Where are you from?
That is a hard question for anyone, isn’t it? England, certainly.
Who are your favorite writers?
Depends on my mood. I still love Tolstoy, but if I were his editor I’d be telling him to make some cuts these days.
Which book/books have had the biggest influence on your writing?
I had a marvellous English teacher in my teens, who singled me out, piled my desk with books, and read John Milton, Alexander Pope, and Jane Austen to me aloud. He even took me to see Shakespeare on stage (a long drive to London from my English village – he was so tired after work that he slept through each performance before solemnly driving me home). He has been dead for years, but I have never stopped thanking him.
What are your hobbies and outside interests?
Told you: work! But that means people, Russia, conversations and books, libraries (love ‘em), chaotic suppers with impromptu guests, and then a lot of long walks in muddy boots.
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
A good first draft is a wasted opportunity.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Anger, probably (but it was a long time ago). I am still stunned and horrified by the things people do to each other in the name of politics. But these days I tend to write because I want to find things out for myself.
Where do you write?
In my cluttered study in Oxfordshire at an ancient oak table that belonged to my grandmother.