I was brought up in Germany, France and England by a mother who never stopped telling stories. From the moment I was old enough to hold a pen, I set about writing my own, often late into the night – or behind my Maths textbook at school. My maiden name is Virginia Woods: I was named after two great women, Virginia Wade and Virginia Woolf, in the hope I would be a writer and a tennis star. My early years were those of a scribbling, rain-loving child who prayed for lightning to strike my tennis coach.
After studying at Oxford, I started writing regularly whilst working as an English Teacher and Housemistress. I write contemporary fiction, rooted in family life. Through my fiction I address some of the most pressing social and ethical issues of our age. I love to write from multiple points of view and my novels often include a child and a quirky animal (or two).
What Milo Saw was published in hardback, Kindle and audio in July 2014. The novel reflects the humour and tragedy of contemporary Britain through four very different voices: 9 year old Milo, 92 year old Lou (Milo’s Gran), 27 year old Sandy (Milo’s mum) and 24 year old Tripi (a Syrian refugee). It’s the story of a little boy’s love for his Gran and the lengths he’ll go to to make sure she’s happy. The paperback is out on the 13th of August 2015.
My second novel, The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells came out in January 2016. It is written very much in the same tone and style as Milo with its focus on contemporary issues and family life. It’s the story of two mothers: The Mother Who Left and The Mother Who Stayed. The novel also features a quirky child narrator and a wonderful dog called Louis.
My third novel, on the subject of international adoption, will be out in January 2017 and my fourth, on the nature of memory and belonging will be out in January 2018.
Being a novelist requires a set of skills that takes a lifetime to master. Like being a teacher, a concert pianist a banker or a baller dancer, to do what I do with love and commitment and truth, I know that I’m going to have to keep learning. This website is all about learning: from wonderful books, from writing teachers, from workshops, from people we meet, from children and animals and the beautiful world around us. I hope you enjoy sharing my writing journey.
Who/what is your writing inspiration?
Two things. First – and foremost: people. Fabulous, quirky, everyday people. I’m incredibly nosy and writing gives me a legitimate reason to eavesdrop, ask inappropriate questions, find out more about the world and climb into different skins. Second: the contemporary world, especially the difficult moral issues we face as human beings. C.S. Lewis said that, ‘we read to know that we are not alone.’ I hope that, by writing about the things that really matter to people’s lives, my readers will feel less alone. Being a writer is the best job in the world!
Where is your favourite place to write?
To keep my imagination whirring, I move around. My husband jokes that there are so many desks in the house, we’ll soon be installing one in the loo! I surround myself with pictures and objects from my stories. I considered keeping a beetle in a jam jar to honour Madge, one of my favourite characters from the first novel I wrote, but I worried it might die – or that my cats, Vi and Seb, might eat it. Madge would never have forgiven me!
I also write in coffee shops and try to keep my muse flexible by writing anywhere – from bus shelters to park benches.
When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?
Probably in utero! I grew up as the youngest in an eccentric, cacophonous family that never stopped telling stories. These were usually wild exaggerations and imaginative interpretations of what actually happened! Coming up with my own stories, and writing them down, felt like the natural next step.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
A white clapboard house with a wrap-around porch by a lake in New England.
Any Quirky Confessions?
I eat a bowl of custard every night. Or two. Or three. Big time comfort food.
I love the rain, especially thunderstorms.
I think I was an elephant in a past life.
I sleep with ear plugs and a face mask!
I wear my husband’s socks.
I’m obsessive about stationary: I write in Leuchtturm notebooks, use sticky tabs to categorise them and always write with V-ball gel pens.
I often light a small candle when I write.
Every night before I go to sleep I make a note of how long I’ve written, walked and what I’ve read that day. I time all my writing – I’m building to my 10,000 hours.
I’m a bit obsessive about things. I get it from my mum.
I like to talk to strangers. I ask personal questions. Out of all the Mr Men Men, I’d definitely be Mr Nosy. Is there a Mrs Nosy?
I’m a hopeless romantic. Whenever I meet a new couple, I ask how they met.
I eavesdrop. All the time.
I’m scared of snakes. For scared take phobic.
I have no rhythm.
I’m very clumsy – especially when I’m pregnant. I broke 6 glasses in the space of two weeks when I was pregnant with my little girl, Tennessee Skye.
I can’t do accents – or rather, I do accents but they don’t sound like anywhere you’d recognise in the world.
I’m scared of horror movies.
I love every person I meet just a little bit.