I always wanted to be a writer (since I was five, anyway. Apparently before that my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said “a chocolate mouse”. They were slightly concerned).
When I was really little I used to dictate stories to my mum, and she’d write them out for me. I can still remember how impatient I got when she couldn’t keep up with my speed or digressions; I fired her shortly afterwards.
At primary school I put together three short books: The Enormous Carrot, The Hungry Giant and Beowulf (I was shocked when at uni I discovered some poet had beaten me to the latter, but it turned out the original wasn’t as concerned with listing all the food that Beowulf ate as my version was – “chocolate cake with orange sweets” is my particular favourite). As evident from the photos, I was also a budding illustrator of some talent.
I never actually started writing a novel until the third week of my Creative Writing MA. I was due to hand in ten pages the next Monday, and the weekend came around and I still hadn’t thought of anything. Two of my friends were (and still are) nurses, and lived together that year, and I spent nearly all my time at their flat (because I liked them, and because they were both amazing cooks). They were talking about the heart one evening, and it was all so fascinating (I had no idea that if you cut out your heart it can, in theory, continue beating), and I knew right then that I wanted to talk about medicine in my novel, and use the body as a metaphor for my characters’ emotional experiences. So I picked my friends’ brains that night, then went away and wrote my ten pages and handed them in on the Monday. And that’s how The Artificial Anatomy of Parks began.