One Minute With: Jackie Kay, poet and novelist

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm in the study of my house in Chorlton, Manchester. Behind me, I can look out out onto a garden area with big rubber plants. There's an exercise bike that gets used when I'm in one of my healthy phases.

What are you currently reading?

An absolutely amazing volume of stories by the Caine Prize winner EC Osondu, 'Voice of America'. In under ten pages he can write something that packs such a powerful punch – gritty, heart-rending, thought-provoking; everything you want a short story to be.

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

Toni Morrison. I loved her early novels – 'The Bluest Eye', 'Song of Solomon', 'Sula' – even before 'Beloved,' which is a complete modern masterpiece. I love the breadth and scope of her imagination. And she treats every reader as if they have the same intellect as her own.

Describe the room where you usually write

Generally I write in my study, but poetry can be written outdoors or on the train. Prose is a sort of indoor thing; it suits the cellar or attic.

What distracts you from writing?

Unexpected people coming to the door. And emails.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Anne of Green Gables – because she's adopted, and felt very different with her red curly hair. She's chatty and loquacious, bubbly – but over-sensitive as well.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

Really varied: old and young; black and white; gay and straight. They often reveal something – I find that quite a privilege.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Paul Robeson. He was multi-talented, just as wonderful as a footballer as a singer and actor. I really admire him for the courage of his convictions... I grew up listening to him. That deep, deep voice – it just slays you.

Jackie Kay's new collection of poetry is 'Fiere' (Picador)