One Minute With: Catherine Alliott, novelist

Friday 15 July 2011 00:00

Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm sitting in the little courtyard outside the kitchen, looking up at the hills and the forest. We live at the edge of the Ashridge Forest on the Herts-Bucks border.

What are you currently reading?

I've started 'The Finkler Question' [by Howard Jacobson] – it's making me laugh already. And I've just finished Debo Devonshire's 'Wait for Me'. I love the way that generation faced adversity. They would slip on a smile and have a pink gin.

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

JD Salinger – not necessarily just 'The Catcher in the Rye', but everything else as well. I love the short stories – witty, sharp, perceptive. I find him something of a comfort read if I'm feeling a bit fragile.

Describe the room where you usually write

I write in longhand, so I can work anywhere. In the summer I tend to write outside with a notebook, in a deckchair with a flask of coffee. In the winter it will be in my study, on a rug by the fire.

What distracts you from writing?

Horses that need exercising – we have three here. Dogs that need walking. Children ringing on mobiles.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

I think in terms of mothers these days, and I'm trying hard not to turn into Mrs Bennet [from 'Pride and Prejudice']. I'd rather be like the mother in [E Nesbit's] 'The Railway Children' – calm and serene.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

Completely sweet and polite; interested and enthusiastic – just really lovely.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Ellen MacArthur. I'm not that wild about the sea. The idea of sailing round the world on one's own is just jaw-droppingly brave. I prefer an estuary on a calm day.

Catherine Alliott's new novel is 'A Rural Affair' (Michael Joseph)

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