One Minute With: Ruth Rendell, novelist

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm sitting in my house in London and I'm looking at my emails. I can see my gallery railings with French windows down below. There's an extremely handsome cat walking about in my garden.

What are you currently reading?

I'm starting Peter Mandelson's memoirs, but I can't tell you anything about it because I'm only three days in. I'm also reading a marvellous novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad , published a few years ago, by Debra Dean.

Choose a writer and say why you like him/her

My favourite book - The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford, which I have read about 20 times - is different from my favourite author, who is Iris Murdoch. I find her books exciting and unputdownable. Her characters are so carefully studied and indepth; I love that.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's at the top of my house so I climb 58 stairs to get to it. It was originally a bedroom. It's small and it doesn't have a desk but two large tables, a photocopier, printer and two filing cabinets. I'm a very tidy person but that room is always untidy.

What distracts you from writing?

I don't mind being distracted. I don't want to sit there in utter silence and type. If the phone rings, I usually answer it, speak for a few minutes and return to writing, or go for a walk in and out of the rooms. I don't mind a break.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I would find it impossible to say as I don't know how people see me, I only know how I feel.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

They are very nice, and gratifying to meet.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside liteature?

Desmond Tutu because he appears strong and funny and for me, it's essential to be witty and amusing. I feel like that about him when I see photos of his lovely smiling face.

Ruth Rendell's latest novel, 'Tigerlily's Orchids', is published by Hutchinson