I’m a sucker for obscure old gothic novelists from 18th and 19th century like Matthew Lewis, Sheridan Le Fanu and even Anne Radcliffe – no ones did frail heroines running in terror through ruined castles quite like her.
2.Who has had a major influence on your writing?
I had an amazing English teacher at school who really loved books and writing. He was really strict and very demanding but when he read works out he was brilliant. He’s still the best Lady Macbeth I’ve seen!
3.Can you name at least one book that you never finished?
I’m probably the only person in the world, but I couldn’t finish Wolf Hall. OK, I didn’t actually think it was going to be about wolves but I really struggled.
4.What word or words do you always have trouble spelling?
I was always terrible speller. Spell check is such a relief. In I, Wolf Romy’s condition (a real one) was a big challenge - metachromatic leukodystrophy. Myy biggest problem isn’t so much spelling as missing out small words like ‘the’ ‘and’ & ‘but’. My mind’s racing when I write so I charge ahead without thinking and when I edit, they’re so small my eyes don’t register that they’re missing.
5.What three adjectives best describe you?
Depends, I think everyone could lay claim to 100 adjectives over a day. First thing in the morning it’s groggy, hungry and clumsy.
6.Which of your characters would you most like to be and why?
In I Wolf, I think it would have to be Julian, he’s cool, well-dressed and confident (which I’m not) and you never quite know what to make of him. I’d like to be more mysterious.
7.Which author would you invite to dinner?
Authors don’t make great dinner guests. We generally talk to much or not at all.
8.Where do you write?
At home mainly. Sometimes in my little study but if it feels too closed in, I’ll move out to the table in the living room.
9.When do you write?
When I’m on a deadline I’ll write at anytime, but I think I do my best writing late morning, after a coffee. I’m a bit of sprinter. I can’t write for hours and hours, I do lots of short blocks.
10.What makes you happy?
Learning new things and exploring new places fire my mind. I don’t sleep too well so waking up after a great night’s sleep makes me happy and gives me a real sense of achievement.
11.What do you most fear?
Loosing my mental skills. If wasn’t able to play with words I wouldn’t just lose how I make my living, I would lose a huge part of who I am. That and surgical rubber gloves – they send a shiver down my spine.
12.What is your favorite vice?
Bad TV. I can’t get enough of Spartacus... Just how much sex, violence and hilarious ‘romanesque’ swearing can you cram into one hour of TV?
13.What is the quality you most like in yourself?
My face’s inability to lie. A few years ago I helped a friend studying psychology with some experiments where they watched people as they looked as different images to see how their faces responded. I had the most expressive face of all. She warned me not try playing poker.
14.What are the qualities you most like in your friends?
An ability to be silly one moment and serious the next. I also love it when friends remember things I said in the past. It makes me feel valued.
15.Would you be lying if you said your works were not autobiographical?
Absolutely. Even if you’re not writing ‘about your life’ and your life doesn’t involve turning into a vicious beast on a full moon, you always put parts of yourself in your writing - often without even realising. My friends often point out autobiographical bits in my writing that I hadn’t even noticed.
16.What part of your personality do you detest?
My ridiculous ability to worry about stupid things. At primary school I once couldn’t get to sleep because I’d lost my writing pencil and was worried about being told off by the teacher. I only ‘sweat’ the small stuff.
17.What is your favorite adjective?
Today it’s stupendous. I can’t say it without hearing trumpets blasting behind me.
18.What is your favorite book?
Hard to pick one. Of my gothic writers I’d go for Matthew Lewis’ The Monk. It’s about 3 or 4 books in one with some truly bizarre scenes.
19.What book would you read three times?
I think any book you really love in your teens or your twenties should be re-read every 10 years. It’s remarkable how much a book can change over time. It’s amazing how differently you react to the book as life progresses. It is a great marker of how you’ve changed.
20.To whom would you award the Nobel Prize for Literature and why?
It would be a posthumous award to a little known and seriously underrated British writer, Barbara Pym. Her books weren’t exciting, highly stylised or dazzling but she made ordinary people leading unremarkable lives fascinating and subtly made their quiet lives seem so profound. I am in awe of writers who can make their books gripping without the bells and whistles of drama, plot and intensity (all the things I rely on).