Groombridge-based writer Sarah Jane Butler studied languages before delving into the world of short-form literature. Her short stories have appeared in literary journals and anthologies, and her story The Swimmer was included in Best British Short Stories 2011. She has twice won the 26 Project Writer's Award, most recently in 2021 for her poem Flow, and has performed her work in pubs, a festival tent and a disused light vessel. Her debut novel, Starling, about a young woman finding her way when her mother leaves the van they live in, is out now in paperback (Fairlight Books, £8.99).

The book I loved as a child

I loved Stig of the Dump by Clive King. It’s such a strange idea, a boy making friends with a prehistoric man who lives in a quarry, but it made complete sense and still does. It’s a lovely meeting of two cultures and full of joy and surprises.

The book that inspired me as a teenager

I endlessly re-read Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. It has doomed love, peril, and powerful, complicated characters fighting for their lives in the Spanish Civil War. I studied Spanish at university entirely because I fell in love with this book’s world.

The book I’ve never finished

It’s been on my shelves for years, but I’ve never read James Joyce’s Ulysses. Maybe this summer?

The book that moved me most

Toni Morrison’s Beloved. It’s a novel about love, slavery and racism in the US and it’s utterly unblinking. I read it when it came out in 1987 and still remember how it devastated me. I’m going to re-read it, though I’m a little afraid of how I’ll feel.

The book I’m reading now

I’m rationing myself to a chapter a day of Christiane Ritter’s A Woman in the Polar Night because it’s so beautifully written and I want to immerse myself in every scene. Ritter spent a year in a remote hut in the Arctic in 1933. Her descriptions of the wonder of this bleak place, the descent into total darkness and the moment the sun returns stay with me all day.