Q Why do you write?
I write because I can’t do anything else. I haven’t been able to stick at any other kind of work.
Q Describe your favourite writing space.
In the quiet of the night or the small hours, with the sound of waves breaking on the beach behind the house, that’s when the best small ideas come. Other times when my mind works is when I’m watering the garden or cooking something that’ll go well with a drink afterwards.
Q Do you have a writing schedule?
I put in four straight hours in front of the computer, typically 9pm to 1am, six nights a week. More during the closing stages of a book. I write fairy tales mostly by day, though, and don’t know why.
Q Ever struggled with writer’s block?
Perpetually. Writing comes hard. I’m neither particularly imaginative nor very
handy with words, so when I get a vague sort image in
my mind I have to struggle to clarify it enough to write it
out, and then polish up the writing a bit.
Q Do you keep a diary?
I’d like to, but generally run out of steam after two or three days of it. Given up after perhaps the twentieth attempt.
Q Best piece of advice you’ve ever got?
Keep it simple. Write from the heart.
Q What inspires you to write? Do you have a secret trick, or a book/author that helps?
What helps most is some bits of John Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel, which he wrote while he was working on East of Eden. He describes the sluggishness of his mind and his struggle with words, his struggle to spell Buddha right, and the ghastly effects of meeting an editor. Thinking about these helps me get over my own severe feelings of incompetence.
Q Coffee/tea/cigarettes — numbers please — while you are writing…
A couple of cups of coffee, and tea by the litre. I quit smoking in 1995, but still feel the urge occasionally.
Q Which books are you reading at present?
Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher thriller. William Buck’s Ramayana and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.
Q Who are your favourite authors?
I have many favourites. Some are Roald Dahl, H.H. Munro, John le Carre, Martin Cruz Smith, Stephen Hunter, John Sandford, Lee Child, Ernst Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Robert Pirsig and Stephen Hawking.
Q Which book/author should be banned on grounds of bad taste?
Swami Chinmayananda’s translation of the Ashtavakra Gita. He never learnt the difference between wisdom and flatulence.
Q Which is the most erotic book you have read?
Tough question. I don’t read erotic books, though some of the books I read have lots of eroticism in them.