Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My debut novel, Call me Mummy was out in February, and became a Kindle Number 1 bestseller and hit the charts in the hardback Top Tens thanks to appearing on Lorraine’s TV show. We worked together for years when I reviewed the soaps for GMTV and, luckily, she loved the book.
It’s a psychological thriller based on my own desperate, failed attempts to be a mother, and what would happen if, driven to the brink by that, I’d actually stolen a child. It also looks at the media labelling the working class mother who loses the child a Scummy Mummy.
Growing up in a caravan – my mum was a fairground traveller, my dad a window cleaner – class is an important theme for me. I went back to Uni do an MA in Creative Writing because, despite thirty-odd years as a journalist, I didn’t feel good enough to write fiction.
When not writing I teach keep fit, which keeps me sane-ish.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently editing Nasty Little Cuts, book 2 for Viper publishers, out in February 2022. Another domestic noir it starts with a husband and wife in the kitchen on Christmas Eve. Which one will kill the other?
Murder suicide and twisted things in the bedroom, what’s not to like?
Which six books will you take to the Island?
Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy. I love Hardy and this is the most soapy-sensational. It’d be nice to dream of the British countryside while toasting my hide to leather on a desert island. No, it doesn’t have a happy ending, but that’s why soaps work – someone’s always having a worse time than you. I did this for A Level and when I was working in the local biscuit factory one summer, I spent my time eating choccie digestives (until I was demoted to the Arrowroot line for getting high on my own supply) and trying to go through the whole book chapter by chapter, scene by scene to get me through the monotony of packing.
Blonde, Joyce Carol Oates – I love all her stuff and I’ve read this fictionalised story of Marilyn Monroe’s life a couple of times already and I rarely read anything twice anymore. Again, not a happy-clappy book, but it’s so beautifully written and dripping with Hollywood glamour along with a dissection of fame and a shattered psyche. I can visualise the films and so many scenes thanks to all the Monroe images in my mind.
Chopper, Peter Cave – I’d have to include at least one pulp fiction from my youth in the Seventies. This was pretty much my entire sex education when I was 13 and I couldn’t get enough of the Hell’s Angel and Skinhead books. All my friends were obsessed with them, male and female. It’s a snapshot of a certain time and certain culture. Then came glam rock and everything changed. It’s hard to kick someone’s head in wearing platform boots.
The Van, Roddy Doyle – another hero of mine. I love his humour and the working class vibe throughout his novels. I love Douglas Stuart and Irvine Welsh for the same reasons. As far as I know I don’t have Irish heritage, but I love so many Irish authors. I can hear the voices in my head. The Commitments was one of those rare films that was as good as the book. I feel I know these men. It’s ages since I read this, so it would be a treat.
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell – cunning, because you get about seven novels in one here and I’d need at least one long read. I love the escapism, the connection between the worlds, the future visions, challenging as they are, and reading an author with a brain the size of a planet is always inspiring. Pity about the film though. (Plus, I will have smuggled in a pen about my person so I can scribble my own stuff in the margins.)
The Colossus, Sylvia Plath – All her poetry is short but epic. So much in so few words. All the emotions. I feel I might be too busy building shelters to read all day, so this is the most time-efficient intense experience I could have in between plaiting palm fronds. I would learn everything off by heart so I could recite while hacking wood for warmth in the evenings. I’ve not revisited her for many years, so the island would be the ideal opportunity.
What disc will you take?
Rock ‘n;’ Roll Suicide, David Bowie – anything by Bowie, really, but during the pandemic, this became a favourite, although I feared we’d be more Five Years. ‘Oh no love, you’re not alone,’ would be my mantra on an island. Having been shielding for a year, I think I’d cope, especially as you’ve given away the twist that I’ll be rescued. Bowie tracks also double as a vibrator.
What luxury item will you take?
Any of my cats. For company. They’re of no practical use whatsoever and would probably try to eat me.
Which fictional character do you meet before being rescued?
June/Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. So feisty and resilient in the worst of circumstances. She’d give me a pep talk about re-entering a world still fucked up with inequality and remind me to stop the self-pity and just get one with it. Yet I fear she’s now so indelibly linked to Elisabeth Moss in the TV series, I might be disappointed by the June from the page.
Side note – my first husband noted The Handmaid’s Tale as a reason for leaving me. I wanted to see it at the cinema, and he wanted to see some blow-em-up boy’s shit and I won. He’s dead now so I can’t hate him.