Polly Samson was born in London in 1962. Her father, Lance Samson, was originally from Hamburg but came to London in 1938 on the Kindertransport. Her mother, Esther Cheo Ying, is the author of Black Country to Red China, a memoir that moves from Shanghai to Dr Barnardo's and back to China where she became a Major in Mao's Army.
In the seventies the family moved first to Cornwall, then Devon. A solitary child, Polly began writing and illustrating stories and poems from an early age. Eventually, after many attempts, a story about a lonely badger won a Blue Peter badge. It was the high point of her childhood. There were few high points at school and she was eventually asked to leave the sixth form of Newton Abbot Grammar School after which she spent a year working as a telex operator for a clay company.
At eighteen she moved to London and at her grandmother's insistence got a job in publishing. Eighties publishing turned out to be a world she loved and thrived in and at the age of twenty-four she was appointed to the board of Jonathan Cape.
In 1988 she met the writer Heathcote Williams and they had a son, Charlie, and moved to Cornwall. She started work as a freelance journalist writing features for the Observer, Guardian and the Sunday Times as well as weekly book reviews for the Daily Mail. For more than two years she wrote a weekly column for the Sunday Times. Her short stories have appeared in the Observer, You Magazine, the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Express Magazine and the Guardian Weekend magazine as well as being widely anthologized and broadcast on BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio Scotland.
Polly Samson's first collection of stories, Lying in Bed, was published by Virago in April 1999 and was picked as a "Book of the Year" by both Susan Hill and Cressida Connolly. Her first novel, Out of the Picture, was published by Virago in April 2000 and was short-listed for the Authors' Club first novel award. Perfect Lives, Polly Samson's second collection of stories, published by Virago in October 2010 was a Sunday Times Fiction Choice of the year, was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize and was read on BBC Radio 4. The story Ivan Knows was shortlisted for the VS Pritchett Award. In 2011 Polly wrote the introduction to Daphne du Maurier's The Doll and Other Stories. She has been on the judging panel for many literary prizes including the Costa Novel of the Year Award and the overall Costa Book of the Year.
In 1993 she co-wrote, with David Gilmour, the lyrics to seven tracks on Pink Floyd's The Division Bell. The album went to number one on both sides of the Atlantic.
Polly Samson and David Gilmour married in 1994 and she became stepmother to Alice, Clare, Sara and Matthew. Their sons Joe and Gabriel were born in 1995 and 1997 and their daughter Romany in 2002.
In 2006 she again collaborated with David Gilmour and wrote lyrics for the album On An Island which went straight to number one in the UK and Europe, and reached the top ten in America. She also sang harmony vocals on one track and piano on another, and her appearance playing piano on the Jools Holland Show in 2008 was an experience, she says, almost as thrilling as getting that Blue Peter badge.
Polly Samson wrote the lyric to Louder Than Words on Pink Floyd's The Endless River which reached the top of the charts in 2014. Her latest novel is The Kindness.