Stories of all lengths and depths come from different parts of the cave. For a novel, you must lay in mental, physical and spiritual provision as for a siege or for a time of hectic explosions, while a short story is, or can be, a steady, timed flame like the lighting of a blow lamp on a building site full of dry tinder.
For years, there was no man in the house when my husband was off on law cases in the Far East. Without writing, I would have been bored and unfaithful, maybe both, and the children would have been hideously over-protected.
I started to write as a child as soon as I could read, or even before, when my mother read me Beatrix Potter at bedtime. Writing seemed to me to be the only sensible way to live and be happy.
Only a great genius like the Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell can be mother, wife and novelist without solitude. I couldn't write until my youngest child went to school, and then I began - the first morning - and I've never stopped.
I discovered that writing was very nice indeed when I was very young, and I never changed. I don't think my style has changed very much at all - though I hope what I say is a bit more interesting. It's about getting to know a character and loving them, I think.
The best novel I wrote was one called 'Crusoe's Daughter,' which never won any prizes. But I was getting somewhere in that. I'm not sure I have in any of the others.
When I was young and the empire was beginning to disintegrate, the idea was absolutely unbelievable, particularly to children who'd been taught that the sun never set... that's what all my books are about, the end of empire.