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One Minute With: Armistead Maupin, novelist

Where are you now and what can you see? I'm on a train on my way from London to Liverpool and there are English fields flying by the window and the sun is coming out. It's a milky view of an England that doesn't change.

What are you currently reading? Alexander McCall Smith's 'The Charming Quirks of Others' and Christopher Isherwood's diaries from the 1960s. He was an old friend of mine so it's like having him back for Christmas.

Choose a favourite author and say why you like her/him I would say Christopher Isherwood again because of the clarity of his voice and ever present wit. I have re-read 'A Single Man' many times, just to remind myself what beautiful writing looks like.

Describe the room where you usually write It's a garret at the top of my house and it overlooks a forest. There are a few books there but it's relatively pristine. I don't have a view from where I write. There's a studio couch where I can conk out.

What distracts you from writing? Facebook, occasionally television shows, walking the dog.

Which fictional character most resembles you? I don't identify with fictional characters. I've been trying most of my life to identify with myself!

What are your readers like when you meet them? They are generous, kind, emotional, and many identify with the mistresses in my work. There's a lovely, familial feeling in the room when I go to readings. It's pretty evenly balanced in Britain between gay and straight.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature? Ian McKellen because of his generosity, and his complete willingness to sacrifice his time to the causes of gay rights, which is utterly inspirational. At the moment he is travelling around the schools of Britain telling kids they can live their lives honestly and openly.

Armistead Maupin's novel, 'Mary Ann in Autumn' is published by Doubleday