The one lesson I’ve learned from life: Author Lynne Truss says avoid fame – it’s a terrible trap

  • Lynne Truss, aged 66, lives near Brighton, East Sussex. She became famous in 2003
  • Admits that she wasn’t ready to be exposed when her book became a bestseller 
  • Author says she avoids drawing attention on herself because fame felt like being a trap 

Best-selling author Lynne Truss, 66, found fame in 2003 with Eats, Shoots & Leaves, which has sold more than three million copies worldwide. She lives near Brighton in East Sussex.

Two years before I wrote Eats, Shoots & Leaves, my sister Kay died of lung cancer at 52. My sister’s death was a shock to me. I quit my newspaper job as a sports writer, and instead spent my time at home crying.

Kay was seven years older and had never set out to be a writer herself, but I was for ever playing down what I’d done so she wouldn’t feel jealous. I used to get scolded by her for being on the radio. ‘You’ve ruined Radio 4 for me,’ she’d say.

After I had overcome my grief, I was asked if I would present a programme about punctuation and then write a book. It felt reckless. I wasn’t an expert on grammar! People loved it and soon we were selling tens to thousands of copies each week.

Lynne Truss, 66, (pictured) who lives near Brighton, East Sussex, admits she wasn't ready for exposure when her book became a bestseller

Lynne Truss, 66, (pictured) who lives near Brighton, East Sussex, admits she wasn’t ready for exposure when her book became a bestseller

It would have been very difficult to negotiate this if my sister was still alive. She wouldn’t have been happy for me. I feel glad we didn’t have to go through that.

It became a bestseller in the U.S. and in the UK, and I wasn’t ready for that level of exposure. I went on America’s Today Show watched by 50 million people. Looking back, I think I still wasn’t in the best of shape, and my publishers expected a lot from me.

It was strange how much it cost. One day in New York, I went mad in a jeweller’s buying five necklaces costing about £7,000 just because I could. My life changed drastically after my success. But all through it I was thinking ‘When will it end?’, as it was so weird and scary.

I visited a therapist to discuss how to make my skin thicker to help me cope. I realized there was nothing that I could do. So I thought: ‘Just do things that don’t draw much attention to yourself.’

Today I’m writing my Constable Twitten novels, which have been a joy. I can confirm that writing comic crime novels set around Brighton in the 1950s was not a way to earn a living. But it was the right decision. I didn’t like being famous. It felt like a terrible trap.

Murder By Milk Bottle by LynneTruss has been shortlisted for Comedy Women in Print Prize. (