Anthony Horowitz: 'I'm phobic about dying in the middle of writing a book'

Interview,Adam Jacques
Sunday 23 October 2011 01:08

Ian Fleming has had a huge influence on me I always loved the Bond books and the films were a major event in a rather boring childhood. But Roger [Moore] was in that role far too long; he was 57 when he finished playing it. Then, in 1999, I had this thought: wouldn't it be great if Bond was a teenager? My wife asked me, "Why are you writing another children's book? All they do is frustrate you." But I knew it was the right idea at the right time.

I'm only every really happy with a pen in my hand, thinking up stories I use the same old-fashioned nib pens that Dickens, Hardy and Trollope used; these writers didn't need [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs to help them produce their work. I like being part of that tradition, the physicality of writing, feeling the scratch of pen on paper, and experiencing the solitude.

A children's author on a soapbox is not a pleasant sight but I have become drawn into issues, slightly unwillingly, relating to young people, literacy and youth justice: just look at the number of young people we have locked up in prison, and the uselessness of it. And there's the CRB [Criminal Records Bureau] checking [vetting authors for school visits], which was a disastrous policy brought in by the last government and is still hanging round with us even now. The Coalition has promised it is going to dismantle this absurd legislation, but hasn't done so, and it does annoy me.

Authors have odd relationships with their creations They owe their fame and fortune to their characters but feel enslaved by them. Hergé drew a picture of Tintin standing over him with a whip; Ian Fleming tried to kill Bond twice, but was persuaded at the last not to. But look at those books: they get worse as they go on. I was determined to finish my series before I felt that; nine [Alex Rider] books is enough.

I'm more of an optimist than I used to be I believe that, by and large, people are good and everybody you meet is more likely to surprise you in a positive way than in a negative way. When I visit youth prisons, even the kids that have done horrible things are capable of good. My wife tends to be more pessimistic – and is often proven right.

I fear dying in the middle of a book It would be so annoying to write 80,000 words and not get to the end. I'm phobic about it. So when I'm writing a book I leave messages all over the house for people to know how the story ends, and then someone can finish it for me.

I have several habits and they're all bad I have a fear of opening mail, in the belief that once opened, it will bring bad news. It's totally irrational, but I end up leaving letters untouched for months. I don't have that problem with email, thankfully. I also don't like hanging up coats. I'll put them anywhere but on the coat rack – even on the floor.

There's nowhere in the world like Orford Ness, Suffolk, when it's windy and rainy It's wild and empty and there are no tourists or holidaymakers. The sky is huge and the light is extraordinary. I love walking there with my 13-year-old deaf and blind dog; he won't be around for much longer.

Red traffic lights are a conspiracy to stop people enjoying themselves when they drive around London. Sometimes when I'm trying to leave the capital for the weekend, it feels as though there's a plot to keep you penned in: road works in one street, a permanent red light in the next, a traffic jam in the third, so you can't actually go – they're not going to let you. I think it's probably the mayor doing it.

Anthony Horowitz, 55, is a novelist and screenwriter. 'Scorpia Rising' (Walker Books, £6.99) is out now (

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