Now, don't get me wrong - writing These Days of Ours was a blast. I romped through it, gleeful, manipulating my poor characters this way and that, putting them through tribulations then rewarding them with a treat. But the initial idea came about because of something that always saddens me.
I was only reminded of it when my editor, Clare Hey, was describing the book at a meeting. "It's like a photo album of a woman's life," she said. "A series of snapshots taken over the years." That's a very good way of putting it - we meet my heroine, Kate Minelli, at a series of parties, from her fifth birthday to her fortieth. Along the way there are weddings, a funeral, even an orgy, so the metaphor of snapshots is perfect.
My dad was already middle aged when I was born. This never bothered me - he was perfect as he was - but it did mean he was slightly out of step with other dads. Walking everywhere with the long lope of the countryman, he'd been born in rural Ireland, and never had the slightest interest in cars, technology, TV ... It was as if he'd been wafted to 1970s London via a time machine.
My mum was a different kettle of fish. Funny, sharp, generous, she was constantly moving, laughing, doing. She loathed having her photo taken, for reasons I can't fathom. Black haired, with eyes of delft blue, she ducked out of view whenever a camera was brandished. (Hmm. Perhaps she was a spy ...)
So, ours was a house where the camera was dusty and unused, not brought on holidays, never an integral part of birthdays and weddings. The photographs we had were taken by other people, back in the days before digital images, when we all bent over little paper squares of wonky, colour-saturated scenes.
This never mattered, until suddenly it did. My parents died within three years of each other. I was in my late thirties, yet felt like an orphan. With no brothers or sisters (despite a flock of cousins) there was nobody to talk to about them with the intimacy that close family can. Furthermore, there were no snaps.
All my family photographs can be held in one album. I know each of them by heart. And they're all awful, but that doesn't matter any more. We're not film stars, we don't need to look good in photos; we just need to look like us.
My daughter, born after my parents died (which, Dear Universe, while we're on the subject, seems a tad sadistic) studies these black and white and technicolour portraits avidly. "Kind eyes," she'll say, looking up from a picture of my dear dad standing awkwardly in the back garden in his suit. "She smiles like you!" she says, pointing at my mum chit chatting at some long forgotten family 'do'.
"Yes", I say. "She does." Sometimes it's nice to be reminded of that.