ANNE FINE, the writer of 50 children's books, including Madame Doubtfire, had her sixth adult novel published yesterday.

Raking the Ashes, which she wrote at her home near the River Tees in Barnard Castle, County Durham, is described as a dark comedy that includes a lot of family drama.

It features Tilly, a single girl who lives north of Newcastle and works as an engineer on an oil rig, and her boyfriend, Geoffrey, who has two children from a previous relationship.

Miss Fine said yesterday: "Tilly is a strong sort of girl who believes in telling the brute truth, while Geoffrey is a nice, easy-going amiable chap who stacks up problems and slides into debt.

"They are a complete contrast to each other and, of course, this causes difficulties. But I cannot reveal how it works out in the end as this would spoil the novel for readers.

"The story also involves the relationship of step-parents with children. It can be subtle and difficult, as I know through being involved in that kind of thing myself. I try to show that the secret of good step-parenting is unfailing kindness."

Many of her children's stories have been adapted for television, while Madame Doubtfire was made into a film with Robin Williams.

Several of her adult novels have been optioned by film companies and could be made into movies. Miss Fine regularly gives talks to schools in the area about her writing and encourages new writers through groups.

Raking the Ashes is priced £16.99.