I was born and raised in England. When I was a teenager, my family achieved the English dream – to move to a house in the country. East Sussex, with its sleepy villages, medieval smuggling towns, and unique pebble-bank shores is my vision of ‘home.’ My family lived near Rye, a 14th Century port on a cobbled hill, from which the sea receded long ago. It is marooned in the Romney Marsh landscape once home to smugglers, and is a proud member of the ancient Cinque Ports. Close by are the seaside towns of Hastings and Eastbourne and to the west of them, the Sussex bluffs swell up into the Downs, a ridge of grassy chalk hills topped by the hundred mile trail known as the South Downs Way. To the East lie the ports of Folkestone and Dover, with its own white cliffs, and in between stretches all the rich farmland of the Sussex Weald. It is literary country: Henry James and then E. F. Benson at Lamb House, Rye; Radclyffe Hall in Rye; Kipling at Batemans, Burwash; Virginia Woolf at Monk’s House, near Lewes. The list goes on- and this heritage was always a great inspiration to me.

As a young woman, I could not wait to go to college in London, or to move three thousand miles away from home to America. Yet I have always carried with me a longing for England that will not fade. I think this dichotomy – between the desire for home and the urge to leave – is of central interest to my life and my writing.

A dual citizen of the UK and USA, I am a proud New Yorker and long-time resident of a slightly shabby old house in Brooklyn. I began my career in advertising and did not start writing fiction until I was a young mother, at home with two small children, and desperate for some intellectual escape from the diapers and the baby gym classes. “Beginner Fiction” at New York’s 92nd Street Y seemed as good an excuse as any for a night off! If you are looking for overnight success, writing may just be the slowest possible route – but as a woman who did not publish until the age of forty five, I hope I am living proof that it is never too late to follow your passion, or find a new vocation.

 -Helen Simonson