HEREFORDSHIRE author Victoria Routledge, who as Lucy Dillon, was the winner of the 2010 Romantic Novelist of the Year award with her second Lucy Dillon title, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, publishes A Hundred Pieces of Me, her fifth title as Lucy Dillon, her 18th since deciding to make writing her full time career.

She was working as a junior editor for publisher Headline when she thought it might be nicer to be on the receiving end of a royalty cheque. “I was sending out cheques that represented 18 months salary for me and decided to give it a try.”

Victoria reveals that this book, to be published on February 27, was “the hardest one to write, though I made it quite hard for myself by coming up with a complicated structure, but it was good to write something that was quite challenging.”

Though not inspired byNeil McGregor’s History of the World in 100 Objects, Victoria concedes that it is that kind of thing. “But it was more inspired by the big renovation on my house in Sutton St Nicholas. It’s really hard to de-clutter your house from a standing start so I packed everything up and put it into storage. Looking at things in isolation it’s easier to decide whether you need them.

“At the same time I read about an American who’d decided to sort his stuff down to 100 essential things, but I felt he was cheating, extending his 100 things to include his family’s stuff.

I thought ‘this is absolutely ridiculous. How do you reduce your life to 100 things?’What do you need to keep that is practical and what do you need to keep that represents the emotional part of you?

It’s an interesting exercise and the character in the book has just gone through a divorce, which prompted thoughts of the arguments people have about who keeps what. What do you take with you and what are you happy to leave behind?

It’s interesting that now my house is finished I’m thinking about what I want to put back. Having empty rooms is just a luxury as an adult, especially as I’m a hoarder.

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A Hundred Pieces of Me is the story of how Gina has come to be where she is. I tried to think of the little episodes in her life, imagine her story and then see in my mind’s eye and focus on the one object she’d keep.

It was an interesting way of getting inside the character’s head and I tried to choose objects that were not completely obvious.

“We’ve all got that pair of sunglasses picked up at the airport as we were going off on a holiday that turned out to be extraordinary – it’ s of ten those ephemeral things.

“I have piles of seashells and stones from home, which look like nothing to anyone else, but they always remind me of sunsets, the wind in my face and being at home.”

I think what’s interesting, from putting stuff back into my own house, is how suddenly you can go from thinking things are completely indispensable to being able to throw them away”

There are things I’ve carted from house to house, clothes especially, and suddenly there’s a point where it’s just a dress.

And that’s sort of what happens in the book – Gina starts making this list of 100 things. Then she moves into a small flat from a much larger house. She gives a lot away and dumps more, then puts lining paper on the wall and writes her list on there.

When she gets halfway through the list, it’s become less about things than it is about feelings and experiences. She stops looking at stuff and feeling sad, and the list becomes more about the perfect cup of coffee in the park and about enjoying the moment and that’s underpinned by the other story arc, about her recovery from breast cancer and appreciating the now and enjoying every moment rather than worrying about the future.

"I think it’s a thoughtful book," says Victoria. "It took me a long time to write and I sweated blood and tears."

It does, she reveals, have a ‘happyish; ending and a romantic element, and is about the three loves of this woman’s life. But it’s very much about Gina falling in love with herself rather than falling in love with anyone else. It’s about being in your late thirties and realising there are still some amazing things to come.”

Victoria confesses she’s chuffed that A Hundred Pieces of Me will be the subject of an interactive advertising campaign on the tube in London, featuring women with drawings of the things they’d keep.

Although her own list won’t appear in the campaign, she reveals that the five things at the top of her personal 100 pieces are her Romantic Novelist of the Year award, her collection of Hardwick sheep ornaments (‘they’re split up in case anyone thinks I collect them’), a lovely big print of an engraving of Paddington station, bought to celebrate her RNA win – “I wanted something to remind me of that moment and it also reminds me of travelling from London to Hereford – I always feel happy coming back from London,”; her two bassett hounds, and family jewellery – “it provides a connection with people and it’s lovely to keep.”