Born in Trinidad, Monique Roffey is an award-winning author of several books, including six novels. Her memoir, With the Kisses of his Mouth (2011), traced a personal journey of mid-life sexual self-discovery. Her most recent novel, The Mermaid of Black Conch, won the Costa Novel of the Year 2020 and was shortlisted for several other literary awards. Set in a tiny Caribbean village, it features a fisherman whose surprise catch turns out to be a beautiful young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid. Monique Roffey appears at Aye Write this week.

Favourite book you read as child?

All the Nancy Drew mysteries excited me (female agency) and then all my brothers’ Willard Price books enraptured me (adventure).

What was the first book to make an impact on you?

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I loved it and still do: an orphan/outsider up against the world, a mean family, and yet she gets the man. I love it despite the Creole madwoman …who I don’t like.

Which book made you laugh or cry?

I was obsessed with Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin in my 20s; those books made me laugh and cry.

Who are your favourite literary characters?

I’ve always loved the monster, made by Dr Frankenstein, in Mary Shelley’s book, Frankenstein; and I love Fevvers in Nights at the Circus, by Angela Carter: a tall, queer, winged character, a circus freak; also Queequeg, in Moby Dick. I fall for characters who are monstrous, loners, outsiders and yet who posses charisma and power and who are heroic. That's my type of character.

What’s your least favourite literary genre?

Literary fiction isn’t a genre, it's a whole different type of book and we often see various types of genre mixed in. Mostly, I dislike overtly romantic sagas which feel very pre the emancipation of women. Rape culture exists in them as well as a general lack of agency for women.

Which book do you wish you’d written?

Bear, by Canadian author Marian Engel. I’m reading it now. It’s perfect. [Originally published in 1976 and recently reissued, it tells of an isolated librarian's unusual relationship with a bear.]

Which book do you think is overrated?

I dare not say, as the book has sold millions and I know the author.

What’s the last book you didn’t finish?

As above. I dislike it when an author has a political agenda and is trying to give the reader a lesson, or so it feels.

E-reader or print?

I never read e-books.

Where do you like to read?

In bed.

What was the last book you read?

English Pastoral: An Inheritance by James Rebanks [about his Lake District family farm]. That's my kind of book, big time; I love books which write about place, ecology and landscape. Also it's a memoir and I love them too: Rebanks is a shepherd.

Do you have a favourite novel?

No. I just read too widely and for too long. My favourites keep swapping all the time. But on the list would be books by Angela Carter, John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison, Jean Rhys, Ursula Le Guin and William Golding.

What's your favourite non-fiction book?

The Worst Journey in the World, by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, who stowed away on the Terra Nova on Scott’s last fateful voyage. It’s a brilliant, true and tragic adventure story and I love it.

What's your favourite Scottish book?

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark is a masterpiece, character-driven and yet it's a political narrative too, without trying to teach us anything. It’s also funny. Miss Jean Brodie is so likeable and yet awful.

What’s your guilty reading pleasure?

Social media. I read far too much of it. It’s a total waste of good reading time.

What do you hope readers will take from your Costa-winning novel, The Mermaid and the Black Conch?

I just want readers to fall in love with my characters and feel a sense of commonality and connection with them. Black Conch, while being unique and specific, is also a small everyday place; St Constance is a village like any other in the world ...

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey is published by Peepal Tree Press, £9.99. Monique Roffey will be appearing at Aye Write, Glasgow’s Book Festival Online, along with Leone Ross, to talk about Captivating Caribbean Fiction on Friday, May 14 at 6pm. All-access Festival Passes (£50), Individual Tickets (£5) available at

Full programme details at