One Minute With... Kate Williams

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what andcan you see?

I'm at home in my study, and I can look out across the gardens behind and see the trees and the autumn leaves. I chose my house because I loved the fact that there was a really busy road with lots of things to stare at.

What are you currently reading?

My own work. I used to hate reading my old work but now I'm rather fond of it. I quite like going through it in the hope of making it better.

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

I love Cao Xueqin, especially The Story of the Stone. It combines the rumbustiousness of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones with the delicacy of Clarissa. It's amazing to see the shadows of these British 18th-century archetypes in a Chinese setting.

Describe the room where you usually write

The study where I am now – it's completely full of print-outs. I fear I haven't tidied it since 2005. I also love writing longhand on the Tube.

What distracts you?

Paris. I rented a flat in the Left Bank over the summer, which caused a friend to proclaim that I was finally a true writer!

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Anna Howe, in Richardson's Clarissa. She's sensitive and selfless. She's also a supporting actress – and that is how I see my role as a writer, one who helps the great story to shine.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

They're brilliant. I'm always surprised by how many young people there are. I had a girl tell me she was going to Oxford to be like me recently! Very strange, but lovely.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Queen Victoria. Although we imagine her as a dour and dreary matron, she was young, vibrant and determined to win the throne.

Kate Williams's 'Becoming Queen' is published by Hutchinson