One Minute With: Louisa Young, novelist
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Friday 16 December 2011
Where are you now and what can you see?
I'm in a Portuguese café in the Uxbridge Road [in west London] – and on the television I can see a football match in Portuguese.
What are you currently reading?
As Far As I Remember, a memoir by the judge Sir Michael Kerr – the brother of [children's author] Judith Kerr. I'm reading about Berlin before the war.
Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him
Dostoyevsky. I love the sheer lunacy and humanity of his stories and his people. They seem utterly unconstrained by any of the things that constrain the rest of us. The one I really love is 'The Brothers Karamazov.'
Describe the room where you usually write
It's enormous, and very popular: the British Library (Humanities 2). I've been writing there since it opened.
What distracts you from writing?
Which fictional character most resembles you?
Nancy Blackett from [Arthur Ransome's] 'Swallows and Amazons'. Head pirate!
What are your readers like when you meet them?
Hard to say, as I've done so many different types of books: for a long time they were all ten. I see them through a mist of gratitude; I'm so glad that they've read the books. [With 'My Dear I Wanted To Tell You'] they say that they cry, and feel a bit outraged about war. I'm all in favour of that.
Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?
I'm very keen on my ancestors: they wrote a lot and so I know what they got up to. My great-uncle Geoffrey [Winthrop Young] lost a leg in the First World War with an ambulance brigade that he founded, which saved 100,000 lives. Before that he was a reporter on the Western Front. Later he climbed the Matterhorn using a prostehtic leg of his own design.
Louisa Young's 'My Dear I Wanted To Tell You' (HarperCollins) has been shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2011
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