My favorite authors writing today are Jane Gardam and Elizabeth Strout. I’m also a huge fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Trollope, and Mary McCarthy.
2.Who has had a major influence on your writing?
All good writing influences me. For that matter, so does bad writing in that it makes me cringe and scour my own work for infelicities and embarrassments.
3.Can you name at least one book that you never finished?
They’re too numerous to list. Given the amount of research I have to do for my own books, I don’t like to spend my “pure pleasure” reading time on something that doesn’t hold me. That said, books are so subjective that one woman’s mesmerizing read is another’s yawn.
4.What word or words do you always have trouble spelling?
Lose and loose, until my sister gave me a trick for remembering.
5.What three adjectives best describe you?
Driven (about my work)
Passionate (about causes)
Laughable (because of the above two)
6.Which of your characters would you most like to be and why?
I’m not sure I’d like to be Babe in Next To Love. She had a hard time of it. But I do identify most with her passion, sense of justice, and iconoclasm. The other two main characters in Next To Love were based on real women; Babe sprang from somewhere in my unconscious and took over the book before I knew it.
7.Which author would you invite to dinner?
Jane Gardam, because she sounds fascinating.
Mary McCarthy, though I’d be terrified of her razor-sharp mind and tongue.
Much as I love Fitzgerald’s work, I think he’d be a dangerous and unpleasant dinner companion.
8.Where do you write?
I write in two libraries. The New York Public Library has a writers’ room, which is an oasis of quiet and comfort in mid-Manhattan. The New York Society Library, a handsome subscription library on the Upper East Side also has a room that accommodates working writers. For a long time, it was largely unknown, and I confess to loving it that way, but lately it has become more crowded.
9.When do you write?
All day, though often with breaks to have lunch or tea with friends, just about every day except Sunday.
10.What makes you happy?
11.What do you most fear?
Losing the ability to write.
12.What is your favorite vice?
I am addicted to old movies like Dodsworth, Holiday, and All About Eve on television. Though I know the screenplays practically by heart, I still can’t resist watching them.
13.What is the quality you most like in yourself?
The extraordinary friends I’m fortunate enough to have.
14.What are the qualities you most like in your friends?
Wit and humor about themselves; seriousness of purpose about the world.
15.Would you be lying if you said your works were not autobiographical?
There is, of course, a kernel of me in all my books, though none of them tells the story of my life.
16.What part of your personality do you detest?
I’m too judgmental.
17.What is your favorite adjective?
18.What is your favorite book?
The Great Gatsby.
19.What book would you read three times?
Every decade or so I reread The Great Gatsby, Madame Bovary, and Anna Karenina. They are different books at each age.
20.To whom would you award the Nobel Prize for Literature and why?
I can’t answer that, because I don’t believe in comparative prizes for writers, which did not stop me from being over the moon when my book was shortlisted for England’s Orange Prize.