First Impressions: Sandra Howard

SANDRA HOWARD was one of the leading fashion models of the 1960s and has just had her fourth novel published. She is married to the former British Conservative Party Leader Michael Howard, and they have three children. They live in London and Kent.

What are you working on at the moment?

My fifth novel, which will be semi-autobiographical, although as fiction, both contemporary and as flashbacks into the 1960s, my contact with Sinatra – who became godfather to my eldest son – the Kennedys, Jack and Jackie and brother Robert, as well as all the experiences I had as a photographic model at a very creative time.

When were you at your happiest?

Now. I have so much to be thankful for: my children, a settled, wonderful relationship – and I love what I do.

What is your greatest fear?

Writer's block.

What is your earliest memory?

Age three, cutting round a square in my little tartan skirt; it was wartime, the height of clothes rationing, and my poor mother was in misery.

Who has been your greatest influence?

My husband of 37 years; he keeps me up to the mark...

What do you most dislike about yourself?

Inefficiency, terrible timekeeping, my missing mathematical gene.

What is your most treasured possession?

Presents made by my children.

What trait do you most deplore in others?


Do you have a fantasy address?


What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My legs, boobs, fine, flimsy hair – I could go on...

What is your all-time favourite book?

Tess Of The d'Urbervilles: I read it in my teens, and it has stuck with me, with all its pathos and desperate frustrations.


What is your favourite film?

Doctor Zhivago: it has everything – an extraordinary love affair that transcends all the sensitivities; the fact of being outside Zhivago's marriage. It is historical, harrowing, powerful, a tremendous story, beautifully filmed. And although Rod Steiger plays quite an unpleasant character, I always found him immensely attractive (something my husband has never understood). Not that Omar Sharif, in the starring role, wasn't as well...

Your favourite record or piece of music?

Any Beatles album and Mozart.

Your favourite meal?

Breakfast – I could eat eggs in all sorts of guises three times a day. I love porridge, croissants, marmalade, grapefruit...

Who would you most like to come to dinner?

Al Pacino. He is an original, and I just drool every time I see him in those tough, hard-man roles. I've met quite a few politicians; I hugely admire some of them, especially Aung San Suu Kyi. But having seen Pacino's intense, gritty performances, to know how seriously he takes the theatre and the hard times he went through to stay true to his acting beliefs, I think he would be the most electric dinner companion and a thrill to meet.

Which historical character do you most admire?

After Churchill it would be Martin Luther King.

What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?

I've forgotten – or at least chosen to forget.

Do you believe in aliens?


What is your secret vice?

Eating homemade jam by the spoonful.

Do you write thank-you notes?

Yes. Though they can be quite challenging: the need to make them a little off-beat, not too much of a checklist or essay.

Which phrase do you most overuse?

'I'm really sorry I'm so late...'

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

A quicker mind.

What would you like your epitaph to say?

She muddled through.

Ex-Wives by Sandra Howard (Simon & Schuster, £7.99), is out in paperback now