Lynne Truss, who became unexpectedly rich and famous from the publication of a little book that has sold three million copies round the world, has no regrets.
But it did put tremendous stress on her life, 58-year-old Lynne now reveals, and announces that she is now happy all the time she spent it promoting her punctuation book Eats, Shoots & Leaves is finally over.
In fact she has now produced her first new novel in 15 years, a blood-thirsty horror novel with supernatural escapades called Cat Out Of Hell, which she will be talking about at the Marlborough LitFest in September.
“Becoming a millionaire took about three years,” she tells West Country Life magazine. “I had to keep touring and talking about it. It was a mad period.
“It was ‘pinch yourself’ stuff. I keep thinking, ‘It did happen’, but it all still seems very unlikely.
“While it was going on I did find it stressful, and I also thought, ‘I’ll be so happy when this is over’. I would say to people, ‘This isn’t going to last forever, I’ll get through this’, and I’m so happy that I’ve got past it.”
Why did she find the success and fame so stressful?
“When something’s as successful as that, people make assumptions about you,” she explains. “They start saying, ‘Oh, you’re only interested in the apostrophe’, but I’ve always been interested in lots of things. I’ve had a very versatile career.
“I’d written novels, plays, I’d done sports writing, and there I was with what I thought was a fantastic portfolio of interesting things to write about.
“It was like I was deliberately scuppering my whole career because suddenly people were thinking that I was only interested in punctuation. That was a bit dire for me, because I want to be in control.
“What was depressing was when people would say, ‘I wrote this very carefully because you were going to read it and I hope there are no errors in it’.”
But daughter of a milkman who grew up in a council house adds: “It set me up in lots of ways. I had much more money than I ever expected to make and actually, I still love the book. If I didn’t, I’d feel very conflicted.
“The main thing was not to do more. Lots of people thought I should keep writing books which tap this same audience.”
Hence her return to novels, unexpectedly too in the horror vein, part of a series collaboration between the Hammer horror film brand and Arrow books.
“I’m a fan of old classic Gothic style,” Lynne confesses. “I grew up with the Hammer films. We’d go to all-night horror flicks and think we were above it all, but as you get older, your imagination is much less robust in that way.
“Now, I’d never go to see a horror film unless I had to.”
Her story concerns the mystery of a missing woman, an evil talking cat called Roger, a remote seaside cottage and an amiable retired librarian with a dog called Watson.
And no doubt that might lead to another unexpected million or two if it makes it into a movie.