Tracy Chevalier, novelist: 'Lionel Shriver's The Mandibles is scaring the hell out of me'

The novelist discusses Sarah Waters, Malala Yousafzai, and watching her neighbours in our one minute interview

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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see?

I am looking out of a back window of our house in London, at the overgrown ivy that really needs a trim, and into our neighbours' kitchen, where someone is ironing. I am an inveterate neighbour watcher, and I don't even bother to hide it any more.

What are you currently reading?

The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, a forthcoming novel by Lionel Shriver, who is a friend. It's about the breakdown of the world financially and socially, and it's scaring the hell out of me.

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

I am a big fan of Sarah Waters. Not only does she tell a great story, complete with rounded, complex characters, and unexpected twists, she also writes like a dream. I read sentences and swear under my breath, knowing I could never put together words to such good effect as she does.

Describe the room where you usually write

I write in my study at home. It is small and snug, with a big, curved, dark red formica desk, a window that looks out over the garden, a view of the neighbours, and an avalanche of books and papers at my back.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I wish I were sparky like Elizabeth Bennet, but I suspect I am more like Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility – sensible, well meaning, a little plodding.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

I am pretty amazed by Malala Yousafzai, that after what she's been through she is still friendly, optimistic and hopeful about the future.

Tracy Chevalier's new novel is 'At the Edge of the Orchard' (HarperCollins)