“I can’t stand Virginia Woolf” laughed Rose Tremain, after being asked whether her seminal book about a transgender person, Sacred Country, took any influence from Woolf’s gender-bending classic Orlando.

It was a typically forthright response from Tremain, whose 1992 novel – based around Mary’s transition to become Martin – was chosen as this year’s City Reads book.

Judging by this sold-out talk, which acted as a closing ceremony for the City Reads campaign, Sacred Country has affected many readers since its publication. The long queue of fans waiting for signed copies afterwards was also testament to its popularity and longevity.

Commendably, Tremain was willing to tackle the question of appropriation that hangs over Sacred Country. She acknowledged that now, with trans voices more prominent in the media and arts, there would be heightened scrutiny about a cis-gender woman tackling such a theme.

Such was the author’s eagerness to engage with this debate, she subtly urged audience members to grill her on it after the initial Q & A, hosted by Nicolette Jones, was complete. It was a shame there wasn’t time enough for the crowd to rise to Tremain’s invitation.

Tremain was also interesting when giving insights into the research process behind Sacred Country, from consulting Joan Bakewell to the several trans people who cancelled their scheduled interviews with the writer at the last minute.

Clearly, the thought of sharing their experience with anyone – even a compassionate author – was just too much.

No matter, for Tremain went on to craft one of the most influential LGBT+ books ever written. This was a fascinating glimpse into the dynamic mind of its creator.