One Minute With: Attica Locke

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm standing in my den [in Los Angeles] and I can see a big ash tree in my back yard.

What are you currently reading?

Two books at the same time - Fatima Bhutto's memoir, Songs of Blood and Sword, which I am just beginning, and The Promise, about Barack Obama's first year in office. I'm writing a novel so I'm reading non-fiction only.

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

Larry Brown, who has just passed away. He was based out of Mississippi and the reason I love him is because he wrote about the American South with a great deal of compassion, and without mockery.

Describe the room where you usually write

The walls are mauve and there's a cheap Ikea pine table. On the desk is a big fat thesaurus, dictionary, pens, cups, and there's a board on which I try and map out my novels, which my three-year-old daughter has discovered and since used for her artwork.

What distracts you from writing?

The internet and blogs.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I'm a cross between Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird - I had that wide-eyed admiration for my father who was a lawyer - and Jay Porter, the main character from my novel, who I am more like than I wish I were.

What are you readers like when you meet them?

The ones I am most touched, tickled and moved by are the ageing political activists who have adopted me.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Dr King, but not for the postage-stamp reason. I appreciate being able to vote and do all those things which the Civil Rights movement enables me to do, but I'm talking about a reason beyond that: his philosophical commitment to non-violence.

Attica Locke's Orange Prize-shortlisted novel, 'Black Water Rising', is published by Serpent's Tail