Small Talk: Nathan Filer

Nathan Filer was awarded the 2013 Costa Book Award this week for his debut novel The Shock of the Fall. Filer, 33, previously worked as a mental health nurse. In 2005 his short film Oedipus won the BBC Best New Film-maker Award, among other prizes. Filer lectures in creative writing at Bath Spa University and performs stand-up poetry across the UK. He lives in Bristol.

Who is your perfect reader?

When writing The Shock of the Fall, I didn’t have a particular reader in mind. I just thought about what would be interesting to me.

What is the last thing you read that made you laugh out loud?

A book that I read to my daughter: Beastie and the Boys by Matt Harvey and Chloë Uden.

What books are currently on your bedside table?

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, and an advance proof of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton [published later this year].

Which book changed your life?

The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan. I was about 18, it was the first work of his I read and it really resonated with me. I hugely admire him; I think he’s a perfect writer.

When did you know you were going to be a writer?

For many years. I tried to write my first novel when I was seven. It was a gory horror story.

What is your daily writing routine?

I write best late at night. I don’t set a word count that I have to achieve, I just tell myself that I need to sit in front of the computer for a certain number of hours. If all I do in that time is delete words, that’s fine.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching your book?

I went to a local police station and asked to have a look at the holding cells. But mostly I drew upon my own memory and experience.

What do you snack on while you write?

I get told off by my wife as I forget to eat. I live off cups of tea.

Which literary character most resembles you?

Flat Stanley – I’m quite thin.

Which books influenced your novel?

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. And JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye – we all owe a chapter to him.

What keeps you awake at night?

Sometimes, my baby when she wakes up. Sometimes, thoughts of all the work I’m meant to be doing. I’m not a very good sleeper.

When were you happiest?

When my partner and I were doing humanitarian work in Palestine, in 2011.

When do you feel most free?

Probably when I’m asleep.

If you could own any painting, what would it be?

“Swans Reflecting Elephants” by Salvador Dalí.

Which book do you wish you had written?

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. When my wife and I were detained in a detention cell in Israel while trying to go back to Palestine, it was the only book we had. We spent 12 hours reading to each other and it saw us through a very long day.

‘The Shock of the Fall’ is published by HarperCollins

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