You ask the questions

Such as: Jeanette Winterson, have you read Harry Potter - and if so, what did you think?

The writer Jeanette Winterson was born in 1959 in Lancashire. After reading English at Oxford she began working for the producer Thelma Holt at the Roundhouse Theatre in London. Her début novel - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which she wrote at the age of 24 - was snapped up by Pandora, the first publisher she approached. It went on to win the Whitbread Prize for a First Novel in 1985, while Winterson's own adaptation of the book for the BBC picked up a Bafta for best drama. Since then she has written The Passion, Sexing the Cherry, Written on the Body, Art and Lies, Gut Symmetries and a collection of short stories called The World and Other Places. Winterson lives with her partner Margaret Reynolds in Gloucestershire and London.

The writer Jeanette Winterson was born in 1959 in Lancashire. After reading English at Oxford she began working for the producer Thelma Holt at the Roundhouse Theatre in London. Her début novel - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which she wrote at the age of 24 - was snapped up by Pandora, the first publisher she approached. It went on to win the Whitbread Prize for a First Novel in 1985, while Winterson's own adaptation of the book for the BBC picked up a Bafta for best drama. Since then she has written The Passion, Sexing the Cherry, Written on the Body, Art and Lies, Gut Symmetries and a collection of short stories called The World and Other Places. Winterson lives with her partner Margaret Reynolds in Gloucestershire and London.

Your latest novel seems heavily influenced by new technology. How have computers changed your life and your writing? Lucinda Beal, by e-mail Computers haven't changed my life; they've just speeded it up, which I like because I'm a go-faster girl. I've always hated the telephone so e-mail is the perfect answer: communicating at the same rev as thinking means I can get a lot more done. There is no technology that can make any real difference to a creative person - either you are creative or you are not. Tools are great but they are only tools. Ideas and imagination are what counts. That will never change.

What particular quality or qualities make a great writer? Sarah Bates, Cardiff The quality is the same whether it's Shakespeare or Alice Oswald: emotional intensity, pressured through a tough mind. From this collision of thought and feeling comes the language right for its subject. The strange thing is that this rightness is always the product of internal conflict that is painful for the writer but necessary for the work.

How does it feel to be one of the most desirable women writers around? Dawn Ve, by e-mail As long as my girlfriend fancies me, I'm happy.

Who do you rate, and why? Penny Ball, Brighton I like a lot of writers but I get my kicks out of poets: Jo Shapcott, John Burnside, Carol Ann Duffy, Evan Boland and Alice Oswald (who is the most exciting writer I've read for years). I'll always be a fan of the work of A L Kennedy and Alan Garner. But such lists never say what I mean - they're usually misinterpreted. In any case, what I love to do is look at pictures and listen to music. I get a high on art - it doesn't matter what medium.

Inside you, do words sometimes get in the way of feelings? Kyle Brainthwaite, Hertford I don't do the heart/head split. The whole point of being a writer is to find the words for the feelings.

Do you take it personally when a critic dislikes your book? P Mullins, by e-mail My own principle for reviewing anything is to do it only when I can be 80 per cent positive. There's enough trashing and cynicism in the world - why add to it? If someone doesn't like my stuff, fine; they don't have to read it.

Which is your favourite book by Virginia Woolf, and why? Sarah Jackson, London The Waves, because it's written out of hard densities of brilliance.

How much time do you spend surfing the Net/sending e-mails? D Calder, by e-mail One hour, six days a week. Never on a Sunday. God was right - take a break.

Is it a blessing or a curse to have such devoted fans? R Singh, Bedford Devotion is always a blessing. When I do a reading and the place is packed - which it often is - I think, "This is my touchstone. This is what matters: people reading books, wanting books, no cynicism."

Can you describe your actual writing process - ie. where you work, what time you start, how much you do every day? N Symes, Nottingham I never work in a domestic space. I used to work at Ruth Rendell's place in the country. Now I have a place of my own at the bottom of the garden. I need to get clean away and take as much time as the job needs. Linear time doesn't work well for creative things. You have to trust inner time, which has no clock we recognise but which is, nevertheless, totally disciplined. I don't do a certain amount every day - it's not bloody knitting.

Do you travel much? Where's your favourite bolthole? Keiron Dynas, London I travel a lot for work and am published in 24 countries. When I can get away, I go to Capri. It's got the right mix of solitude and razz.

Have you read Harry Potter? If so what did you think of it? Stacey Cummins, by e-mail I haven't got there yet - my godchild is only four. J K Rowling looks pretty gorgeous though.

Do you ever go back to Lancashire? Is being a Northerner significant to you? B Dewbury, Stoke Yes, I pulled into Manchester station recently and it's still bloody raining after 20 years. I haven't lost my accent and I haven't lost who I am - a Northern, working-class girl - but would I live there? No.

Do you get recognised in the street? P Maybury, Kent Yes.

'The.PowerBook', by Jeanette Winterson, is published by Jonathan Cape at £14.99

Comments