One Minute With: Paul Torday, novelist

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

In an office in Newcastle, where I go for meetings. Around me I can see row after row of factories.

What are you currently reading?

'The Hare with Amber Eyes' by Edmund de Waal – a very good read. He has an interesting way of writing about family by linking everything through the collection of little netsuke.

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

I like Proust because he makes you see things in a different way. I re-read him about once every ten years, and much prefer the old translation by CK Scott Moncrieff. Also, people often forget that Proust can be incredibly funny.

Describe the room where you usually write

I have a sort of study that looks out over fields. It has one desk with a big iMac, where I write, and another old desk where I pay all my bills. I have my favourite books in there: Proust, almost all Trollope, the complete works of PG Wodehouse.

What distracts you from writing?

A small brown working cocker spaniel who comes in to give me presents – usually my wife's shoes.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Dickson McCunn in John Buchan's 'Huntingtower'. He sells his grocery business and sets off to have adventures. It struck me as a metaphor for my own weird change of career in my late fifties: from full-time work in engineering to being a novelist.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

Mostly pretty helpful, and quite ready to give me feedback – either positive or negative. I'm occasionally surprised that people under the age of 30 read my books.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

The Duke of Wellington. He was one of those very rare people who could think strategically and, at the same time, had the most tremendous focus on every detail.

Paul Torday's new novel is 'More Than You Can Say' (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)