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 taught in three major UK boarding schools for ten years until I met my husband who, as I like to say, ‘loved me into being a writer.’ He persuaded me to take year out to write full time. By the end of that year I had a publishing deal for my first novel, What Milo Saw, with Sphere of Little, Brown and two years later I landed a deal with HarperCollins for my first YA novel, Wishbones. I now write full time.
To date, I have published five novels: What Milo Saw, The Return of Norah Wells, Before I Was Yours, You Found Me and Wishbones. In 2019 I will be publishing my second YA novel, As Far As The Stars and my fifth novel for adults: The Children’s Secret: these last two novels are my first set in the US, which is where I now live with my husband, my two little girls and our little boy to be, due in February 2019.
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).
Since moving to America in 2016, I’ve been drawing inspiration from my life here in the US. My first novel to be set in America is my second YA novel, As Far As The Stars. It tells the story of two teenagers who, after being thrown together through a shared tragedy, set off on a soul-searching road trip from Washington DC to Nashville and on to Atlanta. My fifth novel for adults, The Children’s Secret, tackles the thorny issue of gun-control here in the US, through the lens of a small New Hampshire community.
Fiction is for entertainment, of course, but my hope is that my stories will do more than entertain: I hope that they will shed a little light on the world in which we live and perhaps deepen our understanding of those who are different from us.
Who/what is your writing inspiration?
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. I’m also inspired by 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, that 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 love the rain, especially thunderstorms.
I have SAD in reverse: I get depressed in summer and feel super happy in the winter.
I think I was an elephant in a past life.
I sleep with ear plugs, a mouth guard 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, I’d definitely be 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 first daughter, 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.