Woman of the Week: Fanny Blake

July 29, 2017

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

Fanny Blake is a multi-career lady having been a publisher, editor, freelance writer and now a novelist. When she wrote to us she told us a story about facing her fears as a woman over 50.

I am terrified of heights. Although I have watched paragliders, their coloured sails floating and wheeling across the sky like giant birds, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined being up there with them. It took the considerable persuasive power of my then 13-year-old son and his friend to persuade me. We were on holiday in the French Alps and they were determined to try it. Slightly against my better judgement, I agreed and said, not meaning it, that I would join them.

Only hours later, I found myself, on the side of a mountain, having been strapped to a handsome, equally persuasive, Frenchman and running towards the edge. What was I thinking?! But by then there was no going back ….

So read on to find out more about this fascinating woman.

Tell us about your family life & career I’m married to Robin, who’s a writer too, and we have three sons and one brand new granddaughter. We all live quite close to each other in north London. When I was at university I dreamed of being an editor. I got my break soon after graduating and worked in publishing for many years. Eventually I jumped ship and became a journalist and writer of non-fiction. When a significant birthday loomed on the horizon, I made it my deadline for completing my first novel, What Women Want. My sixth, Our Summer Together, has just been published. I’m also books editor of Woman & Home magazine and commissioning editor of Quick Reads, a programme of short novels written by bestselling novelists to enable adult readers with low literacy skills.

What age do you feel right now? That’s difficult to answer. I’m not sure what any age feels like. I just feel like the person I am. Over the years, my body’s changed and I’ve become more confident and less worried about what other people think of me, so I feel older than I did, but I couldn’t put a number on it.

Where you would like to live? I can’t really imagine living anywhere other than London now because this is where my friends and family are and there’s so much that I enjoy doing here. However, in the summer, I often think longingly about living in the country. London can be so stuffy and hot and I can imagine a gorgeous old farmhouse with a big garden.

What do you like to do in your free time? Reading, seeing friends, going for long walks in the country, going to theatre more often that is good for my bank account, going to the cinema, pilates, and I’ve just started botanical painting. I’m looking forward to going on a course and learning more about the techniques in September.

What are your fashion stand-bys? Dresses don’t seem to suit me any more so I wear trousers pretty much all the time. My standbys are narrow black jeans (several pairs). I wear them with loose tops and I’m particularly fond of the jackets that I’ve bought in YaccoMaricard in various colours.

What is your favourite app/website? The official website of The Man in Seat 61. If you’ve had enough of plane travel, this is the site for you. It aims to inspire you to travel without enduring airport hassles and to enable you to do that with a plethora of information about train travel all over the world.

What is your top beauty product? Terry’s Sheer-Expert Perfecting Fluid Foundation. It’s expensive but you don’t need much to cover up superficial flaws and make your skin look infinitely better,

And your best beauty tip? I once read that soap is very damaging to your skin and believed it so I’ve never washed my face with soap since. I leave it to you to judge whether or not that’s a tip!

Do you cook? I’m not a great cook. I have several favourite recipes which I follow and get reasonable results but if friends come round for supper, I’m more interested in the company than the food. It always seems such a waste of time to spend hours over something that disappears within minutes!

What is your favourite food and/or drink Raspberries. I love lots of different fruit, but raspberries are my absolute favourite. A chilled bottle of white burgundy comes a close second.

What do you read? I read all sorts of fiction, but not as much non-fiction as I’d like. At the moment, I’m finishing Elena Ferrante’s wonderful tetralogy set in Naples, where we’re going in September. I’m also reading The Dreams of Bethany Melmoth by William Boyd that’s coming out in November.

What do you love to watch on TV? Lots of crime such as Broadchurch, Fearless, and all those brilliant Scandi-noir series. When is the next series of The Bridge coming? But we’re also a boxed set couple. There’s nothing like getting stuck into a long series uninterrupted by adverts that we can binge-watch when we feel like it. At the moment, I’m glued to the new series of Game of Thrones.

What music do you like? Unlike my husband, I don’t listen to a lot of music. I like to read and write in silence. I do go with him to concerts that he’s interested in and almost always enjoy them, but I’m no expert.

What can’t you live without? My family and friends, of course. Them aside, I couldn’t live without a good pair of walking shoes. Mine go round the world with me and make various trekking holidays do-able.

Who are you grateful to? My parents. The woman who gave me my first job in publishing which turned into a career that has really informed all of my life since. My great friend, another writer, who I talk to almost everyday so we keep each other sane and on track. My husband for his patience. I could go on …

Your top tip for #womenover50? Challenge yourself. Assuming you’re too old to do something or giving in to middle-aged anxiety only stops you from enjoying new and worthwhile experiences. For instance, I was terrified when I tried paragliding, but I made myself do it. The truth is I didn’t want to lose face in front of my youngest son. But I discovered the experience itself, the adrenaline rush and sense of empowerment afterwards was extraordinary. That’s a bit of an extreme example perhaps, but I hope it makes the point.

Fanny Blake’s latest novel Our Summer Together is published by Orion in paperback and is out now – Read our review here


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