One Minute With: Sarah Gristwood, historian & novelist

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

In the garden at home, with a hideously overgrown flowerbed just in front of me. But in recompense, there's a wall of pale pink roses higher than the house off to my right.

What are you currently reading?

I've always got about five books on the go at once. At the moment it's 'English Historical Documents', the 1000-page early Tudor volume... I'm re-reading Jenny Diski's 'Skating to Antarctica', and Margery Allingham's 'The Beckoning Lady' - a very good book for June, and I love classic detective stories.

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

Virginia Woolf, for her combination of lushness and discipline, and bravery. It's like watching a very skillful rider handling the reins of a difficult horse.

Describe the room where you usually write

Our 17th-century house has gone through many incarnations... from estate cottage to village schoolroom. But I write in an end bit tacked on by the Edwardians, when the place was used as a kind of games pavilion for the manor house nearby.

What distracts you from writing?

In a good way, my dog... now we've got Louis the Happy Hooligan, from the local Labrador Rescue. In a bad way, endless paralysing fears about nothing and everything.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

It has to be Eeyore in 'Winnie the Pooh' - wish it were Tigger.

What are you readers like when you meet them?

Terrifyingly well-informed! Because this is a first novel for me, I'm more used to meeting people who've read my non-fiction. [With fiction], I'm definitely still at the stage of being just simply touched and amazed that anyone might want to read me.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

The Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Extraordinary courage, and the resolution to go on making that act of courage over a period of years. And never a touch of self-aggrandisement.

Sarah Gristwood's novel, 'The Girl in the Mirror', is published by HarperPress