One Minute With: Stella Rimington, novelist

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm in north London, and I can see my patio front garden which, at the moment, contains some splendid blue agapanthus flowers in pots.

What are you currently reading?

[As chair of the Man Booker Prize judges] I've just read 138 novels and I'm about to start reading 13 again! You do get a certain sense of literary indigestion. But I'm looking forward with satisfaction to re-reading the long-list.

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

Dorothy L Sayers: I really like her characters, particularly Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey. I also enjoy her plots, which are comparatively simple but described in great detail.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's in Norfolk, an attic at the top of an old courtyard building. You get there by crouching under the beams. I have a view of a tidal river.

What distracts you from writing?

Family. I have five grandchildren I love to be with, who visit at times that suit them rather than me. And being chairman of the Man Booker Prize!

Which fictional character most resembles you?

Harriet Vane, because she's thoughtful and analytical. Things happen to Harriet, but she likes to analyse them rather than reacting in a hysterical way.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

Varied. A lot of my female readers are very enthusiastic and get involved with my character [MI5 officer] Liz Carlyle. They take quite an interest in her life.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

I don't go in much for heroes and heroines – but Winston Churchill, because of his capacity to use words to inspire people. I remember queueing to see his lying-in-state [in 1965]. It was a really important moment for people of my generation.

Stella Rimington chairs the judging panel for this year's Man Booker Prize. Her latest novel is 'Rip Tide' (Bloomsbury)