This week’s guest is the very lovely Diane Jeffrey, who I got to know after it turned out that she lives near one of my childhood friends. In France! Diane has written four bestselling psychological thrillers, all published by HQ (HarperCollins). Those Who Lie (2017), He Will Find You (2018), The Guilty Mother (2019), a USA Today bestseller, and The Silent Friend (ebook 2020, paperback 9th Dec 2021). She is currently working on her fifth novel. When not teaching or writing, she runs (a little) and swims (a lot). Diane was born in Devon and now lives in Lyon with her husband, three children, black Labrador and cat. She was the first female lifeguard to work on UK beaches.
Have you ever broken a bone?
Technically, no, but someone (he shall remain nameless) broke my little finger. I was early morning swimming training and a teammate going the other way in the next lane sort of took my little finger with him. I was taken to hospital wearing my bra with my school blazer around my shoulders. My little finger was sticking out and quite swollen, so that I couldn’t get my arm through the shirt and cardigan sleeves of my uniform.
Have you ever written a fan letter?
I’m not sure if this counts as a fan letter, but I wrote a letter to Lady Diana when she got married to Prince Charles. I was eight years old. I must have tried my hand at drawing something, too, because she thanked me for the picture when she wrote back! I cringe to imagine the quality of it as I’m really, really crap at drawing. Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to the letter I received – I think it got lost when my parents moved house. It was typed – no doubt one by one of Diana’s staff –on thick cream stationery, embossed with the blazon of three ostrich feathers and a gold crown. But Lady Diana signed it!
How often do you change your sheets?
Quite often. At least once a fortnight, but usually once a week. If I were a rich A-list celeb, this would be my thing. I wouldn’t wash my face in Evian or demand rose-scented candles in my backstage dressing room, like some celebs are rumoured to do, but I’d want my sheets changed every day (by an employee, obvs).
Do you find it hard to take criticism?
I used to be very, very bad at taking criticism, but I’ve got much better. I can usually take constructive criticism on board and do something with it. I’m not good at dealing with catty criticism or bitchy jibes and tend to (over)react badly to that sort of thing.
Where was your best holiday?
It was in the Lake District in August 2012. It was a fantastic fortnight for many reasons. The kids got on so well that summer, the Lake District is incredibly beautiful and overall, we were lucky with the weather. The first week, it rained a bit, but we watched the swimming and athletics on the TV (it was the year the Olympics were held in London). The second week was a scorcher and we went on lots of hikes and did water activities in the lakes. My dog (a black Lab, Cookie) was welcome everywhere, which was wonderful. And the people were so kind and friendly!
I also got inspiration for a novel, which turned into my second book: He Will Find You, which is set partly in the Lake District.
We have plans to return there …
What’s your most treasured possession?
It’s a gold bracelet with the names of all of my children engraved around it. I had some gold jewellery melted down by a jeweller, who then made me that bracelet from the molten gold. I never take it off, not even to go through security at the airport.
Where’s the worst place you’ve been sick?
By sick, do you mean vomiting? I get migraines and have done since I was eight or nine. I take treatment every day to help with this and so I don’t throw up as much as I used to, but I have thrown up in several places when a migraine came on, including people’s houses and on public transport. Probably the worst place I have thrown up due to a migraine was in the theatre when I was quite young and my parents took my brother and me to London to see Evita.
I also got morning sickness with my pregnancies (like many women, not just in the mornings). One morning when I was about three months pregnant with my son, I went into school (I’m an English teacher) feeling nauseous. I threw up during my first lesson … I grabbed the wastepaper bin and sprinted out of the classroom, but my pupils all heard me puking in the corridor. It was very embarrassing! They were worried about me, which was sweet, so I had to tell them then that I was pregnant. They bought a teddy bear for my son when he was born!
What is your most unrealistic ambition?
I want to swim the English Channel and break a record. If I did some serious training, I could probably do the swim. It’s the breaking a record part that’s tricky! There’s no way I could ever beat the fastest woman’s time. So, I thought about setting a record for a family relay. We’re an Anglo-French family – I thought it was a great idea! My husband used to be a competitive swimmer, too (he was my coach, actually), and my son and two daughters are all competitive swimmers (they all swim far faster than I do), but I just can’t seem to get them on board with this plan! So, I think my best bet is to wait until I can break the record for the oldest woman / person to swim the Channel. The current record holder was almost 72 years old when she broke her own record.
Which actor do you fancy the most?
Matthew Goode. He’s from Devon, like me. I think he’s lovely!
I also have a soft spot for Jason Bateman. In fact, I based the physical appearance of my character Jonathan Hunt in The Guilty Mother on Jason Bateman, which was a great excuse to have an A4 print-out of his face sellotaped over my desk for ten months. Very inspirational!
Do you pair your socks?
God, yes! Doesn’t everyone? I even peg them on the washing line separately, but next to the matching sock – and the clothes pegs have to match, too! Is this too much? OCD?
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