The Empire Girls is your second Essex-based novel… does Essex inspire your stories, or do you fit your stories and characters into the Essex backdrop?

Essex definitely inspires my stories. I grew up in Thurrock and love doing local research.

There is so much fascinating local history that I didn’t appreciate or know about before writing my books. For instance the Empire Windrush ship docked at Tilbury in 1948. This inspired part of the story of the Empire Girls, my latest novel.

How long did you live in Tilbury for?

I grew up in Linford – my primary school was in East Tilbury and my grandparents lived there. I lived in Linford until l was in my early twenties. I came back in my early thirties and bought a flat in Westcliff and stayed there for a couple of years. I now live in Kent.

Where is your favourite place in Essex, and why?

I love going to Thurrock Thameside Nature Park. It’s on the river, there’s lots for kids to do and it’s built on a landfill site, which is a lovely example of regeneration.

What is your favourite Essex story or memory?

When we were kids we used to go for picnics at Langdon Hills country park. Once we went home without our black Labrador Paddy. We drove back and he was sitting by a car the same colour as ours waiting patiently for us to come and get him.

What is your earliest Essex-based memory?

My mum used to take us to Chalkwell beach in the summer on the train. Three kids - one in the pram, one on a seat on top of the pram and one in the basket underneath. And Paddy the dog of course!

When are you at your happiest?

When I’m writing.

What are you working on now?

My fourth book, the Tilbury Poppies, it’s due out in October this year. My third and fourth novels are set in World War One, in Essex of course.

How do you think Essex has changed since you grew up?

We were tomboys (although I don’t like that word much), so TOWIE was a real eye-opener.

But places like Coalhouse fort haven’t changed much, so it’s nice to take my children there now and remember it when I was a kid.

What is your secret vice?

A hot bubble bath with a glass of prosecco (or G&T), some nice chocolate, and a good book with NO interruptions. I guess it’s not a secret anymore!

If you could only live in one place where would it be?

Leigh on Sea. A crab roll and half a pint of lager on the old harbour on a sunny Sunday afternoon is bliss.

Who do most admire and why?

I admire people, who, against the odds, fight to achieve something important to them. That’s why in my novels I like to go back in time and give someone a chance who might not otherwise have had one.

What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend. A mindfulness tutor told me that.

Does it feel strange coming back to Essex to do book signings?

No, it’s lovely. I love connecting with local people who remember the times and places I am writing about and Waterstones at Lakeside have been so supportive.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Definitely. I learnt the hard way that I am a planner. I spend months doing research and planning before I write a single word.

What’s your life motto or philosophy you live by?

I try not to beat myself up about trivial stuff. Creativity and adventures can be found in the simplest of things.

How would you sum up the Empire Girls in one sentence?

Against the harsh rules of 1950’s society, a Tilbury girl cast out by her puritanical mother fights to find her way back home.

The Empire Girls by Sue Wilsher is published in paperback by Sphere, £7.99, out now.