The seeds of my series The Spoils of War were planted way back. As a Forties kid growing up in a house without a television I spent winter after winter in the company of countless books – both fiction and non-fiction – that had emerged from a war that still felt close enough to touch. My dad had flown in Beaufighters. My mum had been under the London Blitz. Their stories were the written word made flesh and bred a fascination with how war can touch literally millions of lives.
Like many debut novels that will hit the shelves this year, The Trust was written during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. Losing all my freelance work and having to stay at home turned out not be such a bad thing. At the time, it felt like a disaster. But then I realised I now had the space, like many aspiring authors, to write that novel. The novel I’d been promising to get started for decades. Question was, who was it going to be about?
When I graduated from university in 1989, I’d somehow decided that I wanted to be a novelist when I grew up. At that moment I had nothing in particular to say, no story I needed to tell. I hoped that one would come to me someday, but in the meantime I started working a series of odd jobs in publishing. I was a marketing temp for a company that published periodicals about sexy subjects such as accounting and middle-market lending; I edited a weekly newspaper sold by homeless people on the streets of New York City; I was an editorial assistant for crossword-puzzle magazines.