One of my first ever memories involved a book. I was three and a half and my family was moving out of London to go and live in the West Country, near Bath. I was attending a nursery called ‘Peggy’s Park’ in Earlsfield at the time, and on my last day I was given a Ladybird book as a present. Even though I couldn’t read yet, books were already such an important part of my life that I coveted them and had started memorising them. My mum always likes to tell the story of when my Grandad was reading a book to me and every time he tried to skip a bit, I would pull my thumb out of my mouth to correct him.
When I could read for myself I read voraciously. At night, after my lights had been turned out and I was meant to be asleep, I would take books out and read them using the light spilling in from the landing through the crack of the bedroom door. When my parents came up to check on me, I would hide the books under my pillow. They soon got wise to my trick and would sweep their hands under my pillow and remove my stash. I then got wiser, and started hiding the books by my feet.Books for me have been my refuge, my treat, my escape. I devour them insatiably like a never ending supply of calorie free chocolate.. Click To Tweet
Books for me have been my refuge, my treat, my escape. I devour them insatiably like a never-ending supply of calorie-free chocolate. Some books scarred me for life – ‘Children of the Dust’ by Louise Lawrence being the worst offender, but others, like Alf Prøysen’s ‘Mrs Pepperpot’ I adored and still read today. When I find a writer I like, I read everything they have ever written. It is always a joy for me to find a new writer, love their work, and then discover that they’ve got a huge back catalogue for me to plunder.
What I figured out early on however, is that I want books to make me feel good. I was thirteen years old and on holiday with my family, sitting in the living room of a hotel in the Lake District when I read the death of Helen Burns in ‘Jane Eyre’. I sobbed uncontrollably for about an hour and even though I got to the end of the book, I haven’t picked it up since. I read a lot of the classics during my teenage years, but have never had the urge to pick them up for a second time.
I remember being in a bookshop with a friend that specialised in classic novels sold for a pound each. Wanting a bang for our buck, we each bought a copy of ‘War and Peace’ as it was thicker than a telephone directory. Buoyed by our fiscal prudence and adherence to highbrow literature, we took the books back to school to read. Neither of us made it past the first chapter. All I remember was a party with lots and lots of Russian names. It was impenetrable and utterly dull to the mind of a seventeen year old, even one who went on to get grade A in A Level English literature. The books that have stayed with me, the books that I read over and over again, are the ones with happy endings, the ones that make me feel good.
Maybe it’s no surprise that I’m drawn to reading and writing romantic comedies. Life’s hard enough without reading a book that feels like doing penance. Most books that make the prize lists are dark and depressing. They are beautifully written, but often focus on the worst aspects of human behaviour. I don’t think I’ve ever chosen to read a book about child abuse and doubt I ever will. I’m extremely sensitive and highly empathic. I can hear a story from a stranger on a bus, or watch a thirty second trailer and start to cry. I went to see Gal Gadot playing Wonder Woman (I grew up wanting to be Wonder Woman), and started sniffing less than five minutes in. When it ended, I literally howled into my friend’s arms.I write books you might not think you should read, but you really, really want to. Click To Tweet
So I unashamedly read and write feel-good, feel-sexy, feel-happy books. I write the kind of book you treat yourself with, either reading on a beach, or stuck on a commute. The kind of romance books with heroines you relate to, and heroes who make your heart race. I write books you might not think you should read, but you really, really want to.