In The Lounge

‘If the big picture scares you, ignore it’
We ask author Shelley Harris for her best advice . . . among other things

Shelley Harris is the author of Vigilante, the story of an ordinary mother who becomes a real-life hero. We asked a few questions to get to know Shelley a bit better.

Who is your favourite author?

There are a few candidates, but I’d have to say Sarah Waters, whose books I buy on the day of publication, every single time. To be so clever and yet so compulsively readable: what a gift.

What book do you most often recommend to friends?

Probably Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It’s a work of genius: compassionate, gripping, daring and beautiful. I never tire of reading it.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I try to meditate before I start work; it really helps me focus. Also: caramels. These aren’t in fact a writing ritual but if I claim they are, it might justify my eating them.

If you weren’t a writer what job would you liked to have gone into?

I would love to have been an actor.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

Getting to invent things that haven’t existed before. I can’t emphasise enough how gobsmacking this is. You conjure things out of nothing! You can make worlds!

What one item could you not live without?

My contact lenses. It may not sound romantic, but without them I’d spend a lot more time bumping into things.

Tell us something that will shock your readers?

While I was writing this, one of my cats came in and peed on the sofa. I assume this is as shocking to them as it is to me.

What makes you happy?

The people I love, a good day’s writing and a damn fine novel read in a hot bath. Also – right now – a clean dry sofa would give me particular joy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

If the big picture scares you, ignore it. Just do the next small thing (and then the next…).

The members of my dream book club would be . . .

Jane Garvey, Jo March, Eddie Mair, Scout Finch, Rowan Williams, Bill Hicks, Bridget Christie and Luis Troyano (from the Great British Bake-Off, mainly to make snacks, though I’m sure he’s excellent company too). And finally (because I know this will be necessary; I’ve been in a book group for years) UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.

Vigilante is out now in paperback, eBook and audio

Shelley Harris

Shelley Harris was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1967, to a South African mother and a British father. She has worked, among other things, as a teacher, a reporter, a mystery shopper and a bouncer at a teen disco. When she is not writing, she volunteers at her local Oxfam bookshop, helping customers find just the right book. Her first novel, Jubilee, was a Richard & Judy Book Club choice, a Top 10 bestseller and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.