As an army child, I went to eight different schools, then went on to study Latin at Bristol University, followed by a bi-lingual secretarial course - a surprisingly useful combination.
I landed a job as Production Secretary on The Archers at Pebble Mill in Birmingham, where it used to take me two and a half hours to type out an Archers script on an Olivetti ET121 typewriter. Duties ranged from recording the sound of newborn piglets to playing Peaches the barmaid in the Cat and Fiddle. There was never a dull moment, and The Archers taught me that everyone needs an escape from everyday life.
From there, I became a script editor for Central Television, working on broadcasting legends Crossroads and Boon. I started a family and became a freelance scriptwriter, writing hundreds of hours of television drama, including Heartbeat and Holby City.
In 2000 I got my first book deal, and have written over twenty novels.
I also write lifestyle features for newspapers and magazines, including Woman and Home, Red, The Daily Mail, Woman and The Sunday Times.
I speak regularly at Literary Festivals, libraries, WIs and charity events, talking about my career and the inspiration for my novels.
I live by the sea in North Devon and start most days with a walk on the beach with my dog, Zelda. My three boys are all grown up now and come and go with the tide. Happiness to me is the French windows open, a Negroni in my hand, some music and a few friends or family round the table.
For publicity enquiries: Leanne.Oliver@orionbooks.co.uk
Literary Agent: Araminta Whitley – The Soho Agency - 0207 471 7900
Screenwriting, film & television rights:
Valerie Hoskins 0207 637 4490
Interview date: 19th Apr 2016
Interview date: 26th Nov 2015
Interview date: 29th Sep 2015
Interview date: 22nd Sep 2015
Interview date: 3rd Jul 2014
Interview date: 22nd Dec 2013
Interview date: 10th Aug 2013
Interview date: 1st Sep 2012
Interview date: 5th Jul 2012
Interview date: 1st Aug 2009
Interview date: 21st Jul 2009
It’s always chaos first thing as I try to get my two younger sons (17 and 9) fed, watered and off to school – my eldest has just finished his MA at uni. Then I head to my office: I’m renting a friend’s flat in the next town, with huge floor to ceiling windows looking out over the sea. Working from home eventually became too much – I was always distracted by other things that needed doing, and was never able to switch off at night.
Now I’ve got an office I can treat my work like a proper job, not something that’s slotted in between the washing up and the ironing. Being an author these days is not just about lying on a chaise longue making things up – it’s a business, and has to be treated as such. I try and get some exercise in – a run, a beach walk or a swim – as sitting down all day is no good for the figure, but a week can easily go by and I find I haven’t fitted it in. I also try and make time for coffee or lunch with a friend at some point in the week – writing is a solitary business, and I need to remind myself that there is a real world out there, not just the imaginary one I am creating.
I suppose each of my books has been an achievement, but it’s not just down to me – I am very proud of the team I have around me. And I’m eternally grateful that I have found a career which fits in so well around motherhood. I think my proudest moment was seeing an advert for one of the books on the Tube – that made me smile.
My old iPhone because I managed to wash my new one, a notebook for writing down ideas for my next book, a YSL lipstick, Raybans, letters that haven’t yet made it to the postbox, The Soldier’s Wife by Joanna Trollope, chewing gum, painkillers, earphones, Mother’s Day card from my sons, train tickets and timetable; a pair of sparkly earrings just in case.
You don’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t matter if the wheels come off from time to time. We strive so hard as women to tick all the boxes, but it’s incredibly hard work sometimes, so be kind to yourself and take the pressure off. Let your child wear yesterday’s t-shirt or have shop-bought pizza for tea – if anyone judges you, that’s their problem.
Know your market and try and understand what sells and why, by all means, but don’t then get bogged down in trying to replicate what is already out there. Find your own voice, make the story yours, make yourself inimitable. No-one wants a pale imitation: they want fresh and exciting and confident. And never worry about your idea being ‘stolen’; it’s not the plot, it’s the way you tell it that is unique. Most important of all, enjoy your writing. If you have had fun on the way, then the reader will too, as your enjoyment will shine through. The minute it becomes a chore, the sparkle vanishes.
To see my children settled and happy and well on their way to fulfilling their ambitions. I feel so lucky to be doing what I love, so I want the same for them. I would like enough shelves to house all my books one day. And to make Raymond Blanc’s blackcurrant vacherin – an amazing concoction of ice cream, meringue, coulis and sorbet that takes a whole day to make.
I honestly have no idea! That’s the thing about the future – you have no idea what’s round the corner. You can’t write the script. But you can make the most of what life throws at you. In five years I will almost have an empty nest, so I hope I’ll be able to spend a bit more time travelling and catching up with friends who aren’t on the doorstep.
A sunny day with the French windows open and my family around the lunch table, playing music and looking at the sea.
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