What is your favourite thing about writing?
My favourite thing about writing fiction is the sensation, when it’s going well, of inhabiting another world and other bodies; of living more than one life. It’s exhilarating and terrifying because you have no idea where you are going or how long it will last. My favourite thing about writing poetry is the sensation, when it’s going well, of making something fine; finer than I’d ever hoped I could. In the best of all possible worlds, both these sensations happen simultaneously and that, right there, is my reason for living.
But there are lots of other things I love about writing that keep me going even when I’m not in the zone. I love sharpening pencils, for example. I love having an excuse to make endless cups of tea. I love going for walks with my dog Toby because we both need a break from sitting, for God’s sake, and then finding that the impasse is resolved after about a half an hour of chasing squirrels and admiring my neighbours’ gardens. I love not needing an excuse to buy more books. I love not having to dress up to go to work. I love having articulate friends. I love writing on napkins in cafés and on in little notebooks on trains. I love doing cryptic crossword puzzles and playing Scrabble and reading Roget’s Thesaurus and calling such activities “research.”
Good thing you didn’t ask me what I don’t like about writing however, because there are just as many things I could list there! For instance, I don’t love that look on people’s faces when they ask you what you do and you say you’re a writer and they want to know if you’re famous because of course any good writer would be famous, right? I don’t like the loneliness, and the endless waiting when you send stuff out, and the lack of money. But you didn’t ask, so I won’t answer.
What do you think readers would be most surprised to learn about you?
I’m really funny. But so far that hasn’t made it into my books. I don’t know why. It may be that my humour is a defense against feeling the kinds of things I let myself feel in my writing. Or it may be that my humour is just too improvisational to merit transcription.