1.) Who's your favorite fictional character, and why?
Ma Larkin from The Darling Buds of May, because she is always laughing, has a big extended family around her, and loves to cook and make people happy.
2.) Who's your present celebrity crush?
Jack Black. He's been my pin-up for about five years. He's a good actor, very funny and charismatic, and a wonderful singer. I took my kids to see Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny when it came to London. And next week he is coming to Greenwich to film scenes for his latest film Gulliver's Travels. A good friend of mine, a make-up artist, is working on the production team and has invited me to visit her on set, only a few hundred yards from my house, so I hope to catch a glimpse of my movie hero then.
3.) What music, food, drink, toys, etc... do you keep by your side when you're writing?
One of my cats--Lucy, Pansy, or Peaches--usually keeps me company. And I have the radio tuned to Radio 4 all day. For me, writing a book is a complex task as I have to design things, write instructions, and make the finished project as well as separate stages for photography. For the design process, I have a hardcover sketch book and watercolor pencils, for writing notes I always use a fountain pen, and for writing the finished manuscript, I use an Apple Macintosh computer. As for food and drink, I don't snack, but I try to take a 20-minute break for lunch and have an open sandwich or something on toast.
4.) What do you enjoy doing most with your free time?
I like to go on picnics with my family. Our first picnic of the year is usually at Easter, when we visit some stately home or other, and I hide chocolate eggs in the grass for my children to discover (even though some people might consider them to be too old for such antics!) I love packing the picnic basket with lots of edible treats--but I'm not so keen on unpacking it at the end of the day.
5.) Do you cook?
Of course I cook! It's a big part of my daily life and I'm never happier than when I have lots of people to cook for. My parents lived in Portugal for twenty years and there are quite a few Portuguese dishes in my repertoire, including feijoada--a delicious bean and pork stew. When cooking for a crowd, I like making pies and roasts; when cooking just for myself, I like deviled chicken livers on toast.