I was born in Windsor in 1988. My parents are an unlikely pair; imagine if a Victorian Music Hall actress and William Blake got together and you’ll be somewhere close. I have an older sister, Lucy Hounsom, who is a fantasy author. (By complete and bizarre coincidence, our debut novels were published on the exact same day. Weird).
Little known fact: I went to theatre school and acted professionally as a child. My first ever job was when I was nine, playing Elizabeth Hall in the RSC’s The Herbal Bed, directed by Michael Attenborough. I was in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) but my biggest film role was probably playing Young Madame Giry in The Phantom of the Opera (2004).
Although I had intended to pursue a career as a dancer or actor, when I was sixteen I changed my mind and decided to do A Levels instead, at The Henley College. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was massive nerd about the subjects I chose, and – thanks to the encouragement of my tutors – ended up applying, and being offered a place to study English at Newnham College, Cambridge.
I wrote my first novel while working on my gap year, and started submitting to agents in my second year of university. I knew almost nothing about the publishing industry, and so of course did everything wrong, including sending an unfinished manuscript. However, Ed Wilson at Johnson & Alcock must have seen potential, and offered to represent me. He’s been my agent ever since.
One finished (and rejected) manuscript later, we sold World English rights to The Confectioner’s Tale (2015) to Transworld, in a two book contract that included Where the Wild Cherries Grow (2017). Another two-book contract followed for The Secrets Between Us (2018) and An Echo of Scandal (2019). I also write under other pseudonyms, but that’s a secret…
I’ve always been fascinated by food, and have loved baking ever since I was little. I used to sit on the kitchen sideboard while my Grandma Iris taught me how to bake things like jam tarts, crumbles, pies, sometimes even pavlova.
At university, I took this interest in food up a notch, and wrote one of my dissertations on the etymology of the word “confection”. I still baked whenever I was able, and after I graduated, I became a columnist and resident cake baker for lifestyle website Domestic Sluttery.
Almost all of my books have a distinct focus on food, from the Belle Epoque Parisian patisseries of The Confectioner’s Tale to the rustic, vibrant cuisine of French Catalonia; from the scarcity, deprivation and black markets of the Second World War in The Secrets Between Us to the decadent, sensuous flavours of the cocktail age in Tangier in An Echo of Scandal. I’m fascinated by the history of food, food culture, flavours and recipes, and am always delighted to speak or write on this topic.
My short stories have previously been published by Short Fiction Journal, My Weekly and Candis magazine, among others.
I live in a bright blue house in Bristol with my partner. My parents and sister live in Devon, where I can often be found visiting. In my spare time, I’m the tenant of a rather wild and wishful allotment.
For short story, recipe or essay commissions, please do get in touch. (Please note, although I often gladly participate in some editorial pieces unpaid, as a rule, I don’t write original work for free).