What tips do you have for surviving January?
I totally cheat. I work for myself so am one of those annoying people who can go on holiday in January. Which is my absolute top tip. Otherwise, put some fun in the diary. There are three months of winter ahead. You need stuff to look forward to.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
There have been so many all packed into the last four years really. Reasons to Stay Alive staying in the top ten for a year was probably up there, because it meant it was resonating with people. I get messages from people every day about it, and how it helped them, which is obviously nice but hard to absorb sometimes. Another highlight was going to Prague last year to watch my kids book A Boy Called Christmas be turned into a movie. Watching Maggie Smith and Kristen Wiig and Sally Hawkins act as characters you’ve written was very surreal.
How do you stay motivated both in work and your personal life?
Gratitude. I am so aware of how lucky I am. In work, with my family, with everything. So I am determined never to blow things and keep on working hard. When I had a breakdown in my 20s I became agoraphobic so had to work from home in order to live and support myself. That gave me immense motivation which I kept up even after recovery.
What are you currently working on?
I have just finished a novel called The Midnight Library. It is about a library between life and death where a woman gets to try all her other lives she could have lived. I can’t wait for people to read it. It will be out later this year.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to write for a living?
Be resilient. Rejection comes with the territory, especially in the early days. Try and have something to say – a point or style that makes you different – and write precisely what you would want to read. You are the reader you know best, so don’t try and mind-read other people. Write for you.
What is your biggest accomplishment in life?
After our two kids, Lucas and Pearl, I’d say staying alive when I really thought I wouldn’t.
What advice would you give to people who struggle with the fear of public speaking?
Understand that the fear is the worst thing about it. However bad it is the cringe afterwards never outweighs the fear before it, and being nervous is the most relatable thing. If people see you are a bit nervous they actually warm to you more. Just don’t try and hide any nerves if they feel too much, just acknowledge them and get on with it.
What will you be reading, watching or listening to in 2020?
I like Kacey Musgraves. So more of her music in my ears. And I have Bill Bryson’s new book about (and called) The Body. Plus, I am nostalgically excited for the Top Gun sequel, even though it might be rubbish.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Have faith in the future. Stay around not just for the people you’ll meet but for the people you will become. You are more than a bad month. You are a future of multifarious possibility. You are another self at a point in future time, looking back in gratitude that this lost and former you held on. Stay. Have faith. It will all work out.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
Toast with Marmite and peanut butter.
What do you always carry with you?
A tennis ball! I get a bad back and shoulder sometimes when I am sitting still for too long and a tennis ball works a treat. You just lean back against it and it works a treat.
What book have you re-read the most?
Cosmos, by Carl Sagan. It calms me down.
What are you most looking forward to in 2020?
My new novel, The Midnight Library coming out. I think I am prouder of it than anything else I’ve written. I put absolutely everything into it.