I always have this image of a woman running across a desert carrying children, trying to find water and food, not knowing when they'll get that. And her feet are slashed up from the dry, hard earth... Even when I'm uncomfortable, sometimes in pain, or just cold... I think, 'Thank God for what I've got.'
Being poor with three small children is terrifying. You can't make any plans. You know you're not going on holiday, ever. There's no way you could ever afford driving lessons or a car. And the guilt I used to feel: they had holes in their shoes, and at one point, I had to send them to school wearing Wellingtons when the sun was shining.
I married two weeks after my 18th birthday, far too young, and by the time I was 23 I was a single mother of three small children, Sean, Daniel and Victoria, living in a prefab house.
We had library books in our house, but not our own. So you had 14 days to read them. There would be eight books a fortnight in our house and I'd read as many of those as I could.
I am from the working class. I am now what I was then. No amount of balsamic vinegar and Prada handbags could make me forget what it was like to be poor.
When I was a child, I dreaded blindness. We used to ask: 'Would we rather be blind or deaf?' I said I'd rather be blind, even though I was scared of it. I couldn't bear not being able to hear music or talk to people.
I do think that books, good books, free you. They make you feel a citizen of the world and things like class, sex and age don't matter. They're the greatest leveler.
I could have been a better mother. My children assure me it was fine. But when you are running to catch the train to go to a rehearsal, and you know your kid has a hacking cough... We said we can have it all and do it all: I can have four children, write three plays a year and a book, go from Leicester to London, and come back at midnight.
In the early days, it was, you know, I used to weep while I was writing. I used to grab at any kind of anything, any hint, any tip of how to make it easy.
The DSS offices are not given enough funding, their staff are poorly paid and are driven to distraction by the amount of work they have to do. There is frequent turnover of staff. Morale is extremely low. Working with desperate people all day is very dispiriting; their unhappiness rubs off on you.
'The Gambler' by Dostoevsky. It was the first time I realised that it was possible to have good and evil in one person. It led me to read a lot of Russian literature.
I don't like to be noticed. The older I've got, the more reclusive I've become. I've got late-onset shyness. People are lovely. When they see me in the street, they don't ask for anything from me. They just say: 'I thought it was you, and I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your books,' but I can't seem to cope with it anymore.
I always write back to people who are kind enough to write to me. Actually, I don't write - I recline on my red velvet sofa with my feet on the coffee table and dictate the letters to my eldest son.
I became an insomniac, really, hardly slept at all, didn't even try to. And it's carried on. I hate to say I only need as much sleep as Mrs. Thatcher, but I can cope really well on five hours.
I'm getting to the end of my magnifying glasses now. One eye's gone completely. The other is gradually dimming. Dimming - that sounds very dramatic, doesn't it? I'm so lucky. I can still make a living - and the same kind of living.
I always wanted to be Jo in 'Little Women.' She's a bit reckless and feckless, always getting into trouble like me. But I'm probably more like Madame Bovary.
I am a very independent person, and I, you know, I maintain that independence, but, you know, certain things - I mean, it takes, you know, it's just much easier for other people if other people can help you every now and again.
My dark secrets are life threatening. Pockets of unhappiness set in aspic that build and build. I have this primitive feeling that if something good happens, it is going to be followed by something bad. There is always a price to pay.
People down on their luck deserve the best: beautiful surroundings and well-paid professional staff to help them out of their difficulties. Why not train thousands more social workers and let them sit in on claimants' interviews?