Questions I’ve been asked (Add yours)

Q. What is your educational background?
A. I went to a private school in Bradford, West Yorkshire, all for girls. I went to St. John’s College, Cambridge after school and read for a degree in English. I got a first class degree from there and the MA three years later. When I was 27, I accepted a scholarship to read for a PhD in English at Stanford, California, and I graduated in 2014. I was awarded my BSc in Metaphysical Science to follow that, and will graduate with my second PhD, this time in Metaphysical Science, in 2018. Can I say I have a gold medal from LAMDA in the speaking of verse and prose? I did 14 years of drama and public speaking to win that and am proud of it because writers are shy and it forced me to conquer some fears.
Q. Will you share your scholarly CV with us?
A. Sure. Here’s education and scholarly honors. I taught at lot at Stanford in literature, memoir writing, and nonfiction writing. I’ve also taught undergrads in the UK and Colorado. But here is the scholarly stuff.
2017 University of Sedona, Arizona, USA, BSc in Metaphysical Science
2014 Stanford University, California, USA, PhD in English
Dissertation: “Reading the Bestseller: Anatomy of 20,000 novels”, now The Bestseller Code (Penguin; St. Martins), translated into ten languages.
Specializations in contemporary literary culture and the institutions of reading, the history of literary criticism, English Studies as a discipline, postmodern fiction and art, myth, the bestseller through time, distant reading, screenplay and drama, and literature and theory post 1960.
2007 St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, UK MA in English
2004 St. John’s College, University of Cambridge, UK BA(Hons) in English, First Class and St. John’s Scholar of 2004
Editor of MAYS and InPrint: Cambridge’s creative writing journals. Travel writer, book reviewer, and special guest interviewer for Varsity. Dissertation: “Camouflage and cognition: the reception history of BLAST”, later published in Wyndham Lewis and the Cultures of Modernity, eds. Gasiorek, Reeve-Tucker and Waddell (Ashgate). Specialization in tragedy, contemporary British and American literature (post 1980), and literary and cultural theory from Plato to the present day.
2000 London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art
Gold Medal in the Speaking of Verse and Prose (qualifies teaching)
1999 Bradford Girls’ Grammar School, West Yorkshire, UK A-Level: English Literature (A), History (A), French (A),
German (A), General Studies (A)
1997 GCSE: Ten subjects, all at grade A*

2014 Doctoral Valedictorian, Department of English, Stanford University
2013 Mellon Foundation Fellowship
2010 Full Distinction Scholarship to School of Criticism and Theory, Cornell University,
“Digital Discourse: Theory, Art Archive”
2004 Cambridge University Wytehead Scholarship for outstanding results at Tripos 2004 St. John’s College Prize for 1st Class Dissertation
1999 Governors’ Leaving Award for outstanding achievement
1999 BGGS Award for English
1999 BGGS Award for National Public Speaking

Q. What is your middle name?
A. By birth it’s Elizabeth, which I pretend reflects my regal nature. In fact, my dad chose it because I was delivered by C-Section back in the day they were more rare, and while my mother was still barely conscious he decided to come up with the names. They’d decided on Jodie and he added Elizabeth in case I hated Jodie and could shorten the middle name to Betty or Liz or Beth or Lillibet. I added a second middle name, Decelle, when I changed my name after my first marriage. It was an old family name on my mother’s side that she took sometime after her divorce from my dad. The other traditional family name on her side is also French: Sidonie. When she was sixty, my mother did some research and announced it had been spelled wrong for years. In fact the right middle name for women in my family is Sidonia. As a result, my small publishing press is called Sidonia.
Q. How old are you?
A. 36, until April 11. Then I’ll be 37. I’m not the type of person who will ever get to a certain age and declare they are counting backwards from there. Several people in my family have lived to 100 or close and for them it was a proud, happy and wise age to be. I hope I hit 100.
Q. What is your personal history with writing?
A. Too long to answer fully. The girl guide badge I won was for writing. That was about it. I won some prizes for writing throughout school and college. I was an all-rounder at school but writing became my love because it gave me something to grapple with. It had a depth that I personally didn’t find in the other subjects. Sometimes it chewed me up and sometimes it thought I was ok. I think my first publications were when I was fifteen and sixteen when I worked free for local newspapers. After that, I spent training time in different areas of journalism. Then I became a commissioning editor at Penguin very young (24, I think). Then I wrote extensively about other people’s writing. Then I taught writing at Stanford. Then I finally got the nerve to complete and pitch a book. That was The Bestseller Code with my friend Matt.
Q. Where did you grow up and where do you live?
A. I grew up in Yorkshire, UK, as an only child in an old house with a big wood at the back. My dad is an exotics and wildlife vet and had his surgery in the basement. I spent a lot of time talking to animals and the old ghosts of the house. I lived in Yorkshire until I was 18, mostly with my mother. My parents divorced when I was seven. I spent time in Cambridge, London and New York until I was 27, and then I spent eight years in California and 18 months in Colorado. I now live in Yorkshire again, about a five minute walk from where I lived with my mother. Sadly, she died in 2013.
Q. Since when did you know you were a medium?
A. This is the oddest story. I saw “ghosties” when I was a small child and talked about it. I was known for it, and since it was considered “cute” when this little pigtailed blonde ran in humorously announcing the ramblings of the dead, I never thought too much about it. I never gave it a name. I had several experiences when strangers came up to me telling me I was a medium; my “light was on”. I thought they were crazy. I sought a medium and she told me it was true but I was busy. Ten years later in my twenties, I lost several people I was close to. They started visiting gingerly. Ironically it was a famous man I’d never met who convinced me after his death that I am for sure, without anywhere hide, a medium. There was nothing ginger about his approach. I have written about that experience in one of my books.
Q. What is your purpose?
A. For me, purpose is connected with my take on divinity. I feel in my purpose when I feel most full of life energy, or light, or presence, or blissful focus or surrender into a present flow. Whatever the right word is for that experience on a given day. I feel connected to that purpose when I am writing, especially when I throw off the shackles of what other writers might think. I think I have some wider purpose in spreading love and being careful not to spread stress or fear to anyone else. (Pretty obvious, but I didn’t get it until I was 33.) I have purpose in helping other people develop.
Q. What are your hobbies?
A. Reading, of course. Meditation. Meditation is a hobby for me more than a practice. I have great, happy experiences in meditation. Good food and wine. Finding small and unusual lovely hotels. Castle-hunting. Playing at having dinner parties. Stained glass making. Walking. Smiling like nobody’s looking. Making playlists for my books. I collect paintings of the Archangel Michael and love to hunt them or, even better, just find one hanging in a coffee shop for sale by a local artist. That happened recently and I was thrilled: an impressionistic original of Michael for thirty-five pounds. I like to paint and throw pots. I am terrible at hand building in clay but I can throw a decent pot. I am working on two pictures of Michael, one from mountains of shredded up pieces of paper. A labour of love. My mother spent her life in fashion and gave me a touch of her gift there. I enjoy fashion but the hills of Yorkshire require some discernment and practicality.
Q. What is your work history?
A. I’ve been lucky with work. I seemed to always get the fun job. At 18, I landed a year’s work in TV, mostly evening celebrity chat shows. That felt fun at 18. At university, I landed a regular summer job writing travel pieces and got sent all over Europe to review high end hotels. I got to walk through hotel penthouse suites that could only be afforded by people I could barely imagine. I love design: seeing the thought and design behind some of those hotel room double doors was a thrill. Straight after university I got a position at Penguin Books, which involved being trained in all areas of publishing in three countries. That iconic little Penguin and the story behind it had always been a magnet in my life. Then they made me an editor! Later, I got to teach at Stanford while I did my degree: the students are smart, caring and a pleasure to be around. Then I practiced professional mediumship and healing for a few years, all the while with archangels. And then I was headhunted by Apple! Now I’m a writer in lots of genres. Job-wise, I feel very lucky and I count these blessings. I rolled good dice on the work gamble before this life began. (PS Did I mention I was a dolphin trainer for a while in France in my teens? That too. See what I mean about the dice?)
Q. What has been your most amazing experience?
A. All with Archangels. There’s love, there’s sex, there’s achievement, there’s money, there’s completing a personal physical challenge (for me that’s always long distance hiking). But the first time I came face to face with the Archangel Michael, I realized not so much that other things paled, but that there are human experiences available that are of a different quality, on another level.
Q. Where is your next walk?
A. I don’t know yet. I walk most days near my home, mostly six or seven miles. Occasionally, I spend a weekend in the Lake District and always try to walk several miles. I’ll probably revisit some of the stretches of the Coast to Coast trail this year as I am writing about it. I don’t feel like a very long walk in solitude at the moment. The next very long walk might be with friends. I like the idea of some of the European walks but I’m loyal to Britain and the moment with walking, not least because then I can bring my dog, Mol.