One Minute With: Sarah Dunant, novelist


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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I have come out of a Capuchin monastery in Palermo and the sunlight is blinding after the semi-darkness of the catacombs.

What are you currently reading?

For fun I am re-reading Lampedusa's 'The Leopard', possibly the best historical novel ever written; while for work, Machiavelli's 'The Prince'.

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

I have recently gone back to Emile Zola. The range of his work is astonishing, but he is particularly brilliant on the havoc wreaked by sexual passion.

Describe the room where you usually write

The walls are deep blue and there is a desk near the window.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

If 'Broadcast News' had been a book before it was a movie I would have been the news producer played by Holly Hunter. Vibrat-ing with energy and commitment, she is rather too intense for her own good.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

I suspect, like many people, I have been thinking about the impact that Nelson Mandela has made and how much a light will go out in the world when he dies.

Sarah Dunant's new novel is 'Blood & Beauty' (Virago)