Miriam Toews, novelist: One minute interview

'An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine is a beautifully strange and thrilling novel'

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm at the Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver, BC. I'm looking at the Pacific Ocean. I can see nine huge tanker ships in English Bay. I'm transfixed by them. I'd like to visit one but people here say no, that doesn't happen. They're very still, just waiting and waiting for days to unload their cargo at the port. Only 17 of them are allowed in the harbour at once and I've been counting them regularly.

What are you currently reading?

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. It's a beautifully strange and thrilling novel about an old woman who lives for books.

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire her/him

Fernando Pessoa, because he's not afraid of death.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's my dining room in Toronto. It has big glass doors that lead out to a dilapidated deck. It's painted orange, my favourite colour, and has three photographs of the things my kids wrote on our washroom walls back in Winnipeg, and a beautiful drawing of a Hungarian woman in traditional dress, made by my friend Shary Boyle.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

George Milton from Of Mice and Men. He has a lot of hopeless plans. And he gets angry, often, but he loves hard.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

My mother, Elvira Toews.

Miriam Toews' latest book, 'All My Puny Sorrows' is shortlisted for The Folio Prize and the Wellcome Book Prize. She appears at The Folio Prize Fiction Festival today and tomorrow at the British Library: www.bl.uk/folio-festival