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The Person I Became (or what I’ve really learned since being published)

If you attend enough events as an author, you will find you are asked the same questions many times over. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because with each response, you are able to fine tune your answers. ‘Are you a goat, or a sheep?’ ‘Yes, but where did Mrs Creasy really go?’ ‘What have you learned since you’ve been published?’ What have I learned since I’ve been published? I will usually answer, ‘the toilets at Euston Station only take ten and twenty pence pieces,’ and ‘Salisbury is a lot further away than you think.’ The truth is, I have…

Love Letter To A Bookshop

When I was eight, I was given a gift by my teacher. A thank-you for a year’s worth of cleaning the board and pushing the chairs under the tables, and emptying the bins. It was also a goodbye gift. A gift that sent me on the way into my next chapter. It was a book token. My teacher was very wise, and knew this gift was unlike any other. It was a passport to wherever I wanted to go. It was an introduction to new friends, friends who waited for me within the pages of a novel. It was an…

The Goat Bursary

In the (many) interviews I’ve done since THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP was published, one question seems to come up again and again: Our readers would love to know: are you a sheep or a goat? I think, perhaps, you only have to take a look at my CV to find an answer to that one. I left school at 15, went to medical school in my thirties, and I wrote a book, sitting in an NHS car park in my lunch break. I would say that’s pretty standard goat behaviour. There are many other qualities too, smaller ones,…

Heroes and Villains

  I have met the greatest hero in the world. Her name was Jackie and she had bowel cancer.   ‘Jackie’s going to beat this,’ she told me. ‘Jackie’s going to win.’ And I smiled and nodded, and she smiled and nodded back, even though we both knew this was a victory that would never happen. Weeks later, I was called to certify her death. Jackie wasn’t brave, because by definition, bravery suggests that someone has a choice. A choice to face a fear or turn away. Jackie had no choice, which – to me – made her the greatest…

The Monster Under The Bed

Today is an unusual day. There have been many unusual days on this journey of Goats and Sheep. Days I’ve stared into space and wondered if this was all really happening – the day I signed with my wonderful agent, the day my publishing deal was in The Bookseller, the day I saw my novel on the Waterstones’ website. Today, however, is the most unusual of unusual days. Today, I’m in The Observer, staring back from the page as one of their ‘new voices in fiction’. Have a look here, if you’d like to read it. Every year, I watched…

The Story Behind Goats and Sheep

Recently, my lovely publisher asked me to write a short piece about the story behind my book ‘The Trouble With Goats and Sheep’.  So many people have supported my writing, from the very beginning of this blog, so I thought you might like to read it too. It’s also an opportunity to say a huge thank you to everyone who has read, commented or re-tweeted any of my blog posts. I still can’t quite believe a little story on my laptop will find its way on to people’s bookshelves. You have no idea how you all helped to make that…

Unspoken

He never said I love you. Instead, he said don’t forget your coat, and drive carefully and when will you be back. He never said I love you. Instead, he made her tea with just the right amount of milk, and remembered her birthday, and always switched the television on, to warm up. Over the years, even when she asked, he never said I love you. Instead, he said don’t be silly and you know I do and of course. The words were trapped. Awkward and stubborn and shy. He tried to coax them from their hiding place, but they…

Uninterrupted

“They call it The Black Dog, don’t they?” Her clothes were a little too bright and her smile remained uninterrupted. I watched her wedding ring twist in a constant circle. She saw me looking. “Drank himself to death,” she said. “People do, don’t they?” I nodded. “Odd phrase, isn’t it,” the woman said, “one usually associates dogs with a degree of comfort.” She stared at the notice about fire alarms. “I don’t even know why I’m here. Doctors should be looking after ill people, not people like me.” The letter from her GP sat between us. “Oh I know what…

Starry, Starry Night

I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity. We said it together. Wrapped in caps and gowns and excitement, holding on to the sweet pain of relief for as long as we could, and yet filled up to our mortar boards with the best intentions and the purest of ignorance. I will practise my profession with conscience and dignity. We threw our caps into the air and promised to stay in touch, and we changed the title on our debit cards as though by doing so, it would also change us as people. I will maintain…

Watch Out For The Normal People

“Grace has been wearing sunglasses,” said one of the nurses, “on a cloudy day.” “And she spends all her time in her room,” said another. It was all written in Grace’s notes.      Inappropriate actions it read.      Increasingly bizarre behaviour. Everything was documented. Grace’s life spilled from the nib of a fountain pen, each step, each word, recorded and dated and open to interpretation. “The other day,” said a doctor, “she sat on the edge of her bed and laughed out loud at nothing in particular.” “At nothing in particular?” said a nurse. The doctor nodded gravely and everyone…