It means that if you looked me up on Amazon you’d find I have the strangest backlist of any author I know. There are my novels, with their pastel covers in pink and baby blue, complete with hearts and, in one case, butterflies. And then there is the rather less obviously sexy Property Disrepair and Dilapidations: A Guide to the Law.
My life, as a result, divides into two bizarrely contrasting halves – or three, if you count being a mum. (Good thing it’s Law I teach, not maths!)
Take this week, for instance. The university exams are over, and I have been buried for eight hours a day in the office, and one more at home each evening when the kids are in bed, under piles of examination scripts, marking essays on the minutiae of estoppel-based easements and other incorporeal hereditaments. (Don’t ask!). Today I spent five hours in a moderating meeting, debating how much to penalise a student who had approached a question on the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 as though it were on the Housing Act 1988.
But on Wednesday I bunked off to spend two hours with the Cambridge Chapter of the RNA, gossiping over a pub lunch. And for an hour and a half each morning, before getting the children up and making the packed lunches, I have sat at the kitchen table and imagined my way back into the world of my current novel in progress – a retro rom com set in 1980.
You know how it is when you’re writing a novel. That world, those characters, inhabit a space in your subconscious, and for me, I find that they are there with me all day at work, whatever I’m doing. I might be in the middle of a lecture, or reading recent cases in the library, or at my desk supposedly writing my latest academic article, and snatches of dialogue suddenly intrude, or little twists of plot open themselves up, to be jotted down and saved for tomorrow morning’s fiction-writing time.
Actually, the schizophrenia is at its most extreme during university vacations when my day job consists of writing rather than teaching. Then there are the two files on my hard drive: one technical, turgid, thick with footnotes, and the other pure romantic escapism. It can sometimes be hard, believe me, to force myself to stick to my resolution of working only on the former during office hours, and never succumbing to temptation and flicking to the latter instead.
What do people in Cambridge think of my secret existence as a romantic novelist? Well, Cambridge is a fiercely intellectual place, and likes to take itself horribly seriously. There are plenty of colleagues who look down their noses at what I do. The Barbara Cartland jokes do wear rather thin at times, I must admit.
But my salvation is the undergraduates. Unlike my colleagues, they don’t believe that the only books worth reading – and therefore, by definition, writing – are those on the Man Booker shortlist. They think it’s great that I write novels at all, even if they’re not exactly High Art. The Law don who writes chick lit – it’s funny, it’s different. As one student said to me recently, ‘It’s actually quite cool. To be honest, it’s amazing to find a lecturer who has a life.’
I just wish that sometimes I didn’t feel as if I had two!
A rural idyll: that's what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cévennes mountains. Her divorce in the past and her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you're no longer just on holiday. There is French bureaucracy to contend with, and the mountain weather, and the reserve of her neighbours - including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that's before the arrival of Catherine's forthright sister, Bryony?
THE TAPESTRY OF LOVE is the story of how a woman falls in love with a place and its people: the portrait of a landscape, a community and a fragile way of life.
For more about Rosy and her books visit http://www.rosythornton.com