I am a writer. I write because I love stories, I love characters and I love words. I write because I am utterly miserable if I don't write.
I am fortunate enough to live in a small village in the English Lake District – one of the most beautiful places on earth (in my biased opinion). And for the last ten years I have had the ideal part-time job for a writer – working as a guide for the Wordsworth Trust at William and Dorothy Wordsworth's home, Dove Cottage in Grasmere. This has involved me in learning as much as I can about this fascinating brother and sister, their family and their friends – and sharing my enthusiasm with the many visitors who come to see the cottage and museum.
All in all I have spent rather a lot of my time in the Georgian period during the last few years, for when I am not at Dove Cottage I have been writing – under my pen-name, Anna Dean – the Dido Kent series of murder mysteries (published by Allison and Busby in the UK, MacMillan in the US), which are set in the early eighteen hundreds, in a social milieu which would have been familiar to Jane Austen.
I am a thorough-going Jane Austen enthusiast; though I find some of the film and television adaptations a little too sugary. Jane Austen was an intelligent and perceptive woman and I believe there is a complexity and, occasionally, a hard edge to her work which is sometimes lost in translation to the screen.
Spending time in the cold, stone-floored cottage where Dorothy Wordsworth once toiled away at the housework while providing emotional and secretarial support for her beloved brother has made me keenly aware of how very hard life could be for women in her time – and in Jane Austen's time. For Jane Austen and Dorothy Wordsworth were near contemporaries, born only four years apart.
It was this realisation – and an awareness of the contrasts and parallels in their lives – which made me determine to write my combined biography of these two remarkable women Jane and Dorothy: A True Tale of Sense and Sensibility (published by Sandstone Press, June 2017 in UK, Pegasus Books, early 2018 in US). It is a story of how two very different women responded to the injustices and restrictions of the age into which they were born; a story of two women's different journeys towards a partial, but hard-won autonomy. A story which I think is still relevant today.
So, in addition to being a writer, I am a feminist Janeite, a cautious Romantic, a passionate lover of the Lake District, the wife of a wonderful man who has never once – in nearly 40 years – suggested that I should give up writing and get a proper job; and finally, I am the owner of a cat. Although, of course I know, like all other cat-owners, that you can't own a cat.
At home in Little Langdale