First thing: The way they start their day 15. Michael Dobbs author, lives in west Dorset

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The Independent Online
I generally wake up between 6.30 and 7.30am, but if I'm late, there's always the possibility that one of my kids will bring me up a cup of tea to get me going. They're always up before I am, and my wife, 'o-Sel Nyima, will probably be off seeing to her horses by this time. After that she will probably be in her office, because in March she will be ordained as a Buddhist lama, and she's having to do a tremendous amount of work for that.

I then have to have my cup of tea, my bowl of muesli, and then my shower, in that order - otherwise I'm not fit to participate in human life. I have an old-fashioned shower which sends a great deluge of water down from the ceiling, and that's always very invigorating - much better than these modern showers, which tend to be far too delicate.

In winter, one of the first jobs is to light the wood-burning stove, which the kids will help me with. We'll bring in the wood, throw it on the stove and light it, and the kids always fight over who's going to be the one to light the match. Slowly, the house will fill with the pleasant smell of wood smoke. It's an old farmhouse, parts of which date back 350 years, and the scent of a wood fire is essential to the character of the place.

It's always chaos when we get up, because we have three dogs, all of whom go wild to be fed, while at the same time the children - William, who's nine, and Michael Joe, who's seven - are getting ready for school. The postman, too, always comes between 7 and 7.30am, and so there's always plenty of action first thing. But there may also have been a lot of action during the night, because we live right in the heart of the countryside. The nights, unlike in London, are pitch black, unless there's a moon, and there are always noises, usually of animals hunting - the screams of owls, of foxes, and of rabbits being torn apart. One of the more interesting things in the morning is to wander around the garden and see where the buzzard has caught the rabbit, or where badgers have been digging.

I always listen to the Today programme on Radio 4, and I find I'm often dashing out of the shower in indignation at or with enthusiasm for something I've heard. There are days, however, when I refuse to have anything to do with the news, and I will listen to a local radio station which has nothing but music. I very rarely read newspapers first thing in the morning, too, because newspapers are only delivered a third of a mile away at the bottom of the lane, and it requires quite an effort to go and get them.

If I'm going to be at home all day, just before lunchtime I may go to the gym, or for a run, and so I shall be putting on a track suit when I dress. On the other hand, if I've got to go into London, as I do very frequently, I will dress differently, trying to decide if I'm being a semi-political figure that day, or an author - whether I should be wearing a suit, or something rather more colourful.

As soon as I've come downstairs, I will go through the post, which is usually a foot high. I wear a number of different caps - I have a political hat, and I do a lot of public speaking, as well as being an author - and so the post can comprise a number of different items. But if I'm working on a book, I don't want to be disturbed with that, so I will get straight into my office and start writing. I will have gone to bed the previous night thinking of what I will be writing the following day, and so the only thing that really matters to me is getting to the computer and getting it done. But, at around 11am, it becomes very important to me to take a break, and go through the whole process of making a good cup of tea. And, by that stage, I reckon I ought to have done at least half a day's work.

Michael Dobbs's latest novel, `Goodfellowe MP', is published by HarperCollins, price pounds 16.99.

Interview: Scott Hughes