One Minute With: Louisa Young, novelist


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The Independent Culture

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?

Human existence.

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