Caroline asks why I set my novels in the Seventies. Good question and one I’ve asked myself occasionally, without getting a proper answer. My first novel Out Of Love was set in 1969 and the next in, as far as I remember, 1972. I briefly reintroduced the heroine Diana (or Daisy) from the first one so that readers would know what had happened to her and I’ve continued that pattern ever since, which means the novels must have a chronological progression. (The work in hand is set in 1983). Actually, I think I did this because I longed to see and hear my heroines again, however briefly, because when you’ve worked on a book for a long time you get deeply attached to your characters and you miss them painfully when the book is finished. How absurd is that? Several years ago I met a literary agent at a party. We talked about him, of course so he never knew I was a writer. (I say that with amusement not bitterness). He told me that all novelists had to be unbalanced because sane people could not stick working for such long periods in such isolation, weaving so many thousands of words without feedback. Well, perhaps he’s right. I don’t know.

So why did I start with 1969? One reason is that I didn’t want to comment on contemporary popular culture, which could have tipped over into the journalistic tone of some novels that have been enormously successful but which I don’t like much. Also as I’m rather bossy by nature I was anxious to keep myself out of it as far as possible for fear of repelling my readers, which is why I write in the first person.  Of course it is all ME, it must be, but I THINK I’ve become someone else, Marigold or Viola or Freddie,  when I’m writing.  You get a feeling of detachment when writing retrospectively which is enticing, a sort of freedom, as though you’ve got a bird’s eye view. And of course the ghastly truth is that I was young myself in the Seventies. Though I don’t feel a day older than twenty-seven the fact is that cultural trends nowadays look pretty thin and unsatisfying to me and I don’t know that I can be bothered much about Pete Doherty, Wife Swap or Coldplay. Perhaps I’m missing something. On the other hand, when I was in my late teens and early twewnties, I knew Syd Barratt of Pink Floyd fame. I thought him  amiable and good-looking but he didn’t strike me as being extraordinarily wonderful, a demi-god, so this could just be a question of taste. Or lack of it. I’m being disingenuous. Of course I don’t mean that.

I still haven’t found a satisfactory answer to Caroline’s question. Perhaps it is that a novel set in the past seems like an enclosed, discrete world in a way that one set in the present day can’t quite do, and it is finding the passport to that world, over which I have absolute control, that draws me into the madness of solitary word-spinning.