1. What is your favourite book of all time?
I can re-read Samuel Pepys’s diary endlessly – he shines a light on another age and reminds us that circumstances change but human nature doesn’t. And his self-absorption makes me laugh.
2. Why do you love reading?
It’s the ultimate escapism – books really can transport us to another world.
3. What advice would you give to both adults and children to help them to make more time for reading?
Be highly selective about television viewing – don’t give it up entirely, there are lots of terrific programmes, but avoid entire evenings in front of the box.
4. Is there a reading or book related memory/tip that you would like to share with young readers around the country?
Don’t abandon a book immediately because it doesn’t grab you. Sometimes it’s worth persevering because not every writer goes for a crash-bang-wallop opening.
5. What are your must-reads
Anything by Dickens, who understood the human beast.
> b. Children's book?
The Anne of Green Gables series. But I’m biased because the heroine had red hair and so do I.
> c. Adult book?
Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor
6. Who is your favourite author?
Sarah Waters, Sebastian Faulkes, Peter Carey, Anne Tyler, Colm Toibin, Sylvia Townsend Warner
7. Where is your favourite place to read?
In my nest on a little two-seater sofa in a room off the kitchen.
8. How did you get into writing?
I worked as a journalist before I started trying to write novels and short stories, which helped me to understand that all writing hinges on communication with an audience.
9. Any advice for budding authors?
Remember it’s not only about good writing but good storytelling too.