Winner of the Lifetime Achievement award at last year’s British LGBT Awards, Sarah Waters is famous for her novels featuring lesbian protagonists, including the iconic Tipping the Velvet, which was adapted into a hugely popular series of the same name.

Currently in the middle of writing a new novel set in the 1950s, Sarah took some time out of her busy schedule to catch up with us ahead of this year’s awards show…

“It’s been a challenging twelve months, but a highlight for me was going on the Women’s March in London in January this year – a reminder that decency beats bigotry every time,” says Waters. As well as writing her new novel, the celebrated author currently has some screen adaptations of her other books in the pipeline. “It’s been fun revisiting these old stories!” she says.

The wordsmith has always been inspired by LGBT authors of the past, such as Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, Patricia Highsmith and James Baldwin. “All these writers worked in climates much more hostile than ours, yet produced memorable queer texts with courage, grace and style,” she reflects. Did she imagine that her first novel Tipping the Velvet would become so well known? “No! So that’s been very exciting. A little mark left on lesbian culture.”

“I think people have to choose for themselves when to do that,” says Sarah of coming out. “But if every person across the world who’d ever had a queer relationship, a queer desire, a queer fantasy, stood up and said so…Well, we’d all be better off. Every time one of us is out, and visible, it makes it easier for someone else to be out and visible too.”

How does she see the state of the world today when it comes to LGBT people? “Many of us have freedoms and rights that we’ve never enjoyed before, while for others life is getting harder and more dangerous,” says Waters. “I don’t think we should ever become complacent about the gains we’ve made here in the UK, but right now a lot of our attention and support, I think, must go elsewhere – to the LGBT communities who are suffering under repressive regimes across the world.”

Sarah is looking forward to this year’s awards show, and says that her win last year was a huge honour. “The night was amazing – full of really inspiring people.”

Anna Nathanson