Small talk: Louisa Young

Louisa Young’s first book, A Great Task of Happiness, was a biography of her grandmother, a sculptor and the widow of Captain Scott. Young’s debut novel, Baby Love, was nominated for the Orange Prize in 1997, while her most recent book, My Dear I Wanted to Tell You, was shortlisted for the 2011 Costa Novel Award.

Born and brought up in London, she read history at Cambridge and began her career as a journalist. She co-writes children’s books with her daughter, under the pseudonum Zizou Corder. Their Lionboy trilogy is now published in 36 languages. Young lives in London with her partner and daughter.

What books are currently on your bedside table?

Memorial by Alice Oswald; As Far As I Remember by Michael Kerr; Into the Silence by Wade Davis: Drowning Rose by Marika Cobbold; The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric.

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

I always knew I wanted to be but I didn’t think I could be. I wrote my first book when I was eight, about a mouse called Wilfred who lived on a houseboat.

What is your writing routine?

It’s non-existent. When I’m working, actual writing only takes up about 40 per cent of the time. The rest is spent walking or staring out of the window.

Where do you write best?

Anywhere. Bed, study, café – a normal nomadic writer’s routine.

What music helps you write?

I’m lucky to have a composer for a boyfriend. Sometimes I tell him what I’m working on and he composes something for me to listen to.

How do you relax?

I’m always quite relaxed. The cinema is a complete removal from reality. Or I borrow my sister’s dog and walk it.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?

Johnny Cash.

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

Caravaggio’s “Supper at Emmaus” but I’d want to leave it where it was – it’s a great influence on humanity, that painting.

How would you earn your living if you had to give up writing?

I’d be an undertaker. I’m good at being calm and kind and you’d hear good stories.

When do you feel most free?

On trains, mainly because nobody can expect me to do anything. Or underwater, where you can’t be got.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Next to my daughter, ideally up an olive tree.

Louisa Young is author of ‘My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You’ (HarperCollins)

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