Sarah Long lives in London and worked in publishing before writing her first novel, The Next Best Thing, in 2005. She has also lived in Essex, Oxford and Paris. Her latest novel, A Year in the Château, is published by Zaffre on 5 March 2020, and is available to reserve from the library, or to buy as a paperback for £7.99.
1. Who were your literary heroes and influences as you were growing up?
As a child, I worked my way through the ‘fairy tales from around the world’ section of my local library which is odd as I don’t like reading anything fantastical as an adult. I also loved the usual girly heroines, swishing around in long dresses – Jane Eyre, Cathy in Wuthering Heights, Jo in Little Women. I don’t remember reading anything contemporary, the most modern was probably Agatha Christie, whose books I adored. Which is also odd, as I don’t read crime now.
I studied English Literature at Oxford University, where the syllabus included nothing written later than 1945. That’s when I really started enjoying modern novels – a welcome break from Anglo-Saxon and Victoriana! I remember the thrill of reading Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying – brash, sexy, smart - after writing an essay about po-faced old Wordsworth. I’ve always liked intimate, domestic books, rather than sweeping historical panoramas.
2. What was your path to becoming a writer? Was writing something you always wanted to do?
I worked in publishing after graduating, where my role involved writing blurbs and promotional material, so it was always part of my job. We moved to Paris for ten years with our young family, where I started writing pieces for magazines, mostly about the French. Then when we moved back to the UK, I wrote my first book, And What Do You Do?
3. A Year in the Château is your latest book. Can you give us a flavour of what it is about?
It’s the story of a group of friends in ‘late middle age’ who decide to take early retirement and move into a French chateau together. It’s something I’ve often discussed with my friends – a non-stop joyful house party for the rest of our lives - though so far we have been too timid to take the plunge!
4. Is there anything you can share about your latest project?
It’s about a cruise and that’s all I can say, as I’ve only just started writing it.
5. What are the best and worst things about being a writer?
The best thing is the freedom and being left alone. The worst thing is the freedom and being left alone.
6. What is on your ‘to read’ pile at the moment?
7. Do you have a message for your Suffolk library readers?
Make the most of your library, I’ve always loved mine. I often work there, it’s a place of escape, and I love the atmosphere of gentle concentration. I also enjoy speculating about the lives of the other users, though of course I would never dare to talk to any of them.
8. Can you tell us one thing your readers may not know about you?
I may not own a huge château as featured in my book, but I do have a small French farmhouse in the Normandy countryside that we bought thirty years ago. I love to invite friends there, but I also like it when they leave, and I can just watch the bees buzzing round the lavender.