Below you’ll find a series of links to interviews and book sites that should fill in any information you can’t find here. In company with most writers, my life is far less interesting than the ones my heroes lead – I walk the dogs, take my daughter to school, clear up the breakfast dishes, occasionally hack away at the garden when it makes getting in through the back door impossible…but mostly I try to concentrate on writing.
When things get desperate and weeks have passed where every day consists of distractions followed by more distractions (house insurance, parking tickets, festivals, school visits, dentist appointments, google), I sneak off to the Suffolk coast, where a lack of internet connection, telephone, TV and radio makes working a lot easier.
I heard the mystery writer Donna Leon on Front Row, and was extremely pleased to hear that she has no idea whodunnit in her detective novels when she starts them. Like her, I’m a proponent of the ‘voyage of discovery’ method of writing, ie, a leap into the void with no idea where I might end up. It’s nerve-wracking, but perhaps less the brave choice than the lazy one. I’ve always admired writers with the discipline to plan out a book before they start it. If only I could do it.
Sometimes my characters surprise and infuriate me with their independence (‘why did you involve first cousins in a sexual relationship?’ is a question I get asked a lot. My answer is that I had no idea that’s what they were going to get up to when I invented them). I’m sure my characters think of me with approximately the same exasperation that my daughter does, wishing for a bit more guidance (‘you call this a plot?’) and far greater continuity skills (my Dutch translator sent an e-mail recently expressing surprise that butcher shops in England were open on Sundays. Oops.)
I’m always interested to hear how other writers manage to get from A to Z, whether they plan, or wander, or – heaven forfend – do what Will Self does, and base a book on thousands of little yellow post-it notes covering his office walls. I don’t even like to contemplate the logistics of all that. Philip Pullman, whom I admire greatly, writes longhand. Sally Gardner, a friend and fellow-North Londoner, needs a fair amount of translation of her writing, being dyslexic.
Some writers pare down from 500,000 words to something the average reader can lift, while I consider myself lucky if I can manage to hit 50,000, and have to stifle a tendency to add lots of unnecessary description just so it’ll eventually add up to a proper length book.
My office, for anyone who cares about such things, is tiny and cluttered and filled with wires and dust, papers that need to be filed, teetering piles of books . I know exactly where everything is, despite the fact that it takes at least fifteen minutes to find anything. I depend far too much on memory, which means at least once a week I wake up in the middle of the night remembering something I should have done last week.
I support Barack Obama for president of the United States. My favourite colour is a kind of Japanese grey-green. My favourite animal is a llama. The best movie I’ve seen in ages is The Lives of Others, and I love sushi, and films by Kustirica, Kurasawa, and Kieslowski, which I swear is a coincidence.
That must be plenty of information for now. I won’t put an e-mail address on because the last thing I need is more distractions. But if you’ve got a question you really desperately need answered, write to me care of Puffin, and I’ll definitely answer. If I don’t, it’s probably because I put it out with the recycling by mistake, so please forgive me in advance.