Once upon a time there was a school in a tiny pit village up on the Durham moors. I didn't know there was, all I knew was that when I went to stay with my writing friend, Leah Fleming, a couple of years back she said to me why didn't I write something about an American woman coming to England.
When I was seventeen I went to school in New York State for a year. I decided that I would turn the idea over and have her come here and begin a school. In the middle of the writing I went to a history exhibition, in Tow Law, the pit village I come from and the history society there were having an exhibition in the church hall. Some of them knew me when I was a child, they're all lovely people and have helped me with my work before and I started to tell them about the story that I was writing, that I had placed my book in Tow Law in 1900 and Ron Storey looked at me and he said that there was a school at that time in Tow Law and it was called Miss Appleby's Academy.
Writing is never easy but sometimes things are there waiting for you.
Miss Appleby's Academy is coming out in paperback in February and is being published by Quercus Books.
Earlier this summer I went to London to meet my new editor and I was a little early and the people in the restaurant found me a table by the window and when I looked outside there was all alone and the middle of the city my favourite tree. A not very big himalayan birch, white and slender and beautiful.( I got Howard, my lovely gardener, to plant two of these at the back of my garden last year, one of them has a pink clematis weaving around it, covered in flowers this August ) and I thought how lucky I was to have something so good happening to me.
Often life can be a nightmare but sometimes you get a fairytale all to yourself and Miss Appleby's Academy is mine.