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My Secret Life: Sadie Jones, Novelist, age 40

The house I grew up in... was a small house in World's End [in Chelsea, London], with black and white tiled front steps and a dark green living room where my parents played Al Green and Buddy Holly. It always smelled of Gitanes.

When I was a child I wanted to... raise horses in Wyoming or be a cabin boy on a pirate ship.

My greatest inspiration... Art is inspiring. Walking into a gallery, or when the lights go up on a stage; that thrill of getting something that has nothing to do with acquisition.

My real-life villain... I would like to be original, but it would have to be George Bush. So many to choose from, of course, but in 2008 it just seems to keep coming back to him.

My style icon... I ought to say someone like Audrey Hepburn, but, in fact, The Clash are the pinnacle of style for me. No one has ever looked better than they did.

If I could change one thing about myself... Like trying to even out table legs, it's better just left alone.

I drive... a Toyota Prius, or Toyota Pious as our neighbour calls it. I'm sure I drive twice as fast and twice as often out of a misguided sense of moral liberation.

My most valuable possession is... a watch I bought recently. I just love it.

My favourite album... either Damien Rice's O or 9. I haven't indulged my drearier side in such a way since I bought my last Joy Division album.

My favourite item of clothing... the shoes I got married in ten years ago. They're pink suede slingbacks, and I've worn them to death. They always feel friendly and familiar.

I wish I'd never worn... a white ribbon tied around the knee of my jeans in 1981. I thought it looked New Romantic, but it tripped me up on the way to the bus stop, and I was humiliated.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... playing pool. At least, I used to be fairly good at it; the rewards of a misspent youth.

You wouldn't know it but I'm no good at... recognising people; I have face blindness.

All my money goes on... I wish I knew.

If I have time to myself... I stare at walls or e-mail people obsessively.

My favourite building... is the Chrysler Building. I was in New York for the first time last year and the sight of it made me smile. It has joy and charisma.

Movie heaven... Shakespeare in Love, a virtually perfect film: a love story, with cross-dressing that lets you imagine being Shakespeare. There is even a bit with a dog.

A book that changed me... The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir. I read it when I was 16 or 17, the perfect age for a woman to have the tyranny of femininity pointed out to her.

My favourite work of art... Café at Arles (1889) by Van Gogh, which I have never seen in real life; only as a poster which I took from flat to flat in my twenties.

The person who really makes me laugh... is my husband. We know exactly what we mean.

The best invention ever... cigarettes. It's very cruel that they're also one of the worst.

In ten years' time, I hope to be... I'm not a big planner. It's more the things I hope not to be dealing with – grief, illness.

My biggest regret... I don't believe in regret.

My life in seven words... Thankfully seven words just won't do it.

'The Outcast' by Sadie Jones (Vintage) is out now, price £7.99

A life in brief

A screenwriter turned author, Sadie Jones was born in London, the daughter of a writer and an actress. After leaving school, she worked in video production and as a waitress, and travelled to America, the Caribbean and Mexico, before moving to Paris where she taught English and wrote her first screenplay. Back in London, she spent several years as a screenwriter before writing her acclaimed debut novel, The Outcast, which is now one of the summer's biggest sellers. Sadie lives in London with her husband, the architect Tim Boyd, and their two children