Ruby Flynn is the enthralling story of one Irish family, haunted by ancient wrongs, from the No 1 bestselling author of The Four Streets trilogy. The FitzDeanes are wealthy. They have Ballyford Castle in Ireland and a growing shipping business in Liverpool. But there are whispers that the family is cursed – punished for a terrible mistake long buried in the past. When young Ruby Flynn, an orphan reared and educated by nuns, arrives at Ballyford to work as a nursery maid, she cannot shake the feeling that she has been there before...
How did your childhood influence your work ethic and attitude to money?
I suppose I grew up in a very poor background really. I was born in Anfield, Liverpool. My father, a bus driver, was very ill when I was a young child. We lived on a council estate. At one time my father was too ill to work, and I remember hiding with my mother behind the sink to avoid the rent man seeing us. I had to borrow a friend’s shoes in order to go to school.
I also remember one day, sitting on a chair with our dog on my lap, and as there was no food until the following day, which was payday, both our tummies were rumbling. I know what hunger is and I know what being without is like. I think that right from a very young age, I was very determined that that was never going to be my life and that it was never going to be the life for my children either. My dad worked all his life and my mother retrained as a teacher, supporting us all on a student grant. I have to work. I work seven days a week and if I ever have a day when I am not achieving, I am tormented with guilt.
Has there ever been a time in your life when you didn’t know how you were going to pay the bills?
After my childhood, things were tough after I trained to be a nurse. I really wanted to join the nursing profession so I didn’t even think about how much money I would earn. When I did open my first pay packet in November 1975, it was a complete shock to discover I didn’t have enough to live on.
There was a story at the time that nurses had to accept dates so they could get a meal. I became one of those nurses. Luckily for me pay was improved shortly afterwards. I nursed in Warrington Hospital and the Royal Liverpool Teaching Hospital from 1975 till 1982 when I moved to London.
What was your business experience before you became an MP?
I went to Africa and I ran a school in Africa for a year. I got married and when I came back to the UK, I had my daughter and set up my own business, Company Kids Ltd. It was an employee benefits company focused very strongly around childcare and dedicated to helping women combine having children, maternity leave and returning to work. It was the first of its kind in the UK and it became the market leader. I had some amazing clients [Pfizer, Glaxo, Shell, Goldman Sachs]. The business was incredibly successful.
Did you always want to be a novelist?
Yes, as English was the only thing I excelled at in school. When my youngest daughter went to university, I started to write as a way of coping with empty nest syndrome. I showed the draft of my first novel to an agent. The manuscript went to auction and it got taken up overnight.
The thing is about me – some people think it is a good thing, some people think it is a bad thing – is that I never do anything not to succeed at it. When I decided that I wanted to be an MP I knew I was going to become an MP. I didn’t have any doubt. Once I had made the decision that it was going to happen, it was going to happen. And when I heard the agent say, “I think there is something good here and you could write books,” I didn’t think: “I am going to write books.” I thought: “I am going to write really good books.” The Four Streets, which was my debut novel, sold over 300,000 copies. I never expected to do anything less. That sounds terribly arrogant, doesn’t it, but I don’t write books for them not to sell well.
Will you be doing any more celebrity shows?
Well, who knows? I am never going to say never. But anything like reality TV comes after my consideration of my role as an MP.