Many years ago, two debut authors did a reading at the Southbank Centre to promote their novels. One was me. The other was a charming young woman called Sarah Waters. I’ve often wondered what happened to her… It was obvious to everyone who came to that reading that Sarah was going to be a star (and rather gallingly, all my friends whom I’d corralled into the reading left clutching their copies of Tipping the Velvet and raving about her). I still like her first novel best of all – it’s got all the elements that make her great (strong narrative, pungent descriptions, a winning combination of traditional form and confrontational content), plus a freshness and urgency that time hasn’t dulled. I love the way that Waters fishes around in history and always seems to find just exactly the right set of characters and circumstances; it all seems so effortless, and she wears her research lightly. Obviously I’m eaten alive with jealousy as every book she writes goes to the top of the best seller lists and gets adapted for the screen, but if it’s going to happen to any writer apart from me Sarah Waters would be top of my list.