One Minute With: Philippa Gregory

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm sitting in my study in a small farmhouse in the NorthYorkshire moors, and out of the window I can see this enormous shoulder of moorland hill.

What are you currently reading?

On my desk is Jonathan Bate's [life of Shakespeare] Soul of the Age, and Edward O Wilson's Biophilia. I have a tremendous affection for animals, and he argues that humans have a propensity to bond with other species.

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire them

EM Forster. Because of a restrained, small-scale subtlety that opens up into an enormous emotional truth.

Describe the room where you usuallly write

My study. I have a map of England on the wall, with the sites of battles marked, as I've been working on what are called the Wars of the Roses.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

If it's a posh literary lunch, you get the middle-class audience. But if it's a free event in an American library, it's younger and more ethnically mixed. Once the whole front row was young Latino women with babies.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

One of my own characters: Hannah Green in The Queen's Fool. She's a very bookish girl who loves reading, And she meditates on how to be a woman: there are many ways to be female.

What distracts you from writing?

Walking the dog – and I do like to visit my ducks and hens. The phone rings all the time – there's lots of business when you're in a publishing cycle.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Nelson Mandela. The only person I can think of for whom one has undiluted admiration.

Philippa Gregory's 'The White Queen' is published by Simon & Schuster.