I write from the heart, and because I love reading. Like most writers I am also very interested in the technical side. Writing Viper Wine I took pleasure in the artisanal process of creating a working mechanism. I enjoy the discipline of setting my hand to many different types of writing, from book reviews to interviews.
My day job is as a journalist. As a teen I did work experience at newspapers and magazines including The Face. I went to Oxford because I wanted to study literature, particularly in its historical context, and I was lucky to be taught by Tom Paulin, Dr Emma Smith and Dr Charlotte Brewer, attending lectures by Terry Eagleton and Hermione Lee. For the student newspaper, I interviewed Seamus Heaney by fax machine.
When I graduated I became a croupier in a London casino in order to give myself something gritty to write about. My favourite part of the job was walking home through half-lit, deserted London at five in the morning, from Piccadilly to the Barbican. I grew up in London and loving the City and knowing it well helped me later when I came to map the Digbys’ London.
I was a staff writer at the Independent for seven years. At twenty-seven I became the paper’s TV critic. It should have been a dream job, but for me it felt too passive and after two years watching a lot of TV, I changed to writing long-form observational pieces, reporting from Venezuela on Chavez, from Dublin on the Beckett centenary, and from the Oscars in Hollywood.
As an interviewer I have taken tea with Olivia de Havilland at her home in Paris. I have shared a kebab with Robert Pattinson in LA, and meat-free sausages with Heather Mills McCartney in Hove. Placido Domingo, Yo Yo Ma and Annie Lennox were all charm itself. Jade Jagger, when I interviewed her at home in 2010, was more preoccupied with boiling live crabs.
I particularly enjoy interviewing writers (Karl Ove Knausgaard, Jonathan Meades, and David Mitchell) and artists (Howard Hodgkin, Grayson Perry, Gilbert and George). I have been face-to-face with Naomi Campbell, Juliette Binoche, Tilda Swinton and Carey Mulligan. I have had too much information from Cherie Blair and not enough from the mysterious Isabelle Huppert. I have pressed Jenson Button’s button tattoo, had an 11 minute lunch with Roger Moore and spent the day in Paris with Jarvis Cocker. Sometimes the encounter takes on a life of its own, as when I was in a bar in Sheffield interviewing Joanna Lumley and man at the next table dropped a gun. I love doing interviews, but I am under no illusion that I am there as anything more than a proxy for the reader, and I try to ask the questions I think people want to know, rather than the ones I would personally like to ask.
I have also written comedy and memoir: in 2009 I helped pen the memoirs of model Marie Helvin and in 2005 I co-wrote The Dictionary of National Celebrity - an authoritative guide to has-beens and wannabes – with the late comic genius Willie Donaldson. I was a proud contributor to The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas in 2011.
I live in north London with my beloved husband Alex, our young daughter Sybilla, and far too many books.