Despite juggling motherhood with working as an English teacher, Sabrina Broadbent has found time to write two acclaimed novels and sign her first film deal. KAY MURRAY talks to the Crouch End author about her marriage to film director Michael Winterbottom, school life and her third novel

"When people used to say I'm going to write a novel', I'd say God, I'm not. I've got nothing to write about'," laughs Sabrina Broadbent.

But Ms Broadbent did find something to write about, in fact, she is about to write her third novel, You Don't Have to be Good, and has been awarded a grant from the Arts Council England - the national development agency for arts - to do so.

The money has allowed Ms Broadbent to take a year out from her job as an English teacher at Hornsey School for Girls, in Inderwick Road, Crouch End, to write the novel.

"It's paradise," she says. "I came back from holiday for the first time this year and didn't have a job."

"This is the gap year I never had when I was 18. The grant is an incredible opportunity for me to escape the treadmill for a year in order to devote my energies to writing. It's scary too, though, because for the first time since I was 21, I shall be without the safety net of a salaried job, but I figure if I don't take the plunge now, I never will," she adds.

The 49-year-old decided to write her first novel, Descent, after taking a creative writing class at Jackson's Lane in Highgate.

Her efforts won her the WHSmith Raw Talent Award in 2002 for the book's first chapter, beating around 13,500 other contestants.

"Until then I'd never won anything in my life, it felt fantastic," she said.

The award enabled Ms Broadbent to get an agent, who encouraged her to finish the book and helped her sign a two-book deal with publisher Chatto and Windus.

Descent drew on her 13-year marriage to the father of her two daughters, acclaimed film director Michael Winterbottom - whose films include Road to Guantanamo and 24-hour Party People.

"I didn't really set out to write a novel, I was writing about a situation," explains Ms Broadbent.

"I was writing about a woman who got to that point in her life when everything seems to be collapsing."

Although Ms Broadbent admits that being married to a film director had its perks - like visiting the Cannes Film Festival each year - she said that increasingly her husband's life became more and more out of kilter with her own, and eventually the strain began to tell, leading to their split.

Her insight into the movie industry may, however, help her write the screenplay for Descent, after she recently sold the film rights to the novel.

You Don't have to be Good will complete a trilogy, starting with Descent, about intimacy and work-life balance. A Boy's Guide To Track And Field was the second in the series.

"You Don't Have to be Good is about a woman in her fifties who has stayed in an unhappy marriage for her children and, just at the point when she thinks she can be free of childcare and her dull job, her mother gets ill," says Ms Broadbent.

But why, despite her new found status as an author, has she opted to continue teaching?

"You know when you've done a job for that long, there comes a point when you start to think, I'm not sure I have got very much more to tell people on this subject', but on the other hand, it's one of those rewarding jobs and I love the kids even though they drive me mad sometimes," she explains.

Her love for her students appears to be mutual. A reader's review on Descent on internet bookshop comes from one of her former students, who writes of Ms Broadbent: "I found her to be an extremely intelligent and witty individual as well as a truly excellent teacher."

Becoming a respected figure in a job in which many can find themselves an object of hate is no mean feat, but Ms Broadbent seems to have it all worked out.

"You have to have a genuine passion for your subject and try to remember what it was like to be in school yourself and, actually, that most of school is deadly boring, which is no fault of the teachers, but there's just so much of it, and the day is long and routine," she says.

But remembering what it is like to be in school is something Ms Broadbent may wish to forget, for the next year at least.

"The school has very kindly kept my job open, I couldn't have done it otherwise. So I shall go back there, unless I find that I've written a blockbuster in which case I'm not sure," she chuckles.