Best-selling author of Damage and Sin, Josephine Hart resisted an urge to write for 20 years. While a director of Haymarket Publishing, she had satisfied her need for creativity by founding Gallery Poets and producing several acclaimed West End plays.

I don't think you could write a book that was less likely to be a success than Damage. It's a tragedy with a savage parting.

Initially I wanted to act, but after a series of tragic family events I decided to divorce myself from creativity which had a psychological burden. My career never touched me on any deep level, which allowed me to be cool and keep my judgment. I think that this was enormously healthy for me.

The characters in my first three books were fully developed in my head long before they were written. Iris Murdoch knew about this and encouraged me to begin and so did Maurice [Saatchi, Hart's husband]. I was ready when I stopped fighting it.

There isn't a single incident from my life represented in my novels. But the emotions I understand totally, having experienced or observed them.

The cold, spare writing style comes naturally and, for me, is the best way to deal with the terrible circumstances in which my characters find themselves. I think that comes from a theatrical background.

I have my own acid test. If I'm lying on my deathbed, have I written the book I wanted to? It's very nice if other people like it but that's not the essential business.