One Minute With: Erica James, novelist

Where are you now and what can you see?

Right now I'm in Italy at Lake Como. I have an apartment directly overlooking the lake, and that's what I see when I look out of my windows, that, and the snowy mountains.

What are you currently reading?

I've just finished reading a book called The Trouble with Alex by Melanie Allen. Lionel Shriver, who wrote We Need to Talk about Kevin, had described it as a real-life version of what she had made up. It's a chilling account of a family close to meltdown following the adoption of a girl with special needs.

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire her/him?

It's almost an impossible task, but if forced I'd say Agatha Christie. Having written a mere 15 novels – compared to her 75 – I'm in awe of such output and the enduring quality of her work.

Describe the room where you usually write

When I'm in Italy I write at a desk that is deliberately placed so that I have my back to the view. There are framed photos of my sons placed either side of my computer.

What distracts you from writing?

Very little distracts me when I'm writing, I'm scarily focused and single-minded. Having said that, the desire to read a really good book can at times lure me away.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Mary Poppins. Because, as anyone will tell you, I am practically perfect! Joking, of course.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

They're always incredibly friendly and chatty. But often surprised by how small I am.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Olga Korbut. I was 12 years old when I watched her compete in the 1972 Olympics and was spellbound. She astounded everyone by doing a back somersault on the beam – it had never been done before – and it made me want to be a gymnast.

'Promises, Promises' by Erica James is published by Orion