Book festival organiser Sarah Fairbairn chats to the Walthamstow-based literary star about finding inspiration in the borough…
Waltham Forest resident Sophie Mackintosh is a Booker Prize-nominated author whose “eerie, off-kilter” novels will appeal to lovers of Margaret Atwood and Suzanne Collins.
Her latest book, Blue Ticket, explores questions of choice and freedom, asking whether having your fate decided for you can ever be a relief.
She has lived in Waltham Forest for around seven years – first in Leyton, now in Walthamstow. Having grown up in rural Wales, there’s something about the business and peacefulness of the forest borough that appeals to her. She loves “the amount of green space, and the sheer convenience of having everything you need nearby.”
Mackintosh’s list of favourite local writing spots reflects the spread of great cafés and filling lunches on offer. “Writing requires a lot of sustenance,” she says, as she lists where to get the best bacon sarnie (Lighthaus Café), toasties (Deeney’s in Leyton) and coffee, for which she visits Huck’s and The Hornbeam Centre.
It’s even possible to do some “light” writing with a couple of glasses of wine from Gnarly Vines on Hoe Street, when sitting inside a bar with a drink is possible.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the otherworldly feel of her books, the spooky, abandoned and overgrown structures of Middlesex Filter Beds have been both a discovery and an inspiration for her during lockdown.
Long walks in Epping Forest or Hollow Ponds have offered a place for calm and reflection too, but once shops are open again, Sophie says she’ll be zipping over to Phlox Books on Francis Road, Leyton, where owner Aimée has “the best recommendations” for new reads.
Both of Sophie’s novels, The Water Cure and Blue Ticket, are published by Hamish Hamilton and are available to order from your local bookshop