So why Howards End and why On The Landing? I
know you explain all this in the book but could you give us some insight into
where this book came from, how it came about, what inspired you to write it?
Title because my copy of Howard’s End is on the landing and it just sort of fitted. It’ll be a cataloguers nightmare of course. I was wandering round the bookshelves looking for something one day .. I didn`t find it but I kept finding other books, ones I had not read for a long time, not read at all, books which had memories attached to them, of the writers perhaps, the place where I had first read them.. books do acquire their own history. I don`t have any sort of order or organisation to my books in this big house so it became a sort of treasure hunt. Then I started to think about how many stories I could tell after 50 years in the book trade as writer/reviewer/commenter/publisher, and of course reader… but I know I would never want to write a proper autobiography or memoir. The books seem to be my autobiography, in a way so I decided to put at least some of it down. I also realised that piles of new books come into this house – some unsolicited or review copies, but far too many bought, when I already own a lot I haven`t read yet. So I decided to try and spend a year ‘reading from home ‘ – reading only books that are here already, not new ones. I did make an exception of review books, of course – that’s part of my job.The recollections flow, so how easy or difficult was all this and has this book been the pleasurable experience to write that it is to read?
Could there be a sequel, I'm sure you have more books in the loft?
I think there could but I`m always wary of spreading things too thin. If this one sells well they may ask me. Or not. But I`d leave it a year or so and see.
Can you tell us about
your writing day, we do like to know just about everything, pen, paper, laptop,
vintage Remington so don't spare any details especially about the new writing
I don`t have a typical writing day, no routine, no rules. I write when I feel like it, fitting other things round it. I used to be a lark – because I had young children and a school run etc but since the youngest left school, I have become an owl. I often work till 2 or 3 in the morning, but then I sleep in the afternoon. I make notes and do my thinking on paper with a biro but I now write mainly on a laptop. I never typed, never used the old huge computer but a laptop is so intimate and close to one and quiet…. I need quiet. If something isn`t quite working out, I`ll go back to pen and paper though. I work anywhere – kitchen table, on my lap, deckchair… but this year I have acquired a wonderful private space, a restored Cotswold shepherd’s hut, known as the Red Hut. It has been placed at the top of the cherry orchard. It has a little fold down desk, a chair, a box bed, a wooden barrel roof, small windows looking out onto all the views , around, and for winter, oil lamps and a small wood burning stove with a chimney. I am surrounded by fields, trees, deer, hares, rabbits, badgers and foxes and no one knows where I am. There is no electricity, no phone… it’s a magic place.
At this point we
usually ask what writers do when they don't write, can you tell us?
Do you mean, at the end of the day, or when I don`t have a book on the go ? The latter almost never happens, I am always writing something, but in fact I am having a break now till after Christmas, as I have written 6 books without a pause and I`m booked-out. I know what I`m doing next and after that so I can relax. As we speak I am compiling the Village Hall Quiz for the Quiz night I will compere on Saturday – Village Hall Funds. I'm also doing some book stuff – I don`t do book tours now but there are a few interviews, Cheltenham litfest etc. I also do all the usual domestic stuff and walk the dogs. I read. I sleep. I watch Coronation Street. I used to watch The Bill but I hate the new format so I`ve given that up. I eat. I used to play internet poker but it is dangerously addictive so I had to go cold turkey on that one. I sit in cafes and people-watch. And I run a small publishing company. Other than that, not a lot.
Now this is really daft because this question is 'who must we read...which writers mustn't we miss' and you've just gone to a great deal of trouble to write a book telling us that, but can we know a selection anyway and why?
you can`t, why do you think I wrote the flippin’ book ?
Might you start a blog
again and if not could you perhaps please explain why to all those people who
still keep emailing ME to ask where it is, and tell me how much they loved it,
how wonderful it was and how much they miss it...
won`t start a blog from my own website again, but I am about to start blogging
for the Spectator online – they have a thing called Coffee House and I am going
to blog there. It won`t be quite the
same as my old blog because that was quite intimate, this will be more public
but I`ll talk about some of the same things – books, book life, the country and
especially how people who do not live in London think and talk about current
issues – because honestly, in the hothouse that is London – whether
politically, the literary scene, the media scene – they don`t even KNOW there is a
populated world beyond the M25. So I am going to enlighten them.
begin any day now.. www.spectator.co.uk
and go to Coffee House and Blogs. I hope some at least of those who liked my
old blog will join me there.