Sunday, January 20, 2019

I'll give those pesky questions a go

The Guardian runs columns where they ask famous writers to answer a series of questions I got to thinking - what would my answers be? So here they are.

The book I’m currently reading
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s so good. I discovered her books in an independent bookshop in Collingwood – one of those where staff read a lot and wrote recommendations to attach to the shelves (and they still do, but that shop is gone now). I picked up Pigs in Heaven and later Animal Dreams and never stopped reading her. Everyone says they loved The Poisonwood Bible but my favourite is actually Prodigal Summer.

The book that changed my life
Not one book. Every book I read as a child and teenager that showed me something different, new, exciting and that showed me my life was more than what I was living right then. Even if I didn’t understand how just then.

The book I wish I’d written
Probably The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – not just because it’s a great book but because it was so hard for him, so weird, and he just kept slugging away at it until he found a way to make it work. Such kudos to him, when most people would give up or write something more “sellable”.

The book that most influenced my writing
My first pick here would be The Bone People by Keri Hulme. It showed me very early in my writing that you could write in ways other than the standard beginning/middle/end. I wasn’t up to that then, but I remembered it. In my teens I read a huge amount of crime and historical fiction, including Mickey Spillane and Raymond Chandler, and I think that has influenced me a lot more than I realise.

The book I think is most under/overrated
Currently I would say books that authors co-write with James Paterson (I’ll get criticised for saying that). I’ve seen writers whose work I really enjoy, but their JP novels are boring.

The book that changed my mind
About? Life changes all the time. At the moment I’m reading Seth Godin’s new book about marketing, and that has both changed and confirmed my thoughts on the topic.

The last book that made me cry
Lots of books make me cry, especially if their endings really resonate on several levels. Movies and TV shows do, too. One I remember that made me cry unexpectedly was a fantasy by Juliet Marrillier. And I always cry when I read Fox by Margaret Wild. 

The last book that made me laugh
Janet Evanovich’s books always made me laugh out loud, until I got to about No. 15, and the humour/jokes got tired. Right now, I can’t think of any recently – maybe I read too much crime fiction!

The book I couldn’t finish
I don’t finish more books now than I used to, since I realised how slogging through something wasted a lot of time I could be spending on something much better. I confess at the moment Markus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay is sitting there and I still haven’t got past page 50 and I don’t really know why. I will keep trying, because I love his other books. Oh, I know – Macbeth by Jo Nesbo. Just could not get into it. I’m not a fan of classics rewrites, no matter how clever.

The book I give as a gift
I try to give books as gifts all the time, either ones I have read and think are really good and should be shared, or ones I hear about and think – that would be perfect for X. So the most recent of those is The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands by Huw Lewis-Jones, which I gave to a friend who is a wonderful fantasy writer.

My earliest reading memory
My eldest sister gave me The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis when I was about ten, and it changed everything for me about books – created my addiction, I think!

My comfort read
I’m not sure I have comfort reads. For comfort I tend to watch TV, things like The Great British Bake Off where I can imagine myself baking marvellous cakes (instead of burning them).