Wednesday, 30 July 2014


I was in a tent in Yorkshire when Wayne Gooderham tweeted me to say my book was a clue in the Guardian Weekend crossword. Not that I could get a copy. I was doing a reading at the Deer Shed Festival, which is another thing to add to the long list of things I could never in a million years have imagined I'd ever do. The festival was completely brilliant; I especially loved Woman's Hour, an excellent band from Kendal. Also the cinder toffee ice cream. I stayed, along with my best friend and Emily Rhodes, at a bed and breakfast that not only had a ghost but had also been the setting for a horror film—tagline: "Tourists come in peace...and leave in pieces!" I got to go to Emily's Walking Book Club, which was fantastic. And I met a woman who had called her son Heathcliff and wondered if it was a bad idea.

Thank you Amanda Craig for posting me the crossword. It's surreal but lovely at the same time.

Also, this month, thank you JC for this lovely blog review of my book!

Thank you Sara Sheridan for mentioning it in this this fascinating Foyles blog post about heroes and heroines as imaginary friends.

And thank you Sam Baker for putting my book on this list of the best books of the year so far.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Going back to Top Withens

A couple of weeks ago, I went back to Haworth, for the first time since the trip that inspired How to be a Heroine, and got to talk about Wuthering Heights to the fabulously Brontë-literate women of the Brontë Society and Brontë Parsonage Museum, who refer to not just the Brontës, but their friends, servants and hangers-on by their first names.

At the Parsonage, I went Beyond the Ropes, to look at the treasures. There was a drawing Emily made, at eleven, of a fist smashing a mullioned window, spidering the glass; whose fist? Whose window? Or was the smashing, maybe, something Emily wished she could do herself?

I saw an Angria book, tiny enough to fit comfortably in the palm of a child's hand, or to be read by one of the toy soldiers who inspired them, should they ever come to life. And I saw Anne's heartbreaking last letter, planning her trip to Scarborough to see the sea. And Emily and Anne's diary paper of 1837, with Haworth news mixed with news from their fictional world, as though they were living in them concurrently. It ends with Anne asking Emily if she intends to write that evening, and a decision "We agreed to go out 1st to make sure if we got into the humour. We may stay in—"
And of course, I scrambled up to Top Withens. It was a warm, beautiful evening, the heather especially purple and the grass especially green, and I set off late enough that I had the moors pretty much to myself, the whole epic sweep of them. I thought about all the things that happened since I was last at Top Withens and felt amazingly lucky. And I didn't long for Heathcliff at all. Maybe I am finally growing up.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Friday, 18 April 2014

In which I lust after fictional men...

and get a sneak preview of the BBC's new Jamaica Inn, which is aces; my piece for Intelligent Life.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Miss Temple: Jane Eyre's Womentor

Today's the launch of a brilliant idea from Kerry Hudson, whose novel Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma I hugely recommend.

Womentoring is for any women starting out in a literary career who want advice, support or just a conversation with a mentor. A female mentor. Which as fellow Womentor (Kerry's coined a whole new word!) Shelley Harris says, is a rare, rare thing. It's true that in fiction women often end up with male mentors (Buffy and Giles, Emma Woodhouse and Mr Knightley), or mean mentors (Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada). But what about Jane Eyre's Miss Temple?

Miss Temple is the headmistress of Lowood School, and doing her best to make things better for the girls in her care. The very first thing we see her do is give the girls bread and cheese to make up for their revolting meagre breakfast of burnt porridge. When the girls have to walk back from church on winter Sundays, with the wind "flaying" their faces, Miss Temple is there
walking lightly and rapidly along our drooping line, her plaid cloak, which the frosty wind fluttered, gathered close about her, and encouraging us, by precept and example, to keep up our spirits, and march forward, as she said, “like stalwart soldiers.” 
When the school's cruel funder Mr Brocklehurst says Jane is a liar, Miss Temple doesn't listen. She feeds Jane tea and seed-cakes, finds out the truth and proclaims Jane's innocence to the whole school.

Later, Miss Temple inspires Jane to find her career; she becomes a teacher at Lowood too. And when Miss Temple gets married and leaves, it spurs Jane on to travel Thornfield and the rest of her big, complicated, brilliant life. Miss Temple is a wonderful (wo)mentor.

I've been lucky to have lots of people to ask for advice and share drafts with, and it's exciting to be able to pay that forward. And Womentoring could be the start of something revolutionary; along with ReadWomen2014, this feels like a year for literary women to stop being sidelined, start roaring and support each other. There are some really fantastic literary women signed up to become Womentors (and, erm, me). It's all free. So please do apply for your very own Miss Temple here.