One Minute With: Marlon James

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

In a sardine-tight flight to Miami. I can see clouds, rivers, the headtops of cities and my naked fear in the laptop reflection (turbulence).

What are you currently reading?

David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. It's my Indian summer of Big Books. William Gaddis' JR is next.

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

Michael Ondaatje. The day after I finished The English Patient I woke up in a sweat convinced that I had dreamed the whole thing. Then I read In the Skin of a Lion and it happened again.

Describe the room where you usually write

In the centre is a desk that I can disassemble in 20 seconds. Frank Sinatra stands guard from a Manchurian Candidate poster on the wall. On the floor are stacks of books I just bought, including Victor Lavalle's Big Machine.

What distracts you from writing?

I don't know where I stand as a writer, but I'm the finest procrastinator of my generation.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Dostoyevsky's The Idiot. I am amazed at how little I know about the world and how much less I know about people.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

Stunned that I have a sense of humour. Granted, I tend to put my characters through horrific degrees of unpleasantness, so I can see why they expect an angry not-so-young man.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

David Bowie. I don't know if I would have made it through my twenties alive were it not for "Rock and Roll Suicide".

'The Book of Night Women' by Marlon James is published by Oneworld.