1. I’m a full-on feminist, I’m still learning and still doing my research, particularly with regard to more modern ideas. I even pester my young nephews with feminist ideas and philosophies, hoping that they’ll absorb something. My favourite feminist figures are the Suffragettes, I admire their persistence, and their gumption.
2. I first started writing Madam in Los Angeles where I stayed for three months with family. It was great to be writing and improving my craft in a land of storytelling. I love movies and the immersive and multisensory way they can tell stories. I also admire the collaborative nature of filmmaking, the need for many brains, many skills, many people working together. Novelwriting simply requires me to sit in front of a laptop, just me, my brain and my fingers to type – it’s a very different beast.
3. I drink herbal tea all day long, and I prefer massive mugs, leaving the teabag in and topping up throughout the day, just like my protagonist Rose in Madam.
4. I taught for eight years in secondary schools. I still keep in touch with many of my old students, which is important to me. The intellectual and philosophical bond between educator and leaner can be great, particularly when the bond transitions from teacher to mentor to friend. I feel lucky that I’ve been able to connect with so many brilliant young people.
5. Madam isn’t my first ‘novel’. It is my debut novel, certainly, but technically I have two previous novels written in my twenties, which were absolutely terrible and will never see the light of day. Like musicians, I think writers need to practice and learn their craft in order to be any good.
6. I love to visit writers’ and artists’ houses. I think I’m trying to soothe my imposter syndrome, as if I can seek out inspiration, calm, creativity from these places, as if there are vibes I can absorb and borrow and put into my own work. Sometimes my visits feel like pilgrimages. I’m lucky to have been to many places, but my list is still very long! My favourite has been the Brontë family home in Yorkshire, I love everything about the three Brontë sisters.
7. I lived in Paris for almost two years, teaching in a French school. Even though I am half French and love the French way of life, I think my sensibility and my sense of humour is ultimately British. I can tell because after glamorously bad dates in Paris I ran home to catch up with Eastenders or The Apprentice.