Helen Fitzgerald, Glasgow-based author of The Cry, tells Marianne Taylor about the books that shaped her.

Favourite book you read as child

Definitely The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. Like Joe, Frannie and Beth, my childhood home was on the edge of a small town. I used to look out over the bush-filled mountains of the Great Dividing Range and wonder which tree was home to Moonface, Silky and Dame Washalot; and which tree had enchanted lands at the top of it. My sister caught me reading The Faraway Tree the night before my senior high school exams.

First book that made an impact on you

In 1979, when I was 13, everyone at school was talking about Puberty Blues by Kathy Lette and Gabriel Carey. They whispered and sniggered and had long conversations and it seemed to me that the book must be very important indeed. Mum, a literature teacher at the senior school, would have considered it filth, and this made it even more enticing. I never did get my hands on a copy. They must have been scarce in rural Victoria to begin with, but my guess is that a lot of them were confiscated. I still haven’t read it.

Another book that had a huge impact on me is Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge. My husband had a copy when I decided to try screenwriting at the age of 33. I read and re-read the book, making copious notes and doing dozens of rewrites of the screenplay I was working on at the time (which went nowhere). This book made me obsessed with the craft of storytelling – the hook-opening; the inciting incident; the Three Act structure; the screwed-up character who eventually realises what she needs. These screenwriting “rules” are cemented into my brain now, although I do enjoy breaking them.

Which books have made you laugh or cry?

Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner (1894) made me cry. It’s a dark, Waltons-esque tale about the adventures of seven children living in the Australian outback, and their cruel army father Captain Woolcot. The most devastating scene involves Judy, the rebellious child. At a family picnic a tree falls and lands on Judy, breaking her back. She dies with her family around her, and the tragedy changes the Captain into a kind and loving father. The book was such a big deal to my family that we were allowed to miss Sunday Mass - for the first and last time ever - to watch the TV adaptation.

When it comes to laughing, that has to be Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding, published in 1996. I was 30 when it came out and Bridget was a fun and fresh character. I still love watching Renee Zelleweger singing All By Myself in the movie adaptation.

On holiday in Lucca, Tuscany, in 2007, I went into a bookshop with my children. Anna and Joe were young, cute and adoring enough at that time to encourage me to ask the bookseller if she had copies of my first novel, Dead Lovely, which had just come out in Italian. “Hi, I’m Helen FitzGerald”, I said, “just wondering if you have a copy of my book?” The bookseller rushed off, returning a moment later with six staff members, who were now surrounding me excitedly. “Everyone!” she said to her staff, “This is Helen Fielding!” My kids were smiling at me proudly from the children’s section. “Lovely to meet you,” I said.

Favourite character

Mrs Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. My Mum has always defended Mrs Bennet - “She’s just trying to look after her girls!” - and I was never on board till I re-read the book recently. "You take delight in vexing me,” she says. “You have no compassion for my poor nerves… Nobody is on my side…I am cruelly used... nobody can tell what I suffer!"

I’m 53 – probably older than Mrs B! - and I totally get her now. Wish I could magic some HRT her way.

E reader or print?

Print. I love books. They’re all over the house. I don’t understand where they all come from, but they keep on coming.

Where do you like to read?

I find it very hard to sit still, so I read best in places where it is not socially acceptable to do star jumps every few minutes – e.g. on a plane, train, or in a cramped café (ah, for a cramped café). I can write 2000 words in 20 minutes in a dentist’s waiting room (ah, for a dentist).

Last book you read

Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen, the funniest man in Finland. I loved the Finnish setting, meteorite, crime, grumpiness, deadpan humour. I’m not surprised this was a Times Book of the Year.

Guilty pleasure

Unless what you’re reading is harmful to others, I see no reason to feel guilty. My bookshelves are filled with a mix of just about everything. I do have a newfound guilty pleasure, though, and that’s not finishing a book. It’s freeing, but I do feel a little bit naughty.

Least Favourite Genre

Fantasy. My son is a huge fan but I just don’t get all those made up words and names, all those scary creatures. It makes my head hurt and I don’t understand the point of it. It’s a tad like taking mushrooms (I imagine), and I’m too old for that.

Three favourite novels

This changes all the time, so I’m just going for it without thinking: Room by Emma Donoghue; Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris; Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I realise I love them for the same reasons. The women are complex and believable. The stories are personal and tragic; the relationships are central, and span from kind and loving, to miserable, to brutally abusive. The books are also all emotional, scary, tragic and – most important of all - a ride!

Most interesting or unusual use of a book

I fixed my office window just before lockdown, and no longer needed the damp, bent book that had held it open since we moved in. When I removed the book, I realised I had no clue what it was. I’d like to thank Fermat’s Last Theorem for giving me air for 15 years.

Helen Fitzgerald’s latest book, Ash Mountain, is out now on Orenda Books, priced £8.99.