Reading a book is like being invited into the home of someone you don’t know, but when you get there you realise they want to tell you all their most intimate secrets (or, at least a version of them they want you to believe). If you don’t find them fascinating it quickly becomes tedious. For me, if all they drone on about is wanting to find a husband before they get left on the shelf at the ripe old age of 30 it’s torture. I would never spend time with a woman like that in real life, so why am I subjecting myself to it now? I feel the same as soon as the heroine in a novel feels relieved that her new boyfriend orders for both of them at dinner. Or lays out clothes he’s chosen for her to wear. ‘What are you doing?’ I want to shout. ‘Why are you being so wet?’
I always strive to write heroines who I would be happy to hang out with. Strong, independent, often feisty women. I don’t necessarily approve of the way they’re behaving. I sometimes wouldn’t want to be their friend. But they‘re good company. They’re interesting. Because if I don’t want to spend time with them how can I assume anyone else will?
The very best inhabit your life like a loved one. When you finish the book you miss them, there’s a hole in your soul that they used to fill. On occasions I have mooched around for days after coming to the end of a novel, feeling as if something’s missing, pining like a jilted lover until I discover a new imaginary friend.
Here are a few of my favourite leading ladies: