Valerie Mendes started writing when she was six. Seventy years later, she looks half her age, feels twenty-one – and is still obsessed with telling a good story.

Educated at North London Collegiate School and the University of Reading, Valerie worked as a journalist for part-work publisher Marshall Cavendish before joining the English Language Teaching Division of Oxford University Press. A short stint with Penguin Books and a second one with OUP at their invitation marked her move to Oxfordshire, where she still lives.

Valerie accepted full-time posts with Robert Maxwell and with Elsevier, Oxford, where she published The Encyclopaedia of Visual Art, before setting up Wordwise, her own editorial agency.

Encouraged to become a full-time writer, Valerie published two picture books, Tomasina’s First Dance and Look at Me, Grandma! and four young adult novels: Girl in the Attic, Coming of Age, Lost and Found and The Drowning before deciding she needed greater freedom and more mature themes.

Larkswood, Valerie’s first historical novel for the adult market, was published by Orion in 2014. Its paperback edition, now endorsed by her son, the theatre and film director Sam Mendes CBE, has sold more than 60,000 copies and has been translated into German.

The Choice, Valerie’s second historical novel, is set in Oxford, Woodstock, Blenheim Palace and St Ives, Cornwall, in 1936.

Valerie is now working on a third historical novel, Awakenings, set in 1911 in New York, London and Oxfordshire. She will then follow Larkswood with its sequel, Flight of the Lark.

Valerie loves walking, gardening, going to the theatre and giving parties for her friends. “But all the time,” she says, “somewhere in my head I am thinking about my latest heroine, my latest villain – and the dark heart of the tale.”