Why write a biography? It only pins you down. Suffice to say I was born in Africa. And already that’s seeing the world without its skin. My father was the local gynaecologist. My mother was born in Strasbourg. My grandmother lived with us. In many ways I loved my childhood but not in others. I would have been cheating myself if I hadn’t left to study English literature in Britain. Before that I was lucky enough to live in Paris on the threshold of womanhood, in the spring, on my own, and of course that stays with you forever. We ate well and cheaply and I learnt to love wine and got engaged. At Edinburgh I got a First class MA Honours and the Janet Christie Bequest to study abroad. So we drove to Florence and lived in an old farmhouse for 8 months, learning Italian, studying at the British Institute.
In the slipstream of your life you imagine you’ll be a great writer, another Virginia Woolf, have the perfect family, be the best mother. So many impossible aims. I ended up being a journalist. A mother to one daughter. A lover. As a journalist I did quite a lot of good in the beginning. Campaigning stories, saving a horribly mistreated lioness in Italy, seals in the Hebrides, premature babies at Dulwich hospital in need of incubators, endangered leatherback turtles in Tobago. I have done a lot of travel articles, restaurant and hotel reviews, and many years of exciting seat-of-the pants Showbiz stories, travelling with Freddie Mercury, Rod Steward, Spandau Ballet, interviewing Angelina Jolie, Leonardo di Caprio, Bono, Jude Law. Now I’m writing a novel set in Venice and its working title is Behind the Mirror. With a novel, which takes years to write, you’re not the same person at the end of the book as you were at the beginning. The story has changed, the characters are deeper, but you have changed with them. You fall in love with all of them. I’m nearly ready to say goodbye to them and let them stand on their own.