One Minute With: Bernard Cornwell, novelist

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm on the Hammersmith flyover (en route to Oxford). I can see an advert for Kellogg's Cornflakes and the Shot Tower [in Twickenham]. I go to and fro from Heathrow a lot.

What are you currently reading?

Daniel Okrent's 'Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition'. I've always been fascinated by this outbreak of complete madness in American history. It was a one-off, but one day they might try to do the same to smokers!

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

CJ Sansom. I absolutely adore his Matthew Shardlake. He's an extraordinarily interesting and engaging character, and very cleverly written.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's dark red, a bedroom converted into a study. We're right in the 18th-century heart of Charleston, South Carolina. Our house is Victorian, but across the road I can see a house built in 1740. We live on Cape Cod in the summer and Charleston in the winter. I could never go to Florida!

What distracts you from writing?

Almost nothing, when I'm working. The only person I allow to distract me is my wife.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Obadiah Hakeswill [the villain from the 'Sharpe' novels]. No - that's a joke! Otherwise, I'm completely stymied about this.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

Charming and interesting, and full of suggestions. It surprises me how many women there are among them. They tend to be all ages from 12 to 80. In Brazil, for some reason, there's a craze among young people for my books – which is wonderful.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

It's obvious to say the Duke of Wellington, but that's a bit like falling off a log. My heroine would be Nell Gwyn. She would be fun.

Bernard Cornwell's new novel is 'The Fort' (HarperCollins)