One Minute With: Stef Penney, novelist and film-maker

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm in my sitting room in east London, and outside I can see my filthy car – which is slightly embarrassing. I have a neighbour with a Chevrolet Camaro, which never goes anywhere but is always shiny.

What are you currently reading?

I always have about ten books scattered around the place, but now I'm in the middle of the 'Sea Trilogy' by William Golding, which I absolutely love. It's so much funnier than I expected.

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

JG Farrell. It's some of the richest writing I've come across. He makes history relevant, and creates wonderful characters. And he writes extraordinary set-pieces, which are absolutely hilarious. 'The Siege of Krishnapur' is one of the funniest books I've ever read.

Describe the room where you usually write

In a tiny office, a bit like a garden shed. I tend to follow the sun around, like a cat.

What distracts you from writing?

Not much, when I get going. But until I get going, pretty much everything.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

In a slightly aspirational way, Stephen Maturin [the naval surgeon from Patrick O'Brian's novels]. He's curmudgeonly and secretive. And we're both a devil with a sword.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

They're always good-looking, intelligent and have fantastic taste! Very varied – but I always feel awkward and embarrassed, and don't quite know what to say.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

All sorts of people have done incredible things – but I'd like to check out their personal life before assigning them hero status. So, I would say: almost anyone who retains their integrity and morality and cheerfulness throughout a life.

Stef Penney's new novel is 'The Invisible Ones' (Quercus)

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