As a teenager, Leaf set herself writing exercises for fun, but reading has always been more central for her.
“It still is. Reading feeds into me. It’s crucial.”
Writing for newspapers throughout university, and her fellowship, Leaf then interned at the Financial Times, and wrote and critiqued for several publications including the Times Literary Supplement, before securing a job with the Times and Sunday Times.
“I stayed there for 4 ½ years, but I went freelance at the start of this year.”
She started writing a children’s book whilst at Yale.
“And when I was at The Sunday Times I tinkered with it, and wrote another manuscript.”
That one, a novella called An Unnamed Man wasn’t published, but it won a prize and gained Leaf agent Laura McDougal.
“Orion liked my writing, and asked me for an idea. I came up with Rent a Gran, and built on that. I wrote a synopsis and 5,000 words, and the group bought the book in June 2018. It’s sold to Germany, China, Switzerland and Italy.”
Who is Leaf Arbuthnot?
Date of birth: 11th August 1992, in London – but brought up in Hampshire.
Education: Wycombe Abbey School; Cambridge University, French and Italian, with a year studying in Paris and Rome. Yale, on a Fellowship.
Home: London, but Berkshire for the lockdown.
Family: Parents; a brother, Alex, and sisters Kate and Alice. “They’re all great.”
The Day Job: Freelance Journalist and critic. Currently a judge for the Forward Poetry Prize.
In Another Life: “I’d love to be an exquisite, crowd pleasing singer, writing music that people love.”
Favourite Writers: Primo Levi; Vladimir Nabokov; Tessa Hadley; Georgi Bassani; Philip Larkin; Virginia Woolf.
Second Novel: Leaf is serialising a novel, writing a chapter each week for subscribers.
“Hopefully by the end I’ll have a manuscript I can work on.”
Top Tip: “Read as much as you can.”
Website: www.leafarbuthnot.com Twitter: @leafarbuthnot
The Debut: Looking for Eliza. Trapeze. €17.00 Kindle: €8.96.
A widow, who was happily married to a university professor, Ava feels lost. She starts ‘Rent a Gran’, and through it meets Eliza, a skint, bisexual grad student. The two form an immediate friendship, unified by their love for the writer, Primo Levi.
The Verdict: An absolute delight! Intelligent, heart-warming and compulsive, but above all, real.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 23rd May.
© Sue Leonard. 2020