Where are you from?
Who are your favorite writers?
Jose Saramago, William Golding, Virginia Woolf, H E Bates, Stefan Zweig, Raymond Carver, Muriel Spark, Studs Terkel, Peter Conrad, Laurence Sterne, Wilkie Collins, Italo Calvino, William Faulkner, Hilary Mantel
What are your hobbies and outside interests?
Skiing, movies, photography, walking, preferably in very remote places, anything to do with Italian food
What is the single best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
Don’t be afraid to start writing: just spread it all out on the kitchen table and start joining up the paragraphs. Muriel Spark, a friend and mentor when I was living in Italy. AND Craig Raine, also a friend and mentor: Relax, and think subconsciously.
What is your favorite quote?
“Truth, truth, nobody’s daughter, jumped out of the boat and into the water.”
What inspired you to write your first book?
The people who kept telling me ‘that’s an old story’ and advised me not to write it (on the largely untold story of the CIA’s covert programme of cultural warfare during the Cold War).
Where do you write?
In a shed under a chestnut tree in a garden in Oxford. The falling chestnuts hitting the roof in autumn keep me awake.