Long ago, I endured a disastrous book tour of America (just two children and a shopper taking the weight off her feet at one venue). I had less than an hour to myself in Chicago, but I ran to the Art Institute, determined to see its famous Seurat. I only managed a few minutes in front of it because I was waylaid by Renoir’s painting of two circus girls. I’ve never admired Renoir’s salmon-pink fleshy ladies, but I loved these girls in their white-and-gold costumes, collecting oranges as a tribute to their performance. There’s such an immediacy about the painting that it was a surprise to discover it was painted in Renoir’s studio. The real girls, Francisca and Angelina, were 17 and 14, but the girls in the painting seem much younger. I looked at this painting and decided to write about a Victorian circus girl one day. And now I’ve written five books about circus star Hetty Feather.
AL Kennedy has revealed that she likes to read a children’s book before starting work on her novels:
“Reading children’s stories is a very pure, direct incarnation of story so it’s very inspiring. I will read a children’s story before I start a novel just to remember that’s what it’s about.”