One Minute With: DJ Taylor, Novelist and biographer

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see? I'm standing in my front room at home in Norwich. I'm staring at a drawing that Marc Boxer did for one of the Anthony Powell novels – an unpublished front-cover illustration that I managed to buy from a London picture-dealer around 16 years ago.

What are you currently reading? The last book I set down was Thackeray's 'Pendennis' – which I'd been re-reading because it's the Thackeray bicentenary this year, and I'm writing a big piece for the 'TLS' about how different he is from Zola or Balzac.

Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him John Cheever. I'm convinced that the creators of 'Mad Men' – which I think is absolutely brilliant – have been reading Cheever. You could draw a Venn diagram to connect them.

Describe the room where you usually write A conventionally book-lined study. This house was built around 1898, and on the top storey are two maids' rooms. My wife Rachel [Hore, the novelist] has one study and I have the other.

What distracts you from writing? Domestic routine and, this weekend, watching my 11-year-old play sports: football, cricket, athletics...

Which fictional character most resembles you? Any one of the embittered hacks in 'New Grub Street', George Gissing's astringent vision of the late-Victorian literary marketplace.

What are your readers like when you meet them? "All sorts and conditions of men" – and women. Extraordinarily various. But: if you strew your books with allusions that you hope more sophisticated readers will detect, then some of them go mad and detect allusions that aren't there.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature? In public life it is the Labour MP Frank Field, for his maverick qualities. He has undeviatingly followed his own moral line.

DJ Taylor's new novel is 'Derby Day' (Chatto & Windus)