I was trying to write the wrong book, for the wrong reasons. My goal was to write the best book ever, so that my mother would be proud. So that teachers who made me feel quite small and thick would see that I was smart. So that friends, colleagues, strangers would applaud.

So that I could prove that voice wrong, and perhaps silence it. But I was paralyzed with fear.

Then, five agonizing years on, it came to me. Just write a book I’d love to read. Not “like” to read. But love. Not for my mother, my acquaintances, critics, even readers. Just for myself. A private edition. I looked on my bedside table and found all sorts of books from nonfiction to classics, to history and biography. And traditional crime novels. My first great love.