I started my working life as a journalist writing for the sorts of niche trade magazines that you typically see on Have I Got News For You! From Accounting Technician, Unions Today and People Management to Marketing Week, Port Strategy, FM World and Soccer Analyst, I wrote about everything from the supply chains behind Valentine’s Day to the most efficient way to move goods around a port.
After having my third child in 2009 and still living in London, I decided I needed to make a change. I was working in a demanding job as publishing director of a magazine publishing company, my baby didn’t seem to need any sleep, our mortgage for our tiny London house was eye-watering and something had to change. Within a couple of months, I’d left my job, we’d sold up and moved down to Brighton on the coast. I originally came from Worthing, 12 miles from Brighton, so in many ways it felt like I was coming home.
I set up not as a freelance journalist, which felt a precarious profession at best, but as a freelance PR specialising in yet another niche industry: facilities management. I named the company Magenta Associates, after the CMYK colour model which I was familiar with from my publishing days. Over the course of the next few years, the agency grew and now we have 13 people based in Brighton and a network of associates all over the world.
In 2016, shortly after my father died, I started the two-year part-time creative writing course with The Creative Writing Programme in Brighton. It was the best decision I ever made. Over the course of those two years my writing transformed from a series of random thoughts and scribbles to something far more readable. Sometime in the second year, I realised that what I was writing was not a series of completely separate pieces, but part of a wider piece of work which I tentatively began to call a Work in Progress. I finished the course in summer 2017 and continued to write what became The Girl in the Maze in earnest. It was the 2020 lockdown which proved to be my great opportunity to finish it.
Rather than getting up early to commute to London, I used that time to write. The second draft was finished in July 2020. On the advice of my wonderful editor Rosie Chard (who had been one of my creative writing tutors), I submitted it to the Agora Books Lost the Plot Work in Progress prize. I squealed when I was long-listed, screamed during a work Zoom meeting when I got the email to say I had been shortlisted and cried when I found out I'd won.
By summer 2020, I’d got so much into the habit of rising early and writing, that I missed it terribly. So I started on a second book, The Fortune Teller's Promise, then a third The Brighton House, which comes out in June 2024, and I'm now working on a fourth story The Last Daughter, scheduled for publication in May 2025. After the pandemic, I decided to change career again. When a local bookshop came up for sale in spring 2022, I jumped at the chance to become a bookseller. I'm now the proud owner of Kemptown Bookshop in Brighton where we champion the work of local authors. And then in early 2023 I was approached by Mark Slater, the founder of the Creative Writing Programme, who was looking for a new person to take it over. So I now make a living from books and writing which has always been my dream.
I still live near the sea in Brighton with my three children (a boy aged 21, and two girls aged 14 and 15) and two rescue cats Miso and Figs. I can’t imagine a time when I won’t write.
If you're choosing to read The Girl in the Maze in your book club, I'm more than happy to visit your book club in person in the UK, or join virtually if overseas. Contact me to discuss dates. Or check out my discussion questions about The Girl in the Maze here