Truly is turning 40, and on the cusp of ending a 20-year marriage in which she has been emotionally abused. She leaves her husband a note under his plate, and joins a yoga retreat in a remote part of Sri Lanka. At the end of the third day, the women are interrupted mid Downward Dog by a jeep full of men in Kalashnikovs. Civil war has returned to Sri Lanka, and the women find themselves caught up in a resurgent conflict that they know little about. Friendships, morals, and sense-of-self will be all tested.
The central question of the book is Truly’s. Having decided to leave a dominating marriage, how will she cope with being kidnapped – the ultimate domination?
The idea came whilst pregnant on a yoga retreat. I began thinking of a middle-aged woman version of Lord of the Flies. Golding’s nuclear war threat became a terrorist one, and the beast a group of boy-soldiers with guns. Exploring the domination of women was added in the long hours of feeding my newborn.
In April, the idea won me a place on the Writers’ Centre Norwich’s Escalator scheme for talent development, and in September I was awarded Arts Council Funding to complete the first draft.
She's Got Flava
She’s Got Flava brings together two very different women in an African kitchen. The result is a recipe that turns the celebrity chef world upside down.
Julia is the still-ambitious wife of the deputy ambassador at the British Embassy in Kamperia, and Dora is the larger than life head chef of the embassy. Although they share the same roof, their lives, expectations and thus the way their experience the world is very different.
Both women are at a crossroads. Julia left her job as TVUK’s chief correspondent in Paris to follow her husband, and is struggling to fill her days. For Dora, it’s been 15 years since she came to work in the capital to pay for her eight children’s schooling. She is busy, but lonely, running an understaffed kitchen, far from her family.
Julia is in need of a purpose. She finds one by making a TV show – She’s Got Flava – in which Dora is the star. It becomes an overnight youtube sensation and the recipe should yield career resurrection for Julia and new choices for Dora.
But family life intervenes for both women threatening to derail the project. Now that the internet has messed with the embassy’s established social order, can things ever go back to how they used to be?
I wrote this book whilst studying Creative Writing at the Faber Academy. However I wrote it too fast, hurrying to finish before the arrival of my daughter. This Christmas, however, I discovered the perfect place to revisit it, and explore in more depth the relationship between Dora and Julia, which is what I originally set out to do. My sister-in-law’s hotel on Lake Buniyoni, Uganda.
My first as-yet unpublished novel, Twisted Ladder, explores the hereditary side of addiction. Like many children of alcoholics, I have questioned what would have happened if I’d been born a few chromosomes to the right.
The novel charts the relationship between Andrew Browne, an Edinburgh lawyer and alcoholic, and his daughter Amy. The reader follows Andrew’s rise and dramatic fall, while his daughter grows from a little girl who watches her mother pour her father’s whisky down the sink and scatters his tobacco into the wind, to a smoking, drinking, drug-taking teenager.
The novel is inspired by my own experiences of an alcoholic father and the questions and fears about my own relationship with alcohol that I explored after his death. Because there are no real answers, I have used faeries to help explain what I don’t understand (in good Celtic tradition), although the reader is never really sure whether the faeries are real or a hallucination.
I have researched a number of the issues touched upon in this book as an associate for the Demos think tank.
My first book, Schizophrenie Francaise (Sego, Sarko, Jacques et moi) was published in France by Jean Claude Gawsewitch Editeur in 2007. It was called “the book all the presidential candidates should read” by Paris Match.