Kathleen MacMahon, whose second novel, The Long, Hot Summer, is published on May 21st: “I could make a long list of the mistakes I made in writing that second book. I started writing it too soon, and without a clear enough idea of where I was going with it. I threw too much at it, determined to make this one novel a vessel for everything I wanted to be as a writer.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Do you remember when you were a kid, how from about October onwards, every second person you met would ask you what you wanted from Santa? Every th(...)