Me, Me, Me, Me, Me…
Like most people who spend their lives staring at a computer and playing with their imaginary friends, I'm a fairly dull little person, really. I live my "big" life inside my head.
Anyway, here are some facts for fact fans…
- I have sort of given up my own career to work for Alex Marwood, and won't be writing any more books under my own name, at least for the time being. Alex, however, will carry on writing for as long as there's a market for her work. To find out more about her, click on the button above.
- I grew up on the Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire borders, went to school in Oxford, where my father, the historian Piers Mackesy, worked, and got a degree in Eng Lit from Manchester College (now Harris Manchester), Oxford. Which was part of London University at the time. Which meant that I didn't spend an entire year of my life translating Beowulf. Which was something of a relief.
- My friend Mark once looked round my fragrant abode and said: "your house is like the battle of the Somme. If it had been fought by shoes."
- I have always believed in following advice. When I was thirteen, my headmistress gave me some invaluable careers advice. "You will never," she said, "make a living from watching television, Serena." I would remember this advice daily when I was writing TV reviews for the Independent, and am eternally grateful for it.
- Yes, I worked as a temporary secretary on and off for a good couple of years, which is where I got most of the office-related material for my first novel, The Temp. I didn't, however, spring fully formed from the filing cabinet. I have also been an English teacher, a lexicographer, a crossword editor, a door-to-door salesperson and, for the best part of a decade before The Temp was published, a journalist and travel writer, contributing columns and features, mainly to the Independent. I still keep my hand in a bit. The adrenalin rush of writing at speed is very good for the brain.
- I was once shortlisted for a Travel Writer of the Year award. Didn't win, natch. Alex has also been shortlisted for her thrillers. She's not won either. I did win a night in a hotel in a prize draw once, though.
- My antecedents are largely Aberdonian Scots, London Irish and Welsh. Although my great-grandmother came from a Yorkshire family who still live in the same place they were recorded as living in in the Domesday book. Like the Wattestones in Simply Heaven, they are chiefly notable for never having collected a title in all that time. In a spooky coincidence, Alex shares this family name…
- As "research" for a feature, I once trained as a hypnotist. As a hobby for the power-crazed, it rocks.
- My work has been translated into French, Italian, Dutch, German, Japanese and Thai. It has yet to be translated into American. The wonderful Germans, in the toughest days of my career, were the only thing that stood between me and throwing in the towel altogether.
- I once did a book-signing at Stansted airport. Four hours sitting on the concourse at a table with a white cloth and a carnation in a vase while people with suitcases asked if the book was available in Leeds. I sold one copy, to a colleague on his way back from a war zone. It was fun!
- Both my grandmothers were successful novelists. My maternal grandmother was the multiple-prizewinning Margaret Kennedy; her novel, The Constant Nymph, was the biggest bestseller of the 1920s and was most recently published by Virago. Have a look at it here. My paternal grandmother wrote what was then referred to as "housemaids' novels" – I guess the equivalent of what's equally patronisingly referred to as "chick lit" these days – under the names Leonora Starr and Dorothy Rivers. I am equally proud of both of them. Margaret Kennedy is about to be relaunched in the UK. For more information on her and her books, have a look on Alex's site.
- I mostly work in bed. In fact, I recently threw away my desk and installed another bed in the study, so I have somewhere to commute to.
- I always include my friends in my books. Not as themselves: as inappropriate incidental characters with their names. The people in my books are fictional. Well, apart from one, who anyone who knows me knows was based on my old German teacher. And the cat in Virtue, whose real name was Titus Andronicpuss.
- When I said I liked airline food in the author biog in The Temp, it was a feeble attempt at a joke. I have learned much since then, grasshopper.
- My favourite place is wonderful Malta, where the opening part of Simply Heaven is set. Cultural highlights over the 6,500 years of its recorded existence: a mystery race building giant Neolithic temples filled with statues of Dawn French; the discovery, over the course of a series of bloody sieges, that human heads make excellent cannonballs and Ollie Reed's celebrated death-by-drink in Valletta. Visit it here.
- As a young thing I was a devil on horseback. So if you think you might have been in the Pony Club with me, you probably were.
- I share a scruffy flat in South London with a Burmese whore-cat and a couple of thousand books. Though once upon a time I thought I would like to live by the sea, I'm not sure if I'll ever summon the energy to throw away my hoard and move.