60 Seconds with Sarah Waters
Born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, Sarah studied English Literature at the universities of Kent and Lancaster.
In 1998, her first novel Tipping the Velvet was published and adapted into a drama serial. Her second novel, Affinity (1999) was adapted for television in 2008. Fingersmith (2002) was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the Orange Prize for Fiction.
In 2003 she was nominated by Granta magazine as one of twenty ‘Best of Young British Novelists’. Her novel The Night Watch (2006), is set in London during and after the Second World War. Her latest novel is The Little Stranger (2009), a ghost story, shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
Which was your favourite childhood book?
The White Mountains, by John Christopher.
Where do you write?
In my lovely attic study, with a view of the local gasworks.
Which was the book that changed your life?
Philippa Gregory’s Wideacre – because it showed me how outrageous and subversive historical fiction could be, and got me interested in trying to write it for myself.
What objects are on your desk, and why?
A mess of papers, because I’m untidy. A dirty tissue, because I currently have hay fever. My mobile phone, in case my girlfriend texts me from downstairs to ask if I’d like a cup of tea.
Which writer(s) do you most admire?
Living: Kazuo Ishiguro, Colm Toibin, Cormac McCarthy. Dead: Charles Dickens, Muriel Spark, Angela Carter.
Do you have a word or phrase that you most overuse?
At the moment, in my writing, it’s ‘little’. It used to be ‘rather’, but now everything’s little. I have to keep going through the text and taking it out.
Is there a book you were supposed to love but didn’t?
Harry Potter – though, admittedly, I only read the first one.
What have you learned from writing?
How wonderful the writing process is – but also what torture.
Which book do you wish you’d written?
Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
What will be written on your gravestone?
Life’s short. Have fun.
Are there any books you re-read?
Great Expectations. Jane Eyre. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Not many from the 20th century and later – maybe only Rebecca.
What are you working on at the moment?
A new novel – so new, there’s not really anything to say about it yet.
Which superpower do you wish you had?
The power to heal.
First published in Words with JAM magazine