Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the 2017 Festival?
This is my first visit to Dubai, I’m looking forward to everything! The programme of writers looks great (Patrick Gale is fabulous) but I think my first glimpse of the desert will be pretty special, too
Which book has inspired you the most?
Very hard to choose just one. I loved Tess of The D’Urbevilles (Thomas Hardy) and The Wasteland when I was in school and both have popped up in my work in different ways. I often write about rural places as I live in the Cambridgeshire Fens and grew up in Yorkshire. Also Madame Bovary (Flaubert) and adulterous, dreamy heroines also pop up in my novel Fred and Edie.
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
My lovely husband (architect Meredith Bowles, head of judges this year on Grand Design House of the Year, which he won in 2002 for designing our house) brings me a cup of tea!
What is your life’s motto?
Be bold, be emotional, risk everything (seen on a poster once).
Our theme for the 2017 Festival is Journeys. Can you tell us which journeys in your life have been most memorable?
In my 20s I travelled to America with a new boyfriend. We bought a log cabin and tried to live there on a mountain without running water or electricity and later with our young baby. Also without jobs or money, making bits and pieces from selling things or from my poetry. It didn’t work out, needless to say, but became the subject of my first novel and it did teach me a great deal about my own survival skills and what I need to be happy.