When I was a child, my mum used to take my brothers and me to the local library every Wednesday. We'd be allowed to spend hours (or, at least, what seemed like hours to a four or five or six-year old) to browse the shelves and then we'd pick our six books to take home that week. Six books a week, every single week for as long as I can remember. That's how my love of books and of stories began.
A decade or so later and still a lover of stories, I read English at King's College London and the spent a further year at Queen Mary and Westfield reading for an MA in Literature.
I had no idea what I was going to do next, except that I knew I wanted it to involve story-telling. So I wrote dozens of letters to newspapers, film companies, publishing houses and television broadcasters asking for work experience opportunities. I still have a very big folder of rejection letters. But one day the BBC called and asked if I'd like to come in for a fortnight to help out in the Arts department - the department that made all of my favourite programmes about books, films, theatre and art.
Those two weeks turned into seven years. I interviewed authors, musicians, artists, actors and directors, all the time figuring out ways to tell their stories to a television audience. And when the BBC decided to launch a national reading campaign, I came up with the idea for The Big Read - a vote on the nation's favourite novel. It turned out to be the biggest literature project the BBC had ever undertaken and was awarded the prize for 'Innovation in the Book Industry' at the British Book Awards. More importantly, thousands of people up and down the country got involved in reading projects.
A seven-year professional itch saw a move to Channel 4 to launch More4 and commission documentaries for the new channel, and then to the Discovery Channel in America to oversee History and Science programmes.
Then in 2009 I took a leap that some thought brave and others thought impetuous. I'd fallen in love with a British diplomat who was being posted to Bangladesh for two years and so I did what any self-respecting, romantic lover of stories would do: I upped sticks and followed him to Dhaka, where I spent two years running a Friday night TV show for the BBC (in Bengali, a language I couldn’t speak then and still can’t now). It was an adventure that enabled us to travel all over the world, from China and South-East Asia to the Middle East and the most southern tip of South America. And it was an experience that confirmed, once and for all, that the voice buzzing in my head telling me to pen that novel I’d always wanted to write just wasn’t ever going to be silenced. Thus The Dead Wife’s Handbook was born.
The Bangladeshi adventure was a story with its own very happy ending: the diplomatic boyfriend is now my husband and we live in London with our daughter. My second novel, If Only I Could Tell You, will be published by Orion Books in February 2019, and I'm currently writing my third, for publication in Spring 2020. And I spend a lot of time, every day, sharing the magic of books with our little girl.
So, as you can see, it's always been about stories. And I hope it always will.