What was the last book that you read that you’d now recommend?
The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett. Patchett writes with such truth, lightness, and ease. This book will stay with me for a long time.
Have you read any classics lately that you were reading for the first time?
I took The Fountain Overflows (Rebecca West) away on holiday recently – it had been on my shelf of shame for some time. It’s just an extraordinary book, her writing is spectacular. Surprisingly and brilliantly funny, too, and so accurate about people. I think she has the best use of simile of any writer I can think of.
Do you re-read books? And if yes, what was your last re-read?
I don’t often re-read a whole book, I’ll pick it up while tidying or looking for something else, open it for a quick look and find I’ve read twenty pages, transported. Any Salinger is irresistible, try walking past Franny and Zooey – just try it.
What are your go-to genres?
I’m not a genre reader, I run out of patience when I know the rules, but there’s nothing I won’t read if it appeals. For audiobooks I have different tastes, I love to listen to mysteries and thrillers, they relax me.
What is your favorite childhood book?
There are so many… A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I love it so much, and it’s so precious and real to me, I haven’t seen any of the film adaptations, it’s impossible to imagine it in 2-D.
What books are on your bedside table right now?
Olive Senior’s Dancing Lessons. I love her poems and short stories, but this is the first novel of hers I’ve read. Her writing is beautiful.
Do you bookmark or dogear your page in a book?
I treat books horribly. I turn over the pages, and crumple them as I read, for the pleasing feeling of crushing them. I even make small holes with my nails. I like to see how books have worn, and the scars they bear, other people’s notes in the margins, watermarks that might be tears. So long as the spines bear up, they’re good for it.
What is your ideal reading setting?
By a pool, in a garden, on a sofa, by a fire – so long as I’m comfortable and the light is good. I hate the fact as I get older I need brighter light. I love to read on trains, but don’t often get the chance. The trick is not to be distracted by ones phone. Phones are the death of focus, the death of daydreams.
Tell us about your favorite indie bookstore?
There’s a shop called John Sandoe, just off the Kings Road in London. It’s deceptively big, and completely booklined, floor to ceiling, and upstairs the full-height shelves open to reveal more shelves, filled both sides, like magical walls. It may well be the best book shop in the world.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Childhood insults. Those meted out. My older sister was eloquent and crushing. When one is unable to respond in kind, language, like violence, is all-powerful.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I have never gone on a literary pilgrimage.
Where do you get most of your writing and editing done?
I work in my study every day. Sometimes, if I can’t seem to get anywhere, I’ll work in a café. It can be easier to concentrate when surrounded by busyness, and feeling one should give the impression of working can often produce the real thing. And the bonus of what Jerry Seinfeld calls ‘outside coffee.’
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both. More the former, in that it’s my ultimate motivating force. If I don’t have a book to write, I have no purpose.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
None. I have unproduced screenplays, but I’m lucky enough – so far, and I don’t make any assumptions – to have all six novels I’ve written published. As to leaving this unfinished, writing a book is too hard to give myself the option. I have to finish; it has to be done. If I give up on one, where might it lead? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
My husband reads them first, and gives me an idea, while I tell myself I’m lucky have been reviewed at all. I usually wait a few days before I read them, and sometimes I never do. I’ve found the good ones slip away and the negative phrases stick around forever.
If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be?
“It’s going to be alright.”
When you’re not reading or writing, what are you doing?
Seeing friends and family, walking the dog, not cleaning the house enough, riding the horse I share with my daughter, looking after my elderly parents… thinking about writing.
What are your three favorite things right now?
New socks, clean sheets, and rain (we’re not getting any, and summer is so dry).
Your favorite travel destination and why?
Jamaica. My father is Jamaican, and I have a lot of family over there. I spent holidays there as a child and as the years go by it is more and more important to me, the most beautiful, complicated, wonderful place in the world. Nowhere matches it.
What’s your favorite meal and go-to drink order?
Such a tough question. A dry martini, then oysters with a glass of champagne, then a grilled dover sole with buttery new potatoes, and a simple green salad. Either that or Jamaican patty from the brown paper bag and a cold Red Stripe to go with it. Both are perfect.
What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
I don’t want to meet my heroes, it would be horrible. I would like six articulate, kindly people, one from each century from the 14th to the 19th. I wouldn’t have too many modern things going on, no music over speakers or electric light – nothing to overwhelm them – just a lot of food over several hours, candlelight, and the chance for each era’s representative to share and discover the truths and challenges of their lives. How riveting would that be?
If a movie was made of your life, what genre would it be, and who would play you?
It would be – in my dreams – a witty, beautifully-lit ’40s drama, in the style of All About Eve, and Bette Davis would play me. Or Ingrid Bergman.
What’s the last TV show or movie you watched that was really good?
There’s a lot of good and entertaining drama around just now, but the last thing I saw that was actually transcendent was the Japanese film, Drive My Car.
You have to sing karaoke; what song do you pick?
Honestly, what a horrible idea. It would have to be something I love enough to forget the fear, and everybody else loves enough to sing along with me, and drown me out. Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen.
If you were being taken to a deserted island and could only bring one book, what would it be?
The Brothers Karamazov, in several different translations, so I could drive myself mad comparing them, and trying to understand the secret of Dostoyevsky’s genius.
Last Updated on February 12, 2023 by BiblioLifestyle