Why I Write
It’s something I’m often asked at interviews – that, and a number of other probing questions. Here are some of them, plus my answers.
Q: When did you start writing?
I can’t remember NOT writing. First it was angst-filled haiku scribbled at my school desk. In time I progressed to writing advertising copy for agencies in London and then New York. Next it was short stories and serials that have appeared in magazines around the world, plus more articles than I can count. And two novels of course.
Q: Vegetarian cookbooks too I believe?
Right. And vegan. No point in writing any more though, not with so many brilliant recipes available at the click of a button. Nowadays even I tend to go online for ideas when I’m running out of time.
Q: You must have some favourite recipes though?
Not so much recipes as ingredients. I can’t live without salad. How boring is that? But I also love tofu, avocados, smoked almonds, onion bhajis, chips as long as they’re thin and crisp, carrot cake, anything with ginger.
You write fiction under the name Jan Mazzoni. What’s the Italian connection?
A: My father was from Avellino in the south. My mother was a blonde freckled English girl. Strangely, he was the quiet introverted one who liked taking solitary walks in wild places, whilst she loved partying.
Q: And who do you take after?
Both in some ways. But like him I’m increasingly drawn to the natural world. I’ve long been campaigning for animal rights. I can’t believe how brutal we humans are to other living creatures, and this beautiful fragile planet that we seem to forget is our home. We’re part of it, we need it to survive. Exploring the connection between all living things is a theme I come back to time and again.
Q: Have you lived in Italy?
No, but I spend as much time there as I can. Home is a little house on the edge of windy Exmoor. I share it with husband George and assorted animals – at the moment this includes four Romanian rescue dogs. We’re surrounded by trees, and if you stand on a chair in the bedroom you can see the sea. Perfect for when I want to shut myself off from the world and write.
Q: And so… why DO you write?
As an only child I grew up living in my imagination, and it’s still a favourite place to be. Guess I’m really just inviting my readers to join me there. If my books give them pleasure – or challenge them, maybe even make them think – that’s all I ask. But I also just love words, playing around with them. Even punctuation excites me. Does that sound strange?