I have been writing stories almost all my life; for years it seemed like a secret vice, an extension of childhood day-dreaming, escapism to get one through tough times. People are often quite iffy about escapism, but it can be a life-saver, and the first requirement of any book, in my opinion, is to absorb the reader and take them to a different place. It’s what I look for in a book and what I try to provide for readers.
My first published novel (plenty of also-rans before that) was Dora’s Room, which I thought was probably a gothic suspense story, but which apparently falls into the ever-widening crime genre. It was picked up by WH Smith’s for their first Fresh Talent promotion. Improvising Carla was televised by Granada, as Carla, in 2006. My most recent full-length crime novel was The Murder Bird, which was published in 2006.
One Mistake (Barrington Stoke 2008) was written for the adult reader who is not yet confident enough to tackle an extended piece of prose. Writing something that was simple to read, but complex enough to hold the attention of an adult, was a challenge, but very rewarding.
Since then I have shifted to non-fiction for which I’ve returned to my maiden name, Joanna Hodgkin – mainly so no one picks up the new book hoping for a psychological thriller!
Amateurs in Eden (Virago January 2012) is a biography-memoir of my mother Nancy who was the first wife of Lawrence Durrell and spent the years 1932-1942 with him. While researching and writing this book I have discovered firstly that coincidences and chance happenings occur in real life that you’d never get away with in fiction, but also that the story telling element is just as important in non-fiction as in writing novels.
I lived for a long time on the beautiful Lizard peninsula in Cornwall, but have now returned to London, which has always been ‘home’. Over the past few years I have been involved with the multi-faceted and diverse institution that is St James’s Church in Piccadilly; as a churchwarden I get involved with everything from the market and the garden to liturgy and church festivals.
In the past I have written short stories and articles and currently write a monthly short crime review for The Guardian, and from time to time do round-ups of historicals for The Literary Review. I worked for three years as a Fellow with The Royal Literary Fund at St Mary’s College, Twickenham and at present I am looking forward to mentoring writers as part of the Escalator programme organised by The Writers’ Centre in Norwich. Working with people who are passionate about writing is always rewarding.
I have taken part in literary events all over the country – and in Canada – including the Harrogate Crime Festival, the Daphne Du Maurier festival in Cornwall, Dead on Deansgate in Manchester and Crime Scene at the Southbank.