Helen Paris worked in the performing arts for 25 years, touring internationally with her London-based company Curious. But after a decade living in San Francisco, working as a theatre professor at Stanford University, she returned to the UK to write fiction. Her latest novel, The Invisible Women’s Club, is out now (Doubleday, £16.99)

The book I loved as a child

So many! They are touchstones aren’t they, the books we read as children; they stay with us. I loved the fantasy world Norton Juster created in The Phantom Tollbooth; how it pays attention to the ‘oddball’ and tells a story both whimsical and wise.

The book that inspired me as a teenager

I still have my school copy of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It’s dog-eared, hectic with marginalia and totally beloved. It was my introduction to American dream literature by Mrs Duffy, my English teacher, and I was floored by the poetry of Fitzgerald’s writing and how devastating a metaphor can be. It reminds me that teachers, as well as books, are touchstones.

The book I’ve never finished

I’ve started Richard Leakey’s Human Origins several times, with the very best intentions. But something about the weight of the hardback in my lap and the enormity of the task has thwarted me.

The book that moved me most

Most recently it’s Go As A River by Shelley Read – a breath-taking debut about resilience, family and love. It’s one of those reading experiences where you feel you have made a new friend and want to be with them constantly. How the author writes about motherhood and the natural world is extraordinary.

The book I’m reading now

Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead. I have always loved her work; how she manages to be a terrific storyteller and confronts huge issues like colonialism or the environment. This book is heart-breaking, epic, political and completely unputdownable.