LAURIE GRAHAM, I was born in 1947, so my earliest memories are of post-war Britain, a grey place of bombed buildings and rationed food. I was five years old before I tasted candy, nearer ten years old before I rode in a car. By the 60s it was a very different story. Britain was swinging and I did my best to join in, though to be honest I was never much of a swinger. I went to college, where sex, drugs and rock and roll passed me by and so too did education. I had no idea I was going to be a writer. I married, produced a baby a year for four years and played at Earth Mother until I got my long overdue wake-up call. I was in my mid-thirties with a failing marriage, four mouths to feed and no career. I began writing out of sheer desperation.
It took me five years to get my lucky break — with Cosmopolitan magazine, and then soon afterwards with a publishing house so venerable it had a photo of Virginia Woolf on its wall. It wasn't all plain sailing though. My marriage did end, and my writing career has sometimes been storm tossed, sometimes in the doldrums, but to continue the metaphor, I'm now in calmer waters. Those four little mouths are old enough to feed themselves, I have made a very happy second marriage, and I'm now able to write the books I really want to write.
Three years ago I realised a lifelong ambition and moved to Italy, to the fabled city of Venice, where, give or take a few TV antennae, the view from my office window hasn't changed in 500 years. It is the ultimate antidote to that chilly utilitarian backdrop of my childhood.