Philippa Gregory: ‘I’m lazy domestically. I don’t do housework. My mother would have called me a slut’ | Life and style

Born in Kenya, Philippa Gregory, 70, wrote her first novel while completing a PhD in 18th‑century literature at Edinburgh University. Wideacre became a bestselling trilogy, and she went on to write many popular historical novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, The White Queen and The White Princess, which have also been adapted for screen. Her first play, Richard, My Richard is at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds from 11 to 27 April. She lives in Leicestershire and has two children.

When were you happiest?
I’m a lucky woman – I was walking in the rain yesterday and was really happy.

What is your greatest fear?
I am spooked by water underground, water in drains and water in machinery. I am very frightened of mill wheels.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I’m lazy domestically. I don’t do housework. My mother would have called me a slut.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Trolling, meanness and male violence.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I have days when I don’t get on with my hair.

What is your most unappealing habit?
I sometimes drift off into a world of my own when people are talking to me.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I say “darling” when I don’t know people’s names.

Would you choose fame or anonymity?
Anonymity. I don’t think you get a lot of benefit from being famous.

Aside from a property, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
I take my family on holiday. We went to Egypt just after Christmas. Golly, it’s expensive.

What do you owe your parents?
My mother had a deep curiosity and would speculate about people, and that would involve making up stories. The habit of looking at people and wondering about them is a fantastic start for a writer.

What is your most treasured possession?
I am currently treasuring a birthday card from my grandson that reads: “Thank you for living until 70.”

What was the best kiss of your life?
Kensington High Street, after lunch, 25 or more years ago. I don’t want to say who.

Have you ever said ‘I love you’ without meaning it?
No, I haven’t.

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Which living person do you most despise and why?
I am not very keen on Netanyahu or Putin or Trump. There are quite a few people whose behaviour is not up to the standard of civilised humanity. I am disappointed in them.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
I was very sorry to stop at two children – I would have liked to have had a third – and I am very sorry to have got divorced.

How often do you have sex?
With somebody else, not at all at the moment.

What would you like to leave your children?
I’d like them to inherit my optimism.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A full-time driver/butler/chef.

What keeps you awake at night?
An exciting idea. I usually write for an hour or so, and then I go to sleep.

Would you rather have more sex, money or fame?

How would you like to be remembered?
Not for a long time.

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