Lucy Duggan, a self-portrait

I was brought up on Anne of Green Gables, What Katy Did and The Secret Garden. My mother read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights aloud to me and my sisters, including the Yorkshire dialect. The scene in which Heathcliff overhears Cathy saying that it would degrade her to marry him has remained in my mind as a kind of 'room' which I often enter when writing. In Tendrils, the characters of Zuzi and Alena partly grew out of the novels I loved as a child. As they grow up, they each experiment with the strange sense of empowerment and certainty which comes with adulthood.

My childhood writing veered wildly from the banal to the fantastical. I wrote poems about my family, and a meticulous diary (including descriptions of all meals), but also began a novel which involved a boy running away to join a travelling puppet theatre and find his kidnapped mother. As a teenager, I often picked books off my parents' shelves which had eye-catching spines and strange titles. One of these was My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok – another book which has remained extremely vivid in my memory, becoming part of a small library of fictional atmospheres and unsettling characters. Asher Lev is a young man from a traditional Jewish family who wants to be an artist; the climactic scene takes place at an exhibition opening, when he unveils a work guaranteed to shock his parents and change his relationship with them permanently. I think this novel stayed with me because of the difficult questions it asks about what it means for an artist to be "true" to himself or herself – questions which Tomáš asks Ochre relentlessly in Tendrils.

After leaving school, I studied in Oxford, Berlin and Munich, and spent my summers in Moravia. I had an idea for a novel about two girls. In the first shadow of the plot, one of the girls was blind, but she was somehow, subtly, more in control of their relationship. When I was in Berlin, a Slovakian professor told a story about two art students destroying a sculpture. Meanwhile, I read and reread Under the Net by Iris Murdoch, and another room in my mind was opened up by the scene in which Anna disappears, leaving her shoes behind. I wove these disparate thoughts together and they became, for me, a novel about departure and return, about the stifling closeness and unbridgeable distance which can coexist within a friendship.