Biography

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I was born and still live in London, some people might think that’s unadventurous but there’s still so much about the city I don’t know and it’s always changing. I like a lot of the really old things like Wilton’s Music Hall in the city and the new things like the gherkin building and the millenium bridge. Also I like the fact that I’ve seen more wildlife in London than in the country – foxes at 9.00am in Waterloo, kestrels in my back garden in Hackney and cormorants swimming up the canal. Most of all what makes London special is the people here from everywhere else. I like the 24hour hot bagel shop and the Turkish restaurants in Dalston, my son loves Jamaican fried dumplings and I like the Portuguese restaurants in Stockwell. It’s the mix up that’s good, old and new; Cornelissens art shop that sells dragon blood in a jar and The Algerian Coffee shop in Old Compton Street. The City farms, my local, Hackney, of course and Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest. Isn’t that enough?

My parents were very good storytellers. My dad was from Jamaica and my mum was Welsh. this is a picture of them just before they got married in North Wales in 1954. I was born in 1962 and mixed race families were still very unusual, especially in the suburbs. I went to school at Tetherdown primary school in north London. I loved it. I was good at school and if you’d have asked me then I’d have said I’d be a writer. But I hated secondary school. It was a very old fashioned girls school that soon squashed it out of me. I don’t expect any of my teachers would believe I would ever write enough words to make a book.

childIn fact I was bottom of the whole year in history, so how I got to writing historical novels is a mystery. Well, actually, it isn’t. History is people, and what writers and readers love is people.

I love writing about the people you don’t often see in regular history. When I was little I loved the Sunday afternoon serials, historical stuff, Leon Garfield stories, kids in big frocks, but when we came to play the stories in the playground at school there was never anyone like me in those stories, so I set about writing people like me into the past. And although the characters in my historical novels are made up, they are always based on truths. Did you know that when Elizabeth the first was on the throne she complained about the amount of black people in Britain?

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And you never got to see black people wearing historical clothes, only ever rags as we were only ever slaves. That’s changed now, but I’ve put this other picture in because I love it.

It’s my Grandmother, Great Aunts and Great Grandmother in their Sunday best for the camera, my Grandmother is the little one. Isn’t it wonderful?

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