You ask the questions (Such as: Sebastian Faulks, are the sex scenes in 'Birdsong' for real?)

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sebastian Faulks was born in 1953 and educated at Wellington, then Emmanuel College, Cambridge. For 14 years he worked as a journalist, including spells as literary editor of The Independent and deputy editor of The Independent on Sunday. He is the author of five novels, including the trilogy of The Girl at the Lion d'Or (1989), Birdsong (1993) and Charlotte Gray (1998), and has also written a three-part biography, The Fatal Englishman (1996). He enjoys cricket and supports West Ham United. He lives in west London and is married with three children.

Why are so many younger writers still so preoccupied with the two world wars of the 20th Century?

S McKay by e-mail

Because the two wars changed the way we think about humanity. If there were now a scientific breakthrough that meant we could live another 50 years each or that once in your life you could change your sex, the philosophical fall-out would take years to settle. It's comparable. I think we are still trying to understand the implications of the trenches and the gas chambers.

I'm sure your children help you keep in touch with popular culture. So which do you think is better, Pokémon, Pikachu or Charizard?

Peter Strachan, London

Can't catch me that easily. Pikachu and Charizard are characters from Pokémon, the latter evolving into Charmander or Charmeleon. My children are obsessed; my youngest answers only to the name of Hitmonchan. Can't follow it myself, though.

Do you feel any affinity with the Hugh Grant character in the movie Notting Hill?

Tracey Elmbridge, Gloucester

Yes. I lived on Blenheim Crescent, like him, and got lucky with Julia Roberts after I bumped into her on Portobello Road. On the other hand, I would never turn down Emily Mortimer and I have no ambition to wear corduroy.

What happened to your first novel, A Trick of the Light? Is it still in print? Is it any good?

Norman Thomas, London

It has some good bits, but not many. It's out of print and will stay that way. If you're really keen, will direct you to a bookseller in Burlington, Ontario, where you can buy a copy for $950. My advice? Forget it.

When they finally get round to making a film of Birdsong, who will be ideal casting for Stephen and Isabelle?

K Saunders by e-mail

It's "if", not "when". After six and half years under option, it hasn't got far. The actors we originally wanted are too old now. I think Spencer Tracy was our first choice. But Cate Blanchett is pretty much my idea of heaven as Isabelle. Juliette Binoche would be good as Jeanne, though I also like Frances O'Connor (in Mansfield Park, especially). Stephen is the problem. I have not seen a British actor I think would be right. Any suggestions? Write to T Bevan at Working Title.

Why on earth do you support West Ham?

Tom Lywood, Hackney, East London

Historic reasons. But I like them because, as Eyal Berkovic said, they are like a pub side: three hugely gifted, three who can play a bit, and the rest pick-ups from the public bar. They remind me of the teams I used to play for.

Are the sex scenes from Birdsong taken from life?

T Daly, Cardiff

Yes. From Stephen's life, and Isabelle's.

Do you get a kick out of seeing people reading your books on a train or plane? And would you introduce yourself?

S Bentley by e-mail

It has happened to me only once, on a plane from Chicago to Calgary. An old couple got in next to me and took about 20 minutes to settle. Eventually, she said, "Have you got a book?" He said, "Yes, it was very strange to begin with, but it's getting better." From an ancient string bag, he pulled out a copy of Birdsong. He read two pages before falling deeply asleep. He slept through two hours of shattering turbulence caused by storms that closed Calgary airport for a week after our arrival. I did not introduce myself because he was unconscious.

Since you have written a trio of mini-biographies, will you have a crack at a big one? And, if so, of whom?

Sarah Holland, Luton

Definitely not. The Fatal Englishman is a sort of anti-biography. I don't like the form, and I particularly dislike literary biographies where you discover that the Kevin character was based on Geoff, and that the author's poodle appears as Gladys' corgi.