One Minute With: Helen Dunmore, novelist


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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm in my workplace and looking out at a band of storm coming in over the Mendips.

What are you currently reading?

A new edition of some of Coleridge's poems, introduced by James Fenton. I've been writing a story about Coleridge so I've been dipping into the poems over and over again.

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

Derek Mahon because of one particular poem which I love called 'A Disused Shed in County Wicklow'. It's very searching about the human condition and very political in a non-polemical way. It has a wonderful music, that's the main thing about it.

Describe the room where you usually write

The key thing is the view. It's very high up and you can see for miles and miles – probably about 12 miles in both directions. When I think of where I work, I think of what I see.

What distracts you from writing?

Distraction is all to do with avoiding starting, but once I've begun I'm very hard to distract. It's a question of prowling around the work before settling into it.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I'd like to say it is some wonderful heroine but no, I think it's Mole from 'The Wind in The Willows'. He's not very adventurous but then he goes on a great adventure, he loves his friends - he is slightly ridiculous as well. We'd all like to think we were grand fictional characters but probably it's our absurdities which are the most characteristic things about us.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

Meeting children can be moving as they completely give themselves to the story... adults hold back a lot more.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

The older I grow, the more I admire the everyday heroes - the people who never really receive applause but endure great difficulties with fortitude and grace.

Helen Dunmore's new children's novel, 'Stormswept', is published by HarperCollins Children's Books