After a PhD on Tennessee Williams, she worked as an English teacher at universities in Britain and the United States, and now writes full-time, and lives in Cambridge with her husband Dave Pescod, also a writer. Her study has a great view of cows grazing on Stourbridge Common down to the river Cam, perfect for daydreaming. She has three step-sons, Jack, Matt and Frank, and has recently become step-granny to Freddie.
Her first books were poetry collections, and she was awarded English Speaking Union and Hawthornden Fellowships for poetry, and shortlisted for the Bridport and Forward Prizes. She now writes a series featuring Alice Quentin, forensic psychologist, the latest of which is River of Souls.
image with perfect clarity. It’s very different from the massive task of writing a novel, which is more like weaving a complex tapestry. Writing poetry seems to help my editing skills too. If I make an error in a poem, there’s no wriggle room, because each line has to be exact. That level of precision is excellent preparation for writing prose.
studying other writers is no substitute for living life and gathering experience. How do you feel about that?
London, suffer from claustrophobia, and have relatives who suffer from bipolar disorder. Once I knew I would be writing at least five books about Alice, I decided to make her the kind of person I’d enjoy having a cup of coffee with, otherwise our five years together would have been miserable. The weirdest thing is that she seems so real to me now that I often feel guilty about putting her in yet another dangerous situation!
familiar – or completely different from the work you initially sent out? Did you re-read it?
slightly scared to open the cover, in case I find something that should have been edited.
uncomfortable with the trend towards graphic ‘realism’? Is there anything you wouldn’t write, any line you wouldn’t cross?
characters and a fascinating crime at its core, so that’s what I try to create. I don’t have a picture of an ideal reader in mind. The more public events I do, the more I realize that a very wide spectrum of people read crime, men and women, young and old.
direction. I have a terrible habit of changing my mind about the killer’s identity halfway through!
research showed me that the river has always been a place of sacrifice, from the Bronze Age onwards. The killer in the book believes he can hear the river speaking to him, begging for more souls, which compels him to cast his victims into the water.