Well, none of my tutors ever came on to me, if that’s what you mean! But yes, generally speaking, I based a lot of the Cambridge scenes on my own experiences there, which were magical. I will never forget the feeling of arriving at Cambridge for the first time, the wonder and awe of it all. I was seventeen and pregnant when I applied to St John’s College. Without their support, both financial and emotional, my life and my daughter’s life would no doubt have turned out very differently. I think people generally have a lot of misconceptions about Cambridge, that it is snobby and elitist and unfriendly. That was certainly not my experience.
God, no! I wanted to be an Olympic skier when I was a kid. Later, as a teenager, I was hugely into drama and wanted to act professionally. I had lead roles in most school productions, playing everything from Lady Bracknell to Oliver Twist to Macbeth. (All-girls schools you see, so male parts were up for grabs as well.) I would have liked to have done more drama at Cambridge, but by then I had a ten-month-old baby to bring up on my own as well as studying for my degree, and there just wasn’t time for anything else. I still think I might like to take up acting again one day though.
The writing came about almost accidentally, in my late 20s. I had given up a very high-powered, high-stress career in the City and taken a year out to be with my daughter and relax. After about nine months I was going faintly stir-crazy living down in the country baking cakes and decided I needed to do something creative, that would hopefully earn me a bit of money as well. I wrote a couple of articles, just funny, lightweight, lifestyle-y pieces and sent them off to a bunch of newspapers. Amazingly, The Sunday Times ended up buying them straight away, and soon I was writing regularly for them, eventually branching out into the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard too as a freelancer.
After a while, my sister suggested that I should try to write a novel. I thought it would be fun to have a go but didn’t really knuckle down to it until my agent and good friend from Cambridge, Tiff Loehnis, pushed me to write a detailed synopsis and submit it. After that, the idea for Adored took shape pretty quickly. I was excited about it and gave up writing journalism almost completely for eight months while I finished the book.
Also: when I was ten, I wrote and illustrated a children’s book about a character called ‘Monty Muckworm’, an imaginary worm who wore a monocle that my sister and I used to blame whenever our room got in a mess! The book was called Monty Muck – A Worm of Pluck. My mother probably still has it somewhere.
I wouldn’t say I find it easy, exactly, but I do think that coming up with new stories, and starting a new book, is the most exciting and fun part of my job. For me, inspiration almost always comes from the characters first, and the plot usually grows from there. So, I picture a new heroine, or hero, and then sort of see where they take me. Inspiration is all around, you just have to look up.
Every writer is different, but it is vitally important to me. I am a very routine sort of a person, and very disciplined about my writing. I write Monday to Friday, rain or shine, and I have a set word count per day which I make sure I finish.
My sister has been a huge influence. She is such a go-getting, can-do person, and she gave me immense support and encouragement from the start. I would certainly not be a novelist today had it not been for Louise.
The book is about two old friends who become rivals in the music business as well as romantically. It’s about ambition, envy and sexual betrayal, and it’s set between London, LA and the Cotswolds.