Sue Moorcroft and Nadiya Hussain. Sue and I are both members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, so we’ve bumped into each other a few times at their conferences and parties. I love her books and am looking forward to the chance to get to know her better. And Nadiya is like a magical cake fairy godmother – I’d love to chat about favourite cake recipes with her.
Which book has inspired you the most?
The book that’s stuck in my mind from childhood is H E Bates’ The Pop Larkin Chronicles, the first story of which, The Darling Buds of May, was published in 1958. My grandfather used to read these stories to my grandmother while they had afternoon tea in the garden, and I remember, as a child (over a decade later, I hasten to add), my mouth watering at the vivid descriptions of the food and drink, and giggling at the larger than life (particularly in Ma Larkin’s case!) characters and the outrageous things they got up to. Food has always played a huge and colourful part in my life and I don’t think I could actually bring myself to write a book that didn’t have an element of food and a little bit of outrageous behaviour in it!
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Demand tea if it’s the weekend and hubby’s there to make it! Otherwise stumble, eyes still closed, down the stairs – hopefully not tripping over the cat – flick the switch on the kettle and hope said cat doesn’t want her breakfast until I’ve at least started my second cup and managed to prise one eye open. I am so not a morning person!
What is your life’s motto?
I’m greedy and have 2 – “Don’t let anybody else impose their limits on you!” and “Life’s too short for bad chocolate!” (I think I may have borrowed the latter from one of Carole Matthews’ fabulous Chocaholic books and decided to adopt it!)
Our theme for the 2017 Festival is Journeys. Can you tell us which journeys in your life have been most memorable?
Well, the one which leaps to mind – and I really wish it wouldn’t – would have to be a dreadful panto tour back in the 80s. Six of us in a freezing, filthy white van with no heater, rock-hard seats, and windows which could jam, up or down. We part-drove, part-skidded from a snow-covered farm cottage with icicles on the insides of the windows, in Marden, Kent, to an even snowier log cabin on the banks of a Scottish loch which may or may not have been Loch Lomond. I think by the time we got there we’d given up caring where we were, why we were there, or if we’d ever be able to feel our fingers, toes or noses again.
Talking Heads’ “We’re on The Road to Nowhere”, which had become our unofficial anthem, was blasting out of someone’s tape recorder – until the batteries ran out and it got slower and slower until we couldn’t bear it any longer – as the van’s cassette deck chewed tapes. We were on the wrong side of pay day, hunger was making us grumpy, the iciness of the water at the farm cottage had left some (ok, let’s be honest, the male half!) of the company less than fragrant, and the journey seemed as if it would never ever end. We all felt as if we’d entered the twilight zone and would be stuck in that van forever.
From that day, I’ve never gone anywhere without something edible and a packet of wet wipes in my handbag!