An Interview with Christopher Warwick

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My latest interview subject is royal biographer Christopher Warwick, who wrote my favourite book on Princess Margaret, A Life of Contrasts. I’ve recently become friendly with Chris who is one of the nicest people you could ever meet. His work, writing about the lives of the Royals, is an inspiration to me. Originally I wanted to ask him about Princess Margaret (a hero of mine) but instead the interview has taken a different direction and he explains the research and process of writing his latest biography, Ella, Princess, Saint & Martyr. 

Click here to visit Christopher’s author page.

Having read up on Ella, I am surprised at how her life parallels with that of her relation Princess Alice of Battenberg. What sparked your interest in Ella and what was the initial reaction of publishing houses when you presented your idea to them?

I had long been interested in the history of the Romanovs, Nicholas and Alexandra and their family, but was particularly interested in the last Empress’s sister, who I thought had a remarkable life. In fact, I think she is actually far more interesting than a great many of the Romanovs, including the last Tsar and Tsarina. So, I prepared a proposal for a biography – at that point there had been next to nothing worth talking about – which my agent submitted and two publishing houses immediately made offers. Ella Princess Saint & Martyr, as the book is called, was really my first historical biography and I have to admit it’s one of the books I’m most proud of. It took me 3 years to research and write and tells the genuinely fascinating story of the life – and brutal death – of Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna of Russia, who was a favourite granddaughter of Queen Victoria, the sister of Russia’s last Tsarina Alexandra, the aunt of Earl Mountbatten of Burma and the great-aunt of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Born into one of Germany’s less well off royal families, Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine, as she was formally known, within the family she was called Ella, was the daughter of Princess Alice of Great Britain and Grand Duke Ludwig IV.

As it unfolded, Ella’s life really did transcend every frontier, geographical, national and social, taking her from  relatively modest beginnings to the opulence of Russia’s Imperial House of Romanov, into which she married at the age of 19. Described as ‘the most beautiful princess in Europe’ and according to the French ambassador, ‘capable of  arousing profane passions’, Ella’s life took a profound and radically different direction after her husband, Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich, the ruthless, authoritarian Governor of Moscow, had been blown up in February 1905. Hearing the explosion, by the way, Ella flew out of the house without  putting a coat on, and in the blood-soaked snow, clawed the pieces of Serge’s body together with her bare hands.  Raised a Lutheran, Ella had ultimately decided to convert to Russian Orthodoxy 7 years after her marriage and with Serge’s death recognized what was a very genuine vocation. Against very considerable opposition, she founded a nursing order of which she became the ordained abbess. It was known as the Order of Saints Martha and Mary and Ella, having sold her jewels and everything of value, established the convent, which also consisted of a hospital, a clinic, an orphanage, not far from the Kremlin in Moscow. As a nursing order, and Ella was very hands on, it not only addressed welfare issues, but took her personally into dangerous, mist-shrouded slums, such as the infamous Khitrovka Market, to help Moscow’s untouchables. Come the Revolution, Ella refused offers of escape and although there must have been times when she was very afraid, she was determined to carry on with her work at the convent as best she could. In the end, the Bolsheviks finally came for her. Taken first on a seemingly never ending rail journey to the Siberian city of Ekaterinburg, where her sister, her brother in law, Tsar Nicholas II, and their 5 children, were barbarically slaughtered, Ella and other Romanov relations were then removed to the town of Alapaevsk. It was from there, as their conditions in the school house where they were held captive, grew increasingly worse, that the Bolsheviks took Ella in the dead of night to the gaping mouth of a disused mine shaft. Savagely clubbed with rifle butts, she was thrown alive down into the mineshaft, which was about 18.5 metres deep, and there left to die an agonizing death. Three months later, however, when the bodies of Ella and those who shared the same fate, were retrieved from the mine shaft, it was discovered that her body, although discoloured and extensively bruised, showed little or no sign of decomposition which, for the Russian Orthodox Church was the first step on the path of her canonization. Today, she is revered as Saint Elisabeth Romanova.

Many years later, in 1949, her niece, Princess Alice of Battenberg, otherwise Princess Andrew of Greece, the Duke of Edinburgh’s mother, attempted to follow Ella’s example and set up an order, which she also called by the same name as Ella’s. Alice wore a nun’s habit, though as Prince Philip would say, it meant she didn’t have to worry about what to wear or have her hair done. Though I don’t doubt she was sincere, Alice was not a real nun (unlike Ella who was ordained) and her work was occupational not vocational. So, as Hugo Vickers put it in his excellent biography Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece, ‘Ultimately, a lack of religious commitment and devotion undermined Alice’s aspirations’. I also love the now famous comment made by Alice’s mother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, when she said, ‘What can you say about a nun who smokes and plays canasta?’.

How does it feel when you are writing about a subject you admire and then you get to know your subject in person (i.e. Princess Margaret). Does that influence the way in which you write the book?

There are as many disadvantages as advantages in writing about somebody you get to know. For example, as her authorized biographer, I wrote two separate biographies of Princess Margaret. It was never my intention to write two, but that’s how it worked out, even though almost 20 years separated one from the other, and I have no doubt the second book was the better of the two. Certainly working on the first,  I felt I was writing with one hand tied behind my back. With the second, I felt a lot freer, but as a biographer of a living person, one inevitably gets to know things that it simply would not be appropriate or wise to include. Writing about Sir Peter Ustinov, was a very different experience. In his co-operation, he was terrifically helpful, but right from the start he said there was no obligation for him to see in advance what I had written.  There came a point, however, when I said to him that I was concerned that there appeared to be no skeletons in his cupboard. His reply was typically Ustinovian: ‘It’s not the skeletons I’m worried about Chris. I can’t remember where I left the cupboard.’

But the truth of the matter is that, as a biographer, no matter how hard you work or how much research you undertake,  you can only work with the material you have amassed.

What is the natural progression of your research when you are writing about a subject?
A timeline is essential; start to finish. The skeleton laid out in front of you, to which the flesh is added. I love research. It’s a bit like being a detective. And there is nothing better, dare I even mention it, than working from primary sources.

Who would be your dream subject to write about?

Good question. Not one I can answer especially well, because in the same way that most writers say their best book is their always next, so I tend to think that whatever I’m currently working on is the ‘dream’ subject. It might not be, but you have to think that way … ermm, don’t you?

I know you mentioned your wish to write about Deborah Kerr, on that note, has your idea ever been rejected by your agent or mainstream publisher but you’ve gone on to write the book anyway?

I would have loved to have written a biography of Deborah Kerr, but for one or two very important reasons, it wasn’t going to happen – and I am not into writing books that are just scissors and paste jobs. As a writer who has to live on what he earns, I have never written a book as a labour of love, which is what you’d have to do – foolishly perhaps – if a proposal is rejected by an agent or publisher.

What are your thoughts on the trend for digital publishing? Do you feel the industry is suffering because of this quick turnover for writing and producing E novels?

Digital publishing is here to stay and it has its place. Book publishing has never been tougher than it is now and it’s obviously due in large measure to the comparative ease of digital publishing, of self-publishing, online publishing and the myriad options open today.

What inspired you to become a biographer rather than a fictional writer?

I seem to belong more naturally to non fiction/biography. Would I like to write fiction? Yes, I would. Maybe I’ll write a novel one day. I once worked as PA to a distinguished author and biographer who, at the age of 70, rang me and said, ‘Chris, I’m going to write my first novel.’ It was the first of 8, most of which were adapted as television series. So, I guess there’s time for me yet.

Can you list some of your favourite writers?

Yes, some are with us and some are not. Let’s start with three of the latter … Christopher Isherwood, Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway, followed by Colum McCann, Alan Bennett, Edna O’Brien, Salley Vickers, Toni Morrison and … the aspiring literary star … Lyndsy Spence.

Are you currently working on a project?

There always seem to be a lot of possibles, don’t there? So, one or two possible book ideas in mind, together with a couple of other projects. As I’ve also been doing a lot of broadcast stuff lately, which I love, I’m keen to do even more. I’m a bit of a performer 🙂

And last but not least, who is your favourite Mitford girl?

Without a moment’s hesitation, Deborah Devonshire. I also love her as a writer – even though she claims never to have read a book in her life! Can it be true?

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An Interview with Victor Olliver

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I’ve conducted an interview with The Mitford Society’s friend and fellow writer Victor Olliver. Victor is The Lady magazine’s resident “star gazer” and first rate astrologer. His forthcoming book Lifesurfing: Your Horoscope Forecast Guide 2014 will be released 13 July.  Victor answers questions on astrology, the ghostly going’s on at The Lady and, of course, the Mitfords!

Can you tell us a bit about your forthcoming book and when it will be available?
My e-book is called Lifesurfing: Your Horoscope Forecast Guide 2014 and it’s out 13 July 2013. More details here. My permanent fiancée Molly Parkin’s writing the foreword – she’s Aquarius and most of her key friends are Gemini, she tells me (and I’m Gemini). The Guide is a bit like an upmarket consultation-cum-soap opera with your personal astrologer, all for £2.99, in a monthly format. Each star-sign has certain identified big themes for the year and each is offered guidance on the best and worst times to do certain things, such as seeking a new job or suppressing one’s hormones.
Ronnie and Nancy Reagan swore by their astrologers – and they did rather well, didn’t they. The Guide also contains astrology profiles of Molly P, Hillary Clinton (the next US president?) and two other global movers and shakers.

As we know, the Mitfords grandfather, Tap Bowles, founded The Lady magazine and their father, Lord Redesdale, worked there. Nancy also wrote articles in the 1920s for the magazine. Do you think there is much of a Mitford influence centred around the magazine today?
In a literal sense, I think yes. Ben Budworth, who runs The Lady now, is the great grandson of Bowles – and he was the maternal grandfather of the Mitford sisters. The dowager Duchess of Devonshire (Debo) is of course cousin to Julia Budworth (one of The Lady’s co-owners), granddaughter of Bowles.  And we know that the two women were of similar mind on at least one of the perceived outrages of Rachel Johnson’s brief but memorable recent editorship. So in an indirect way the Mitford-ish flavour is still there – even if times have required editorial adaptation.

Since you also write under the name Madame Arcati I must ask you this: Do you sense any ghostly goings on at The Lady
Madame Arcati insists on answering this question – she cannot be thwarted and must be channelled:
“Thank you – Lindsy you’re called? A time-consuming name – is there a vowel missing? I always have to spell out ‘Arcati’ or else my mail order supplies of botanical elixirs from the Isle of Wight are addressed to Mme R. Catty. Life is difficult enough.
The Lady’s home in Bedford Street does indeed crawl with ethereal loiterers – and I wish to put on record that these sad souls may not be former employees of the magazine.
“Rachel Johnson tells in her splendid A Diary of The Lady book that staff whispered about a ghost in the ‘Fred West basement’ where the archive is homed. And Ben Budworth tells a tale of mystery that might have excited the cast and crew of TV’s ghost-hunting show Most Haunted. Unfortunately, it’s a rather tasteless story and must be redacted for decency’s sake – it features the ladies’ loo, a revolting object upon the floor and a denial of responsibility by one of the former editors. I can say nothing more save that it fell to Mr Budworth to clean up. His skills would not have been wasted in the employ of a noble family blessed with many free-range puppies, had fate not handed him The Lady.
“One can only conclude that if the culprit was a poltergeist it was exceedingly common.”
Madame Arcati has now left us. I hope that answers it.

Do you ever meet somebody and judging by their character assume they are a certain sign only to discover they are, in fact, another?
All the time – that’s because astrologers can’t tell your sign simply by looking at you. A few months ago I met a famous iconic designer I assumed was a Scorpio because of her intensity and shyness, but she turned out to be Sagittarius – usually a very jovial sign. Many people cloak their real natures till they know you: astrologers look for the rising sign (not the star sign) in a horoscope to help describe this mask or persona. The Queen is Taurus, which in itself might suggest a love of pleasure; but her rising sign is in Capricorn, a sober and serious sign. No one can deny that HMQ comes across as serious, responsible, even stern at times. But behind closed doors, and among friends, she knows how to enjoy herself.

Which sign is your favourite and why?
What a question! All 12 signs are my children, each fascinating. A great many of my friends are Aquarian – I don’t seek them out: we find each other across crowded rooms or in stuck lifts. Aquarius people are open, free-flowing, big-headed, rather sexy. They instinctively understand one’s need not to be stifled. I had no idea Molly Parkin was Aquarius before Madame Arcati encountered her (another story). I tend to develop childish crushes on Aquarians (and Pisceans).

Without looking this up–what sign would you guess each of the Mitford girls to be?
No wise astrologer would guess; what hostages to fortune that would give. Even so, astrologers can’t tell star-sign just by looking.
However what’s interesting about the three Mitford horoscopes I have seen (Jessica [Virgo], Nancy [Sagittarius] and Diana [Gemini]) is that all three have Uranus at powerful angular points in their charts. Uranus is the planet of independence, rule-breaking, pioneering or transgressive ideas. If I didn’t know who these people were I’d expect them to break or challenge convention in some way. I have not seen charts for Debo or Unity.

Who is your favourite Mitford girl and why?

All are intriguing in different ways. Unity [Leo] was the first Mitford I ever read about and I find her bafflingly absurd. I know Diana [Gemini] exerted quite a magic over many British writers and journalists; completely lost on me, I fear.
I suppose Jessica (or Decca) appeals to me the most. She rebelled rather completely against her privileged background – even sending-up Nancy’s U/Non-U stuff. I love her book The American Way of Death and the fact she stayed true to her disgust at funeral parlour opportunism.  I believe she had a nice cheap cremation. Today, she might have written about Wonga and other grasping money-lenders in our austerity panto. Though she was a Virgo, I think we may have got on.

And last but not least can you tell us a bit about yourself…
I was trained to be a barrister but insufficiently impressed by the corrupt old swine who run the Inns of Court. So I entered journalism, won two magazine awards over the years, but slowly realised that my heart is not sufficiently whorish to bend to the careerist strictures of editors and media proprietors. Much of what passes for journalism is either propaganda or press release. Astrology was my godsend. I live by the sea. My least favourite interview was Dame Elizabeth Taylor [Pisces]. A frightful woman.

A Mitford Themed Day

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This event has been in the pipeline for such a long time and I am thrilled to finally announce that it is going ahead. Alex (from The Amy Grimehouse) has been working tirelessly to organize what will be a wondair occasion. The date has been confirmed as Saturday 7th September at Sutton House in Hackney, and the party will begin at 7pm and run on until midnight. There will be a screening of the BFI doc Nancy Mitford: A Portrait by her Sisters–a must for all Mitford fans as this is very rare!! How extraorder will it be to see (and hear) Pam on the big screen!! That in itself is a reason to attend. Apart from the screening, there will be talks and Nanny Blor will be hosting the evening.

I am hoping The National Trust (the partners of this event) will permit The History Press to send copies of my book. Regardless, it is going to be a fun filled evening!! I can’t wait to finally meet our dedicated Mitties from The Mitford Society.

Blissikins!

Jessica Mitford: Churchill’s Rebel by Meredith Whitford

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Click here to purchase Churchill’s Rebel

When a new Mitford related book is released the online hype can be phenomenal. This new kindle biography on Jessica Mitford has only been released and already it has fellow Mitties clicking ‘download’. The biography itself surprised me– I should mention that I was sent an advance review copy of Churchill’s Rebel by Endeavour Press–it is a book crafted around Esmond Romilly and Jessica Mitford’s life together. To Meredith Whitford’s credit she has used a niche approach to the never ending story of the girls, the book itself launches straight into Romilly’s background rather than the subject so prominently featured on the cover.

“The Boy Romilly” as he was not so affectionately known by his father in law, Lord Redesdale, is always depicted as the villain in Jessica’s story. The rebellious public school boy who led her astray and estranged her from her family. But is that entirely true? Romilly’s side of the story has been painstakingly researched by the author. She delved into endless archives on both sides of the Atlantic (the Churchill Archives in England and Jessica’s papers in America). She also flew from Australia to New York to interview Jessica’s children.

My friend Joseph Dumas (a friend of Jessica’s and author of the foreword to my book) praised the biography as being “the most rounded portrait of Esmond Romilly I have ever encountered”.

I’ve conducted a question & answer session with the author because I always believe it is best to hear the story from their point of view.

When did you become interested in the Mitfords?
I became interested in the Mitfords when, at about 19, I found “Hons and Rebels” and “A Fine Old Conflict” in the library — until then I’d never heard of the family and hadn’t yet read any of Nancy’s novels; although I soon fixed that! I think I then found Giles Romilly’s “Hostages at Colditz” (also p/a “The Privileged Nightmare”. Soon after that, IIRC, David Pryce-Jones’s book about Unity Mitford came out, and then came a whole rush of Mitford books, and I just kept buying them and reading them. One thing that attracted me, odd though it may sound, is that Lord Redesdale sounded so like my own father — my dad of course had no title but was a land-owner, and had the same humour and occasional temper, the insistence on punctuality, the abhorrence of “mess”, the rather old-fashioned outlook (makeup! the horror!) and even used some of the same expressions. Jessica’s depiction of the vague, unaffectionate mother rang a bell, too… Other than that, the Mitfords’ lives could hardly have been more different from mine, but they are interesting, aren’t they. Do admit. And of course, the more I came to know about politics (not taught at my hi-falutin’ girls school), the more that aspect of their lives fascinated me.

Who is your favourite girl?
Well, Decca. Politically I’m of a leftish persuasion; but I like her humour, and the dogged way she fought for civil and black rights. I think in some ways it was easier for an Australian like me to relate to American political interests — back in the 70s, I mean, when I first began my Mitford voyage; Vietnam and so on. In some ways I could relate to Diana, having, like her, married young to escape a boring home and then divorcing at about 22, like her, but her politics put me off. Nancy can be very funny in her writing but is too affected to appeal greatly. So: Decca. Least favourite: Diana cos of politics, and Pam seems a bit dull. (Sorry.)

Did you learn anything new about Decca whilst researching?
I learned a great deal about Decca in researching the book. I’d better admit that I was frightfully annoyed by the anti-Dec & Es bias in Mary Lovell’s book, and thought at first of writing an article on that aspect. Then I started researching Esmond much more — read his two books etc, found out more about his family, got really interested in the Romilly side. I made contact with Giles Romilly’s son Edmund and daughter Lizzie, and met them when I was in England, and got a lot of useful info from them. The Literature Board of the Australia Council gave me a research grant to go to the USA and UK to use archives there, without which of course I couldn’t have written the book. I had hoped to find letters between Esmond and Churchill, but found none, disappointingly. He rather seemed to cut himself off from most of his family after Spain and marrying Decca — probably there was a lot of disapproval, and of course the death of their baby daughter, at 5 months, clearly affected both Decca and Esmond very deeply, and I think there was a natural wish to get right away from those memories. As a historian I believe in using primary resources wherever possible, and the family letters (mostly from the Jessica Mitford Archive in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Room in the library of Ohio State University) often throw a very different light on people and events from that given in secondary sources. One thing I did find is that “Hons and Rebels” (written without access to the mass of family letters, including Decca’s own; she only found them after her mother’s death, after “H&R” was published) rather misrepresented her and Esmond’s circumstances — e.g. they were never nearly as broke and bohemian as she remembered. One thing I did discover is that the famous Toynbee story of D and E behaving badly at Lord Faringdon’s house, Buscot Park, was a mixture of false memories and stories Esmond amused himself by telling the gullible Toynbee. As I note in my book, it never happened! Re cutting off from Dec’s family — I certainly think Esmond disapproved of them (altho they were his relations too) and wasn’t keen on too much contact, but I think Decca did a lot of her own cutting off. However, as letters show, there was in fact a certain amount of contact all round, with friends as well as family.

I was impressed by your research into Esmond Romilly’s life. Nancy, Diana and Debo always paint him as some sort of villain. Do you think he played a part in keeping Decca from her family or do you think it was entirely her own choice to cease contact?
Esmond: Nancy called him the most horrible human being she’d ever met, and I bet he thought the same of her! They only met, of course, when Nancy and her husband were sent to beguile Decca home from France after she and Esmond eloped; not ideal circs in which to make friends! (BTW, I found from letters, there really WAS a plot to abduct Decca and bring her home on a Royal Navy ship!) I think the general bias against Esmond is part of the Mitford Industry’s attempts to promote a particular view of the family, which involves public disapproval of Decca, whose life and politics the others could never understand. That said, I think Esmond was someone you either loved or loathed, no middle ground, and no doubt he could be as irritating as any teenage boy — have to remember he was only 18 when they married, 19 when their baby died. Decca says, I think in “H and R” that he had matured a lot by the end of his life — he died at 23. Certainly letters prove that most of their American friends, and his comrades and superior officers in the RCAF, liked him greatly. But for all the Esmond-bashing that goes on in the various books produced by the Mitford Industry, you can find just as much to disapprove of in what one might call the other Mitford Men. When Diana Lady Mosley died her obit in the NY Times referred to Esmond as “a wastrel nephew of Winston Churchill” — quickly corrected, because Decca’s children live in NYC; but honestly, wasn’t Peter Rodd far more of a “wastrel”? And to save up that bit of spite for so long… And one must remember that the Mitfords never sympathised with Churchill’s politics, and held it against him that Diana and Sir Oswald Mosley were interned during the war, so Esmond was held guilty by association. (Also all those old adulteries in the previous generations make it hard to be sure just who was related, how, to whom, and there may have been certain reservations about Esmond and his mother because of that; also he and his mother both liked to gamble, which wasn’t a Mitford vice at all.) But I ended up thinking very well of Esmond — and of his brother Giles, who deserves his own biography. (I think his daughter thinks of writing one.)

What do you think would have happened had Esmond lived?
Had Esmond not died… well, he and Decca almost certainly planned in 1939 to live permanently in the USA, but as we know she was on the point of joining him in England in 1941 when he was killed. It’s heartbreaking to read her joyous telegram saying she’d made arrangements to fly to England, with Dinky, next week, then as if in reply she got the ‘gram telling her Esmond was dead. So, if he hadn’t died then, she would have joined him in England, and altho it’s only a guess I think they would’ve stayed there. Had Esmond survived the war I think he would have tried to go into politics in some capacity, especially with the “Khaki Election” of 1945 sweeping Labour into power. Possibly Decca would’ve done the same at some point. At the least I see them working in leftish politics or local government, and no doubt both writing. But who knows?

Will you write a sequel about Decca & Bob?
Re bio of Decca and Bob Treuhaft: the published collection of Decca’s letters (ed. Peter Y Sussman) almost amounts to a bio, but I strongly believe Bob deserves his own biography. I won’t be writing it, though, because I simply don’t know enough about American politics — one module at university isn’t enough! But Ben Treuhaft gave me a recording of Bob’s speech in front of the HUAC and it’s superb — funny, and a damning indictment, from a legal and moral perspective, of the whole stupid thing. So although I hope there’ll be a biography of him, I won’t be writing it, sadly. He was clearly a great bloke. Peter Sussman would be the chap to write it — he knew the Treuhafts, is a damn good writer, and also a great bloke. (Hey — I see the possibilty of a book of Mitford Men…)

I asked Mitford to write a short biography of herself. It seems all authors who end up writing about the Mitfords tend to have something (however small) in common with the family!

Moi: oh dear, too boring. Born and raised in South Australia, loathe living in the country (farming family), wasn’t allowed to go to university so got married much too young, and divorced. Worked for Federal and State governments. Married again; husband is a mathematician and Bridge Grand Master and I can’t even play Snap, which may be part of why we’ve lasted. Went to uni as a mature student in the 90s and got a BA in History, English and Classics from the University of Adelaide. Wrote “Treason”, a novel about Richard III, which won the 2002 international Eppie Award for Historical Fiction and which still sells well, gets 5-star reviews and some lovely fan mail — especially since the recent discovery of Richard III’s remains kicked the book up into Amazon’s Top 100 Movers and Shakers. Became a publisher for a while, and published a lot of good books, till the tax system here in Australia, and the lack of interest within the literary world (we published e-books, you see, shock horror, back at the start of the century) meant we had to close. Wrote “Shakespeare’s Will”, which is largely about Shakespeare’s married life and his (putative) affair with the Earl of Southampton. When my publisher, Bewrite Books, had to close this year, Endeavour Press took on both novels as well as the Decca and Esmond book. Went back to uni in 2010 and got a Master’s in Creative Writing. Am now doing a Ph.D. on Margery Allingham, at Flinders University. Have been director of “Between Us” Manuscript Assessment Service since 1998. Am married (31 years on the 7th of May, and we’ve staggered on thru my 20 years of CFS/ME and husband’s brush with cancer; we both seem to have recovered now). Have 2 adult children; son is married, with 2 kids, daughter still at uni and at home. Have 2 cats and spend far too much time talking to them. Have 2 more novels in the works but must focus on the PhD. BTW. I like to tell people I’m lucky enough to be a synaesthete, and enjoy the funny looks when I explain.