1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
My favourite characters aren’t necessarily heroic… just ones who I can’t get enough of. Leopold Bloom. Sabina in Spy in the House of Love. Every character in Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet—the Nessim’s mother. The old sailor, Clea. The whisky priest in The Power and the Glory. The narrator of Duras’ The Lover. Thomas Fowler in The Quiet American.
2. What is your most treasured possession?
A silver letter opener in a flowing abstract shape I’ve use every day since I bought it as a teenager.
3. Which living person do you most dislike?
Either of the Koch brothers.
4. What is your greatest fear?
The loss of the biosphere. It’s such a beautiful, fragile web. The planet will survive, but life on it, the plants and animals… looking pretty dire.
5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
The life of the imagination.
6. What is your greatest regret?
Having been so attached to being romantically gloomy and difficult as a young person. I could have had a much sunnier and more fulfilling life early on if I hadn’t been so damned Byronic.
7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
Things end so badly for most of my favourite chararacters… I’d say it would be fun to be Queen Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream. But that’s not a book… probably Wart (later King Arthur) in The Sword in the Stone.
8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
9. What is your favourite journey?
Moving very slowly through Italy, spending days and weeks in places, off-season, drawing and painting.
10. What is your favourite quotation?
Look up—the hawk will not be walking in the road.
11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
I love dogs but I live with a cat. I’m getting used to him, and vice versa.
12. What do you most value in a friend?
13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
Like a mother choosing among her children, I like them all for different reasons. I like the one that’s difficult because it’s harder for others to see its merits. I like the one that’s most approachable because it’s nice to be popular. I like the one that’s still a baby, because there’s no knowing what it will do in the world. I like my first one because I waited so long for it to be born.
15. What are your favourite names?
It so depends on the purpose. Is this a character name? Then it has to be appropriate, memorable, have connotations for me. A name I’d pick for my own child? I prefer a conventional name, on the long side, spelled conventionally. (For myself, I might like a name like Sunshine or Rain or Marigold, but for an actual child, I put “Dr.” in front of it, to make sure it’s got enough gravitas to go wherever she or he would want to go.)
16. What do you do as a hobby?
Read, paint, draw, go to museums. Travel. Dance crazily to a variety of music all by myself.
17. Which are your three favourite books?
- The Alexandria Quartet (four books… oh well.) by Laurence Durrell
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
While I’m writing.