One Minute With: Francesca Simon, children's author

 

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The Independent Culture

 

Where are you now and what can you see?

At the top of my Victorian house [in North London]. What I can see are the trees and houses opposite.

What are you currently reading?

I have just finished reading 170 children's books because I was judging the Roald Dahl Funny prize. I'm now reading Alice Oswald's poems, 'Memorial', which is extraordinary, and John Lanchester's 'Capital', which is absolutely my kind of book: a big London novel with a big cast of characters.

Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him

Anthony Trollope. I find the way he looks at people fascinating as well as his alertness to what is going on beneath the surface. He helps me, as an American, make sense of British society.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's my office which is bright, filled with books and has a chaise longue which is my favourite piece of furniture.

What distracts you from writing?

Oh everything. Internet, novels, my dog, cooking... the works.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I asked my son and he suggested a cross between Gradgrind ['Hard Times'] and Goneril ['King Lear']! I would say Jo March from 'Little Women' - her passion, her keenness and her sense of not fitting in.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

They range in age from five to late teens, and I'm very touched by their enthusiasm. They queue for over an hour to meet me and say my books turned them into readers, which leaves me overwhelmed.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Stephen Sondheim. I love his work and he completely revolutionised musical theatre. I admire people who broaden an art-form.

Francesca Simon's 'The Sleeping Army' is published by Faber and Profile

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