Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she teaches publishing and creative writing at UEA. She is the author of nine novels; the latest, Last Letter Home, is out now.
What is your earliest memory?
Climbing up the ladder into a wooden beach-hut aged 18 months. I remember it very clearly, but am not sure whether a photograph triggered the memory.
When and where were you happiest?
Any time that I’m lost in reading or writing a good story.
What keeps you awake at night?
Black devils that fly into my head and flap around there in the darkness before dawn.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I find it difficult to identify with any historical figure because the context of their thoughts and behaviour would be so different from mine. I’m reading Fiona Sampson on Mary Godwin at the moment and struggling not to think how selfish and lacking in self-awareness she was running off with Shelley.
Who are your heroes in real life?
Very ordinary people around me – neighbours and family – who are actually extraordinary. So many feted people in the public eye turn out to have feet of clay.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A ship’s purser in charge of the entertainment on an ocean cruise. They seemed much more glamorous than air hostesses. I never worked hard enough at languages, though.
What’s the worst job you’ve done?
Receptionist for a double-glazing company. I mixed up all the telephone wires and got sacked.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Raising three boys and a Labrador puppy.
Where is your favourite historical place?
The walled garden at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk – a safe place bathed in sunlight and still dedicated to growing things.
Which book changed your life?
Orlando by Virginia Woolf, whose central character lives through many historical periods and changes gender. It made me realise you could put anything into a novel.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
An afternoon nap on a drowsy summer’s day.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Bizarre – I use it for any form of behaviour I don’t agree with.
What is your greatest regret?
Being shy when I was young – it held me back in so many ways.
Which talent would you most like to have?
To sing beautifully – I love choir singing, but my voice is no more than average.
Who would play you in a film of your life?
A younger Rita Tusshingham – people used to say I looked like her.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
Elizabethan England – the summers sounded lovely. Ours are so miserable.
Where would you most like to be right now?
I’m happy where I am – sitting at my laptop in our Norwich home while darkness falls outside.
What is your most treasured possession?
Which musicians are currently on your playlist?
Brahms – our choir has just been singing his Requiem and it’s so beautiful.
What is your motto?
Love many, trust a few.
What would your superpower be?
The ability to be in several places at the same time – like Hermione Grainger. Then I would have time to study, write, read and teach, all at once.
Jane Eyre, because she’s brave and true to herself and in her own way fights back.
What is top of your bucket list?
I really don’t have a bucket list – perhaps it should be to assemble one. There are a lot of places beginning with B I should like to visit: Bruges, Berlin and Barcelona among them.
Tell us something not many people know about you.
One of my ancestors was personal tailor to Peter the Great.
Rachel’s latest book, Last Letter Home, has just been published. It’s a timeslip story, about a modern young academic, Briony Wood, who on holiday in Italy is given a cache of letters from the Second World War. The story takes us back to Norfolk in 1938, where the letter-writer, Sarah Bailey, has settled with her family after their return from India. There she meets Paul, a young German refugee. Their letters sustain their relationship as the war drives them apart. Find out more about Rachel and her work on her website.