Tuesday, 29 March 2016

10 Things About Me

I was tagged to do 10 Things About Me by Laure Eve, whose book The Graces, which comes out in September, is really bloody good. 

It all started when I went out for a Moroccan dinner with some wonderful fellow authors – Laure, Alwyn Hamilton, Katherine Webber and Melinda Salisbury – and we started talking about our lives, specifically about how we weren't really that interesting. (This was mostly me talking, after hearing about Mel's escapades.) Although we're all storytellers by profession, we insisted that we didn't have any real-life stories to tell . . . but as we dug a little deeper, we realised that all of us had something to say. So in the spirit of that, I thought I'd rise to the tag and tell you ten things about me that aren't related to my books.

1. I'm a migraineur – someone who suffers from migraines. I had my first one when I was eighteen. Both of my parents are migraineurs: my dad gets the visual disturbances, my mum gets the pain, and I get both. Lucky me. I did a big interview about how migraines have impacted my life and writing here

2. I consider myself a bit of a flâneuse. Walking through cities, especially cities I've never visited before, is probably the thing I love most in the whole world, apart from writing and reading. (I don't have the same feelings towards walking in the countryside.) It's one of the only forms of exercise I really enjoy, and I'll always choose to navigate a city on foot, rather than in a car or on public transport, so I can take everything in. I love striding into the unknown, armed with nothing more than a map and a decent pair of boots, and I will happily walk for miles every day to reach a landmark, or just to soak up the atmosphere and colour of the city. Places I've especially loved walking in are Edinburgh, Porto, Rome, Paris, New York City, Dublin, Manchester – and of course, my home city, London.

3. I royally messed up my graduation. On arrival, you were supposed to sign your name to indicate that you were, you know, actually there, but . . . I forgot to do that. The full, embarrassing story is here.

4. I'm allergic to Silver Birch tree pollen. Some foods cross-react with this kind of pollen, so by extension, I also have a mild allergy to raw potatoes and pears. I can't touch raw potatoes without my palms itching, and I can't eat a pear without getting a swollen lip. I still eat pears, but I have shamelessly used the allergy to get out of peeling the potatoes.

5. I'm severely thalassophobic and selachophobic. The phobias are naturally intertwined, and they've worsened over the years, to the point that I can no longer go in the sea and often have nightmares about it. I can trace the selachophobia's beginnings to when I was staying with friends in Massachusetts about six years ago. We went swimming and later found out that a young Great White had been spotted near the area we'd been swimming in, which really unnerved me. Although I have an intense fear of sharks and feel sick to my stomach even looking at a photo of one, I'm against hunting or culling them in any capacity. They're incredible creatures, and the sea is their territory – humans need to respect that. So I do. By not going in the sea.

6. I was the Arts & Literature representative at my Oxford college, St Anne's, during my second year of university. I was pretty shy and awkward at the time, but I wanted the role so much that I decided to go for it. During the hustings, after we made our speeches about why we would suit the position, the candidates had to do something creative. I wrote and performed a weird limerick about the college – something I never thought I'd be brave enough to do. I took the role very seriously when I won it, and set out on a year-long quest to put St Anne's on the creative map. I re-opened the college darkroom, which had been gathering dust for years; I secured a dedicated art room, which allowed an Art Club to flourish; I organised a big college trip to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Twelfth Night, and I ran a week-long arts festival.

7. I had braces twice: once at the usual time, to straighten my teeth, and once when I was 18, to correct my overbite. I only got them taken off when I was 20, shortly after I got my deal for The Bone Season. I still have a slight overbite, but I'm never, ever having braces again. 

8. An ancestor on my grandmother's side, whose name was George Massey, was a seed merchant. He made his fortune in Spalding, Lincolnshire by selling a new and exciting kind of potato called the Eldorado. Apparently this potato was kind of a big deal back in 1904, because the news was in the paper.  

9. I love to swim. Apart from walking, it's the only exercise I enjoy. I got the NPLQ (National Pool Lifeguarding Qualification) when I was about sixteen. It was an incredibly tough course, much tougher than I expected – several people dropped out – but I made it through it all: the timed swims, the First Aid, the constant hunger and hours of training, the retrieving of a water-filled mannequin from the bottom of the pool, and the final examination. Although I never actually worked as a lifeguard, I remain very proud of the achievement. I doubt I'll ever be that fit again.

10. I have a navel piercing, four ear piercings, and a tattoo of two shooting stars on the back of my right shoulder. I've decided to let the navel piercing close after I had my appendix removed, as it was always swollen. I don't think my body ever took to it. 


  1. I love that you're related to a famous potato seed merchant...and yet touching them makes your palms itchy. If it's any consolation, I'm allergic to the cold and get numb lips and tongue when eating ice cream. Doesn't stop me though!

  2. This is so fascinating! We're very much alike when it comes to the second item on your list, as I'd consider myself a bit of a flâneuse as well! I love walking through cities, and just soaking up the atmosphere and the sights and the people. I love doing it here in New York, and I can't wait to do it a little bit in Europe when I visit in April!