Small Talk: Linda Grant

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Linda Grant was born in Liverpool in 1951. She studied English at York and then became a journalist, writing a column for the Guardian from 1995 to 2000. Her first novel, Cast Iron Shore (1996), won the David Higham First Novel Award. When I Lived in Modern Times (2000) won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and Still Here (2002) was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Grant has also written three non-fiction books. Her latest novel, The Clothes on Their Backs, is out this month.

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

The Meaning of Sunglasses: A Guide to (Almost) All Things Fashionable, by Hadley Freeman.

What books are currently on your bedside table?

Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman which I’m rereading; The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street by Charles Nicholl; Anita Brookner’s The Latecomers.

When do you write?

Within 40 minutes of waking up. You’re closest to your unconscious state at that time.

What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?

My mother told me, “a good handbag makes the outfit.”

How many words do you write per day?

I don’t aim for a certain number and I never check at the end. I write until I start writing drivel, which is usually around noon.

Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party?

Donna Karan, the fashion designer.

What are you scared of?

Falling. Confined spaces. And I’m a hypochondriac so I constantly think I’m going to die from some awful illness.

What keeps you awake at night?

Insomnia. And I wake in the night from very vivid dreams.

When do you feel most free?

When I sit down in the morning and I’m a third of the way through a novel that’s going well.

Who would you choose to play you in a film about your life?

Helen Mirren.

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

A Lucian Freud called “Interior at Paddington”.

Which literary character most resembles you?

I can’t think of anyone literary, but I feel like the songs of Joni Mitchell are about my life.

What is your favourite place?

Tel Aviv.

How do you cure writer’s block?

I walk down Bond Street and look at the clothes.

Can you remember the first novel you read?

Hugely precociously it was Crime and Punishment, when I was 13.

What makes you cross to read?

Novels about nothing.

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