Shelley Harris helping me fight crimes against hair.



I have a confession to make…….I haven’t read Vigilante and Shelley Harris has graced my chair! This will be amended as I now have a lovely copy with a personalised message in my posession. I follow Shelley on Twitter, her feed is a delight so if you don’t follow her then I suggest you do. We met at an event at Waterstones Piccadilly where she was chairing an event with Helen Ellis, author of the hilarious American Housewife. We did that little dance that happens when you meet a fellow Tweeter and we chatted. Shelley said she’d love to come for a haircut and I said I’d love her to feature on my Notes From The Chair so it was a win win.

Shelley is the author of two novels, Jubilee and Vigilante, both published by W&N. My TBR is now teetering with these new editions. It was great to have her in my chair. We sure did put the world to rights, why do house prices always come into conversation….and women’s roles and the need for change in lots of areas. We talked books, surprise surprise. Shelley recommended The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. We also talked about our love of beautiful writing and getting gushy over a well written sentence.





And now for the questions……….


Where are you going on holiday?


Rome! For the first time ever, in August. I’m very excited -and almost entirely ignorant about the city. To date, my main thoughts about getting ready for the trip are to read Mary Beard’s SPQR and get recommendations about good ice cream.

How many books would you take for a week away? Favourites or new reads?

These will be new reads and real books rather than e-books,so they will take up (I’d guess) about a third of my weight allowance. Generally, I like to take around nine for a week away. This usually ensures I never run out, while also allowing for the inevitable Book Refusal when the worthy-but-dull volume I pack proves to be just as hard to stomach when I’m away as it would be at home (who’d have thought?).

What shampoo do you use?

I use Kevin Murphy’s Angel Wash – good for fine, coloured hair and also a great incentive to take on more work so I can afford it.

Are you doing anything nice at the weekend?

I’m doing two corking things, thank you for asking. One (Saturday) is the first meeting of the Writers’ Centre Norwich Escalator scheme 2016. I’m a mentor this year, and will be meeting my (clients? mentees?) for the first time. I’ve already read their writing and it was fabulous; on Saturday we’ll startworking together.

On Sunday and Monday (Bank Holiday!) there’s nothing doing, which is bliss. I get to be with my lovely family.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Lloyd Shepherd’s Savage Magic, the third in his historical crime fiction series. This one’s about witches, asylums and grisly, gutty murder. I love historical fiction and his stories always have a fascinating political undercurrent – I’ve loved all of them. I was meant to be reading his latest, The Detective and the Devil, but when I got home with it my husband nicked it off me. I’m biding my time before I STRIKE BACK and liberate it.

If anyone alive or dead could tweet about your book, who would you like it to be?

OK, tough one. I’m torn between the joy of seeing someone tweet at all (John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester – think how filthily funny he’d be), choosing someone I adore (Malala) and being commercially hard-nosed (Beyonce?).

So: I think it would have to be JK Rowling, who actually fits two of those categories – massive respect is due and it would get the book into lots of people’s hands.


What’s the worse hair disaster you’ve had?

High Wycombe, 1982: I was fifteen, embarrassed about my body – my whole self – so did everything I could to get people not to look at me. I dressed androgynously (jeans, shirts, mydad’s ties) and wore my hair in an entirely unremarkable style, fringe down past my eyes to avoid people’s gaze.

In a hairdresser’s above the Octagon shopping centre I had a cut from a man who kept saying, as he snipped away: ‘it’s all for fashion, isn’t it, love?’ As the appointment went on his question took on an increasingly ominous tone, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to tell him what I actually wanted.

At the end, he did a bit of spraying and fluffing, and showed me what he’d done. I had the face of John Gordon Sinclair*and the hairstyle of John Taylor. The hairdresser finished with a final: ‘It’s all for fashion, isn’t it?’ and, being British, I just said ‘It’s great – thanks!’

I remember slightly hyperventilating once I got outside, and spending the whole journey home pressing down on my hair so it would go back to normal.


*Though, in fairness, I had that when I came in. You could just see more of it now


Vigilante is published by W&N.


Shelley Harris helping me fight crimes against hair.