While on my desert island recently, I was thinking that it might be fun to bring a writerly perspective to some of the more random, even philosophical questions I’ve been asked over the years. Some are pretty run of the mill; some have personal resonance and most have nothing, specifically, to do with writing. But I think they’re interesting enough to run a series of author interviews in the future. See what you think.
- Have you ever felt tempted to run away from your life and live a different one?
Not now, but certainly in the past. I always wanted to be somewhere else when I was a teenager, but didn’t everybody? I even contemplated becoming a nun at one point. My mother would have been absolutely thrilled if this had come to pass, but luckily I came to my senses. These days I am boringly content, but I sometimes worry that this isn’t necessarily the best situation for a novelist.
- If you emptied your handbag would you find something you’d completely forgotten about, or didn’t even recognise?
Absolutely. A psychologist would have a field day. It’s stuffed with esoteric scraps of my life and most of it is way past its usefulness, or even identification. There’s a beautiful silver face powder compact that my brother gave me for my twenty first birthday, and still in use forty four years later. There’s my most recent notebook, which came all the way from Thailand. There’s a Zippo lighter, but I’ve never smoked. And what’s that dog biscuit doing in there, when I haven’t owned a dog for a very long time?
- Are you any good at keeping secrets?
When they find out I’m a novelist, people seem to view me as some sort of Mother Confessor (there’s that nun thing again), insisting on divulging their innermost secrets as material for the next book. Then they say, nervously, ‘But you won’t use it, will you?’ Of course I will; a gift is a gift, but I’ll play safe by switching the gender, characteristics and names to protect the guilty. Visitors to my house are warned that what they say may be noted and used – a bit like being arrested.
- Why isn’t your bottom spreading with all the sitting down involved with writing?
Trust me – it is. I swim two miles a week to keep it in check. But now it’s given me tennis elbow. In both elbows.
- Bit of a cliché question – what would be your superpower?
Invisibility, so I could watch and listen, unobserved, because, being a Yorkshirewoman, I am very curious. It would also mean I could sit and stare into space as much as I liked without feeling guilty. I am writing… The ability to fly has some appeal, too.
- Have you got a secret ambition, unconnected to writing?
I would have liked to be a concert pianist, but I wasn’t inclined to practice enough. Then I was regressed to a former life, where I was that expert pianist – weird. I would also have liked to be a singer, though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. But isn’t that the beauty of dreams? That’s why I write novels.
- An essential operation will leave you either blind or deaf. You get to choose which sense you keep.
On balance, I’d choose sight. That would mean sacrificing conversation and eavesdropping, but weighed against the loss of reading, writing and observing, it would be the lesser of two evils, for me, at least.
- Why are you so obsessed with punctuation? It’s not really necessary these days, is it?
Just shows what you know! I admit I’m a teensy bit obsessed with the correct use of commas and apostrophes, but with good reason. Where would we be if we didn’t know that a comma in the wrong place changes the sense of the sentence? For example: I’m sorry I love you and, I’m sorry, I love you
- If you had the opportunity to commit the perfect crime and get away with it, would you do it?
I have one in mind but I can’t tell you what it is, or it wouldn’t be the perfect crime anymore. I’m trying to figure out how to write it into a novel without giving myself away.
- Bit random, but, last meal on earth?
Crisp, salty chips (fries) and a glass of lager.
- And, if you could only have one drink (apart from water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Champagne might be nice, but it would have to be tea.