My Life in Books
I was the kid who spent all holiday reading. I grew up in Whitstable on the Kent coast and my first job was in a tiny bookshop there called Harbour Books. I went on to study English at Cambridge University and all 7 English students in my year at Downing College wanted to be writers. I remember reading our work to each other on the phone during university holidays and running off to stay in Paris at Shakespeare & Co Bookshop with my friend Hannah.
Browsing the university careers office a few days after graduation I discovered a tiny piece of card announcing an editorial traineeship in Berlin. A week later, I arrived in the city that was to inspire my first novel, Saving Francesca Maier.
At 21, I drank in every new experience and it wasn’t long before I dreamed in the new language. I was earnest in learning everything I could about this new country – a more diligent sightseer than I had ever been before or have ever been since. I also met some wonderful people – some of whom have inspired one or two of the characters in the book.
Berlin was a city to get lost in, and even a Azubi (trainee) salary allowed an excellent standard of living. I could have stayed forever, but something tugged me back to the UK where I travelled to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a summer job and quickly met the man I was to marry.
We settled in Edinburgh, a Unesco City of Literature with an awe-inspiring literary heritage and home to some wonderful organisations supporting writers. After a stint as a reader (the job title I’d been waiting for all my life) at a typesetting house, I worked on manuscripts as an editor and literary consultant, and spent a lot of time discussing narrative with authors. We’d often set off on some adventure as a backdrop to our discussions – wandering an art gallery, or up Arthur’s Seat – and these inspired my creative-writing guide 52 Dates for Writers – Ride a Tandem, Assume an Alias and 50 Other Ways to Improve Your Novel.
We moved to Dunfermline in Fife just before the birth of my second son – a city that inspires as the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie – once the richest man in the world and one of the world’s great philanthropists – and home to the beautiful Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries with its wonderful Reading Room where I can sometimes be found working on my editing jobs and or the sequel to Saving Francesca Maier, which centres on German girl who moves to Edinburgh to work as an au pair and is soon dangerously caught up in the outrageous demands of the family she works for there.