Flora Fraser, 53, has written historical biographies of Emma Hamilton, Caroline of Brunswick, the daughters of George III, and Pauline Bonaparte. She is the daughter of the late Conservative MP Sir Hugh Fraser and the historian Lady Antonia Fraser, and the stepdaughter of Harold Pinter. She is a judge for the Costa Book of the Year 2011, to be announced on January 24. Fraser lives in London with her daughter, Stella, 24, and her sons, Simon, 13 (currently at boarding school), and Tommy, 12. Mornings I wake up at 7am and have breakfast as soon as I get up. I have the same breakfast everywhere in the world: coffee, grapefruit juice, blueberries and brown toast with honey, no butter. I don’t even like honey but I’ve convinced myself that it’s good for me. I’m glad to say Tommy doesn’t like very much beyond a fried egg and cereal but at the weekend there is heavy pancake-making with bacon and fried eggs, not something I like but I make them very happily. I take Tommy to school at 8am then either I walk Jay Jay, our labrador, or I go to work for four hours. Work is in my bathroom. It’s the perfect office because no one comes in. I have a notice (pictured) that I put on the bathroom door and when it comes off, it’s a bathroom again. At the moment I’m writing a book about George and Martha Washington called Portrait of a Marriage, so I’m quite intensely in the 1760s in Virginia. Ambition I remember longing for a fireman’s helmet when I was around six years old. Being a fireman was a keen ambition, but then it faded. And then I wanted to be a writer until my teens, when I didn’t want to do what so many of my family did, so then I thought I’d become a barrister. While I was still at Oxford I married a barrister [Robert Powell-Jones] and I didn’t like him being so ahead of me in the game, so I went back to being a writer. Growing up I grew up between London in the term time, because my father was an MP, and Inverness-shire in the holidays. My favourite painting is of him standing by a river in Scotland, by a Welsh painter called Olwyn Bowey, done around 1970. I think it’s very good. It captures him. Growing up in the Highlands you could enjoy all that biography of Robert the Bruce, William Wallace and Bonnie Prince Charlie. It was all very romantic. Then I grew up a little and learnt about things that were less romantic, like the Highland clearances and how unspeakable Bonnie Prince Charlie was, which came as rather a shock. I don’t go up to Scotland any more. Only for family funerals. Desk If the house was burning down I would have to save my desk (pictured) at which I’ve always written, which would be rather cumbersome. I love every inch of its walnut veneer. It gives me huge pleasure. It came from a shop in Portobello Road. When I was 22, my first husband, Robert, and my mother paid half each. Periodically, back and neck specialists tell me that I’m working at completely the wrong angle. I compromise by getting a frightfully good chair while the bad desk remains. Invitations To celebrate each new book I have a party in New York, and my friend Cathy Graham, a graphic designer, makes amazing handmade invitations. I wrote a book about 18th-century princesses, and each person received one of these invitations (pictured). In the middle of the dinner table she created a beautiful centrepiece with Sindy dolls dressed up in 18th-century ballgowns. We all said it should have been put in the Met. Bracelet This bracelet (pictured) is my most treasured piece of jewellery. It was given to me for Christmas three years ago by my sister Natasha [Fraser-Cavassoni]. I call it my power bracelet because I could knock someone out with it. I love jewellery. Although I love certain fashion designers, such as Dolce & Gabbana, Lanvin and Oscar de la Renta, I would give them all up to wear great jewellery. It’s an index to people; I can tell a lot about someone from the jewellery they wear. iPad I have an iPad that I use when I’m in bed. I love it. I’m very much PC and Windows, so just having an iPad with all that freedom is wild. I don’t actually read on it. It’s complete frivolity. I go on Net-a-Porter to think about clothes I’ll never actually buy. My credit card is nowhere near me when I’m browsing. Printer My real joy is my printer (pictured). I love it to death. There is a fan site for this specific printer, the HP1200. It prints like fury, just black and white, and it’s so silent. It’s such a nice piece of machinery. I got it about 10 years ago. Apparently you can’t get it any more, but on this fan site they tell you ways of making it work again when you think it’s completely failed. I’m terribly worried it’s going to die and every so often I panic and go on eBay to see if I can get another one. Music I never put music on and I find the radio a distraction. I’m not anti-music, nor am I neutral on music, like John Major is neutral on peas, it’s just not an instinct to listen to it. I’m very good at reading against the noise of the TV. I can tune that out without a problem but if there’s music on I can’t concentrate properly. Exercise I walk Jay Jay and I do yoga and I swim. A friend and I are rather keen on this exercise called Aquafit, which is so funny. It’s aerobics in the pool. As long as I never have to run, ever. That’s my idea of hell. Purple pen I write only in purple pen (pictured). A few other people have the same thing, like AN Wilson. I don’t mind people taking other pens but I’m quite unhinged on the subject of people using my purple pen. I try to keep them close to my person for fear that someone else might use them. I’ve got so many odd habits; I’m always looking for constants in an ever-changing world so I can get very focused on needing to have 50 purple Pilot pens. I become obsessed with trying to acquire all the Pilot pens in the whole of Notting Hill Gate. Tears I cry a lot. I cried last night over a book. I cry in films, too. The first time I saw Gone with the Wind, I went with my friend Alex Shulman when we were about 12 or 13. I started crying when Bonnie fell off her pony and I didn’t finish crying until after the film had ended. We were unable to leave the cinema because my sobs were so great. Finally people started coming for the next show. Like Celtic gloom, I think there’s a sort of Celtic gaiety about tears; you’re enjoying yourself even though you’re crying. It’s really important to cry.