregnant, she stopped a man from jumping in front of a train. Now she’s certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son. Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, and tracks him down.
The book is loosely autobiographical. Our second child, Finn, died when I was in early labour and was stillborn like the baby in my book. And yes, someone did say to me that “everything happens for a reason.” But unlike Rachel, I didn’t invade the lives of strangers (at least I don’t recall doing so), lie about owning a sausage dog or attempt to set up a business in “griefbusting”.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on my second novel, this time the main character is male and he’s having a very particular kind of mid-life crisis. It will hopefully be a story about moving back home, finding out what matters to us and what we do with the time we have. Unlike my first book (written entirely as emails), this is largely written in a more traditional third person voice.
Which six books will you take to the Island?
May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes – This has to be my favourite book and I have read it many times. I keep it in my office and often leaf through and read a page or two as a break from writing – it’s both an escape and an inspiration.
Shōgun by James Clavell – So this is a bit of a cheeky choice. I picked it because I haven’t read it yet, and because it’s long, so all in all, probably good value for this exercise. I have loved other Clavell books and the worlds he creates and I relish the chance to read something set in ancient Japan, so this would pass the time very well for me on the island.
There’s Only One Danny Garvey by David F Ross – I adored this book on first reading and now want to read it again more slowly, enjoying the brilliant turns of phrase and carefully created characters. There is so much tension in this book and there are so many layers to the relationships between Danny and others, and between Danny and his hometown. Lots to keep me going!
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler – Another cheeky choice, in that I am again using my time on the island to catch up on things I have wanted to read for years. I am a painfully slow reader and will never ever get to the bottom of my growing to-be-read pile. I can’t believe that given how much I have loved other books by Anne Tyler, I still haven’t read the one for which she is probably most praised and loved, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant.
Moominpappa at Sea by Tove Jansson – I just have to pick this one. It’s a brilliant story that works for child and adult readers alike and also contains great tips on how to survive on a deserted island. In brief, it’s the story of Moominpappa packing up his increasingly independent family members and their belongings and moving them to a remote island to live in an abandoned lighthouse – where once again he will feel needed.
Im Westen Nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front) by Rainer Maria Remarque – I love how much emotion this book evokes and how it conveys the horrors of war. The first book to make me cry inconsolably. Not a fun read, of course, but excellent writing that I would enjoy the chance to pick apart in the solitude of the desert island. I would take the original German version to brush up my language skills – I studied German, lived in Germany for a while and my husband is German but I no longer read in German as much as I would like.
What disc will you take to the Island?
This was the hardest question! I have settled on Don’t Rain on my Parade from the musical Funny Girl. This is going to annoy Barbra Streisand fans but I’d like to take the version sung by Lea Michele in the TV show Glee – simply because that version is easier to sing along to and I figure a desert island is the perfect place to work on my own all-singing, all-dancing rendition of the song without anyone ever seeing it. I love this song and listened to it often while writing Everything Happens for a Reason because it makes me think of my main character Rachel and how she often just pushes on with things, even when she shouldn’t. It would be a good anthem for trying to survive on the island.
What luxury item will you take to the Island?
A photo album of my family, including all pets through the ages, starting with Pussmoth the angry tortoiseshell cat.
Which fictional character will you meet?
Brilliant question that I shall now be using on the kids on long journeys – thank you! I pondered over this one for ages but then hit on a choice that I am quite excited about. I would pick the unnamed writer (and later wife of the narrator) in Michael Frayn’s The Trick of It. The book is written as a series of one-way letters from a mediocre academic in England to a friend in Melbourne, and recounts his meeting with and pursuit of the woman whose work he has specialised in his whole career. The narrator is self-centred, insecure and unreliable and so we only get the image he gives us of the woman. I would love to ask her what she really makes of him and why she fell for him – if she really did. I’d love to get to know her for myself – there are glimmers in the book of her being an easy-going, friendly woman, not the difficult recluse he wants us to see.