So, a brief history of my life through the books I loved. One of my earliest reading memories is deciding I had to read all the Famous Five books before my seventh birthday. I can’t remember if I succeeded! I loved Enid Blyton and read the Famous Five, Secret Seven, the Adventure novels and the Five Find-Outers and Dog stories. Then I moved on to Malory Towers and St Clares. Later, I loved the Narnia novels, all the Pullein-Thompson pony books, and my most favourite of all was Noel Streatfeild. I especially loved Ballet Shoes, but all her novels – including Saplings, a heartbreaking adult novel I discovered only recently – have a special place in my heart.
I hit my teenage years at the height of the bonkbuster. We’re talking Lace, Jackie Collins (I once had a Jackie Collins book confiscated at Guide camp. My love of Guides waned after that – my love of reading did not). And, my top favourite – then and now – Jilly Cooper.
As I got older and studied English Literature at university, I read all the classics but I still found time to catch up with Jilly. I especially loved the courses I took on 20th century women’s fiction, 1790s fiction (lots of Jane Austen), Victorian novels and Jacobean drama.
Now, I read anything and everything. I like Marian Keyes, Jenny Colgan, Jill Mansell, I enjoy thought-provoking stories by Jodi Piccoult and Diane Chamberlain. I like Joanne Harris’s whimsical stories. I love crime fiction – James Lee Burke, Ian Rankin, Peter James, Peter May, Kathy Reichs, Karin Slaughter. I recently discovered Ann Cleeves and have been gobbling up her Shetland novels, which are wonderful. I like Harry Potter, I LOVE Stephen King. And there’s always Jilly. Last year I started with Riders and reread all her ‘big’ novels (I call them the Campbell-Black novels). My favourites were Riders, Rivals and Pandora.
In the course of writing my own novel I’ve been lucky enough to find some new authors who have now become friends. Annie Lyons, Neal Doran and Aurelia B Rowl share my publisher, Carina. My very good friend Gerda Pearce is a wonderful writer whose novel Long Lies the Shadow stays with you long after you’ve finished reading. And my sounding board and unflagging supporter Aimee Horton has written a very funny novella Survival of the Ginnest and is currently working on a brilliant novel called Social Status – look out for it.