Where are you now and what can you see?
I'm just outside the American Embassy, where I've been applying for a visa as I'm going to interview Woody Allen in Manhattan.
What are you currently reading?
'Romantic Moderns' by Alexandra Harris, which I love. I'm fascinated by the 1930s. It's a crucible for what happens both during the war and after.
Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him
I like writers who creep up on you by stealth; someone like Kazuo Ishiguro, where you feel you've fallen under a spell. Or in Alice Munro's stories, when the rug is pulled from under your feet.
Describe the room where you usually write
In a Georgian house, on the first floor, and south-facing – so lots of sun. It's an extremely crooked room. I work at a table that's on a slant.
What distracts you from writing?
Frankly, almost anything can distract me. The internet, of course – when you disappear down the rabbit hole of an enquiry.
Which fictional character most resembles you?
When I was was a teenager, I identified very strongly with Antigone in Jean Anouilh's play. I thought: "She is me". But then I decided that she's such a pain in the arse – she's so hard on everybody. Now, I wonder if I haven't become quite like her. She's so demanding of the people close to her.
What are your readers like when you meet them?
[With my novels] I was so touched and surprised when people found things in them that I hadn't realised I'd put there.
Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?
I admire people who excelled at one thing but applied themselves with fantastic discipline to something else. For instance, when I studied Latin and read Horace, I found out he knew so much about farming.
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