DURING her three years as a modern day Geisha in Tokyo’s notorious Roppongi District Susanna Quinn saw friends turn to prostitution, had her drink spiked, and knew women who had been brutally attacked outside the club they worked at.

She had heard about the job from her sister and although the money was good, she was under increasing pressure to bring in more and more clients.

“Some of the girls I worked with did have sexual relationships with their clients,” she says.

“They thought if they slept with them they would keep coming back and would bring their friends and most importantly, request them at their tables.”

It was also common for hostesses to end up marrying clients.

When Susanna’s close friend married a customer it was the wake up call she needed to leave and return to Colchester where she was born and brought up.

Her experiences have formed the basis for her highly acclaimed debut novel, Glass Geishas, about three women working in the Roppongi district and what happens after one goes missing.

Susanna adds: “My twin sister, Cath, went travelling and she told me about work you could get at bars in Tokyo as hostesses. I was freelancing in sales at the time and hating it and I thought it would be a great opportunity to travel and earn some money.

“Literally all you had to do was serve drinks, light cigarettes and make conversation.

“It is like being a modern day Geisha. But after a few months the clubs and bars put the pressure on to bring in more customers and that’s when it gets dodgy and can move towards prostitution.

“Some of the girls were having sexual relationships outside working hours but it was never something I would ever have pursued.

“I managed to keep working as a hostess for three years because I did it on and off, moving clubs and bars after a few months when they started to talk about getting more customers in and avoiding it getting too serious.

“I was travelling about a bit and coming back to England for visits and stuff so that helped me keep them off my back.

“But the other thing about it is you are drinking a lot.

“It is a part of your job, you are drinking with these people, so I dread to think how much we were having.

“I am pretty sure on one occasion my drink was spiked because I blacked out, just sat down behind the bar and passed out which I never did and people told me the things I was doing were just not like me.

“This was towards the end of my time working there. There was a dodgy guy who was hanging around and a friend of mine was badly attacked on her way home.

“If I had not had my friends around I don’t like to think what might have happened but we really looked out for each other and actually Tokyo itself is a very safe place to live on the whole,” explains Susanna, who is now 32.

She actually worked in the bar, but not at the same time, where Lucie Blackman worked as a hostess when she was raped and murdered by one of her clients in 2000.

“What happened to her was absolutely terrible and I cannot imagine what her parents must have gone through but I don’t think it was all to do with where she was working although it was obviously where he met her.

“Another young girl was also killed but she was an English teacher, not a hostess.

“Bad things happen anywhere but I know that from my point of view when you are away from home and you are in an amazing place like that you kind of lose perspective and maybe let your guard down.

“I don’t think it is particularly a dangerous job but it is certainly on the sinister side,” says the former St Helena School pupil.

By this time she was 26 and starting to wonder what the future held if she stayed in Tokyo.

“A friend of mine married her customer and it was then I started to think about where things were headed. It is a very addictive lifestyle.

“You get paid a lot of money for not doing very much at all and you get all your days to yourself but as you get older what happens then ?

“I don’t think I ever would have married a client. It is tempting to be looked after, to not have to do anything, but it is risky because if it did not work out you would be left with nothing.”

Susanna, whose sister is a journalist on a national newspaper, instead returned home with the germ of an idea for her first novel.

“I was writing while I was a in Tokyo. I was jotting stuff down on the communal computer where I was living when I was supposed to be e-mailing home.

“I went to an agent and he read it and liked it but I had been sending it every where before then and have quite a few rejection letters to my name.

“You have to be really resilient and just keep sending it out.”

The novel was snapped up by Hodder and Stoughton and boasts the backing of such top writers as Fay Weldon and Joanne Harris.

“I couldn’t believe it when they told me Fay Weldon was reading it, it was pretty daunting, so it was amazing she liked it enough to have her name on the book when it wenty out in paperback,” she says.

Both Susanna and Cath now live mostly in Brighton where the latter was at university but their parents Don and Jean Quinn remain in the town and they both return regularly.

Her second novel, Show Don’t Tell, about a Burlesque performer, will be released next year and work is well under way for the third.