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Laura Lippman, 53, was a newspaper reporter for 20 years, including 12 years on The Baltimore Sun. Her first novel, Baltimore Blues (1997) introduced Tess Monaghan, a reporter turned private investigator who has featured in 10 more books. Lippman has won several awards for mystery and crime fiction, and is the author of a further seven novels and a short story anthology. She lives in Baltimore with her husband David Simon, creator of the TV series The Wire, and her two children.
Who is your perfect reader?
Two real women: a former schoolteacher and a former librarian. I am writing for super-fans, who read up to seven books a week and can typically figure out the big twists by page 50. I think to myself, “Why would they continue reading?” That is the person uppermost in my mind.
What books are on your bedside table?
How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran; Austerlitz by WG Sebald; Divas by Rebecca Chance; Broken Harbour by Tana French.
What book changed your life?
Lolita. I read it for the first time when I was 12 because I heard it was really dirty. It has allusions to Edgar Allan Poe and it actually plays by the rules of a detective novel.
When did you know you were going to be a writer?
I don’t have a moment when I knew I was going to be a writer but one day I realised that I was. I thought, “I’ve been supporting myself exclusively as a writer since the age of 22 – I guess I’m a writer.”
Who are your literary influences?
Anything I read between the ages of eight and 20 because that’s when your mind is really sponge-like. I began reading Philip Roth as a teenager, and I loved dirty novels by Jacqueline Susann [Valley of the Dolls]. And any book about girls who want to be writers, such as Little Women.
What is your daily writing routine?
I set a minimum goal of 1,000 words a day. If I can hit that, I can write a book that year. I believe in creativity and moments of inspiration but when those things aren’t there, you still need to sit down and write. That’s something journalism teaches you.
Which literary character most resembles you?
I think of myself more as being that archetype in movies, the snappy, dry-witted actress who played Doris Day’s best friend.
What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?
I sat up all night and waited to see the anonymous visitor who used to come to Edgar Allan Poe’s grave every year in Baltimore. He would leave behind three red roses and half a bottle of cognac, the symbolism of which is not clear.
What would you go back and change?
I would have liked to have never gone on a diet. I’m 53, I have been dieting since I was 13, 40 years of my life. In February I decided I was done with it. I am just so happy to get off that carnival ride.
If you could own any painting, what would it be?
René Magritte’s “The Human Condition”. It’s a scene through a window and it’s hard to tell where the painting ends and real life begins. To me, that’s the writer’s life.
What book do you wish you’d written?
AS Byatt’s Possession. It is so many books in one: a romance, an adventure, an academic satire, a detective story.
What does it mean to be a writer?
It means showing up every day, getting some words down. If you don’t do that you’re not a writer. It’s all about execution.
Laura Lippman’s latest novel is ‘The Innocents’ (Avon Books, £6.99).