I grew up in England and attended convent boarding schools for seven years. That’s why I know what Charlie and Lucinda, the protagonists of my new novel Stones of Judgment, feel like when they go back to their reunion. The school in the book is based on my first school Hengrave Hall, near Bury St. Edmunds. It is no longer a school. It was bought by a developer.
Most of my career has been writing in some form. I worked as a journalist in the United States for Business Week and as a stringer for the New York Times in Paris. When I married in 1990 my husband and I moved to London and I started work for the Guardian and he started at the Economist. From 1992 we started traveling. Our first stop was Berlin for three years, where both our children were born. We came back to the UK for a few years before heading off to India and a very different life in New Delhi. The parts of Stones of Judgment based in Delhi and Jaipur retrace journeys we made during our four years there.
Our next stop was Sao Paulo, Brazil, one of the biggest cities in the world, a dynamic urban sprawl. It was here that I started to write Stones of Judgment. I had read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Inspiration might not be quite the right to describe its affect on me but it certainly motivated me to start thinking about a sleuthing novel with a religious bent. Between stints helping out at a wonderful organisation called ACER, which runs a community centre for children in a poor and violent neighbourhood of Sao Paolo, and writing the cities guide for the Economist, I started putting bits of the plot together.
We moved to Berlin, Germany in 2007 and the writing slowed. Relocation takes time, specially with teenagers. But the book was all but finished by 2009 and I started looking for a publisher. That proved difficult and although one agent strung me along for almost nine months, she eventually declined to represent the book and I gave up. I also started work fulltime for Transparency International, the anti-corruption organisation.
I promised I would finish off the manuscript and publish it myself. Then we moved back to London and that delayed the project. However, I did meet a wonderful designer called Sandy Popovich who came up with the great book cover. That was at the end of last year. When Pope Benedikt announced his resignation I had to act. That’s why the book is about to hit the download shelves now, with a couple of additions to make it current.