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Lydia Syson is a fifth-generation North Londoner who now lives south of the river. Although writing a novel was a very early ambition, it took her rather a long time to get round to A World Between Us. In the meantime, she went from being a World Service radio listener in Botswana to a producer in London, leaving the BBC after her first child was born. Three more children later she wrote a biography of Britain’s first fertility guru,Doctor of Love: James Graham and His Celestial Bed, telling the full story of the charismatic eighteenth-century ‘electric’ doctor. Getting to Timbuktu is still on the ‘to do’ list – explorers, poets and Timbuktu fever were the subject of the PhD she finished in 2003 – but the current humanitarian and political crisis in Mali makes that unlikely for some time. This year’s travels have been closer to home: her next YA novel for Hot Key Books is set mainly on Romney Marsh.