One Minute With: Bidisha

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm in my study and I can see the same view I have seen for the whole of my life, bathed in sunlight.

What are you currently reading?

The L-Shaped Room by Lynn Reid Banks, and The Women's Room by Marilyn French. The shocking thing is all the issues she was angry about (in the 1970s) are still around now.

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

I have a lot of favourites but I would say Iris Murdoch. Reading The Bell changed my life. I thought "look at what the novel form can do".

Describe the room where you usually write

There are extremely bare walls, a nun-like spare bed and one of the walls is entirely taken up by books. The biggest collection is on medieval history, which is my biggest passion.

What distracts you from writing?

My day job. I work in radio.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Virginia Woolf's Orlando (from the eponymous novel). I like the character's mercurial quality and his sense of frustration with the time he was living in. I like the ambiguity and the chameleon-like quality which I probably share.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

They are split; 80 percent are exactly the kind of young men and women I would love to be friends with anyway... usually metropolitan, cool, sexy and witty. Then there is the 20 per cent of men of a certain type.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

My mother is one. She is a very cool character who has given me a lifelong taste for smart, efficient women. Elizabeth I and Joan of Arc also; anyone who fights the status quo.

Bidisha was on the jury for this year's Orange Prize for Fiction