Listen to this article
Rebecca Hunt was born in Coventry in 1979. She graduated from Saint Martins College, London, with a first class degree in fine art and now works as a painter and writer. Her debut novel, Mr Chartwell (2010), was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and shortlisted for the new writer prize at the Galaxy awards. She lives in east London.
Which book changed your life?
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker. Nothing happens, it’s about a man’s lunch hour, but Baker sees beauty and fascination everywhere, especially in the smallest, most mundane objects.
What is your daily writing routine?
I tend to write best in the afternoons and evenings, so I take the dog for a long walk first thing in the morning and do general admin tasks until midday. I’ve noticed there’s a sweet spot between the hours of 3pm and 10pm, when everything kicks into gear.
Where do you write best?
On my own, at my desk. I couldn’t take my laptop to a café or anywhere public because the notion of somebody looking over my shoulder while I’m typing makes me cringe.
What is the strangest thing you’ve done while researching a book?
I went to the Arctic Circle on a residency while researching Everland. We were there for around a month, on a traditional sailing ship.
Who would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party?
Henry “Birdie” Bowers, who is a hero of mine and was with Scott on his fatal last journey. If I’ve got to stick to the living, then Ranulph Fiennes would be an excellent choice.
Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
Stella Rimington, former director-general of MI5, so much so that I’d be tempted to sabotage the lift if she was in it.
What are you scared of?
Spiders, they utterly repulse me. The only way spiders could be any worse is if they could fly.
What keeps you awake at night?
Stress. I’ll wake up every couple of hours to find my brain engaged in a frantic, ranting monologue about whatever’s worrying me.
How do you relax?
Even though I’m not interested in cooking, I quite like cookery shows. I think it’s because there’s always a soothingly bland happy ending.
What is the best piece of advice a parent gave you?
The famous Samuel Beckett quote is a decent summary of my parents’ outlook: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” They taught me to be bold.
If you could own any painting, what would it be?
Something by Cecily Brown, or Fiona Rae, or Dexter Dalwood, or Gert and Uwe Tobias, or Stanley Spencer, or Henry Darger, or Henri Rousseau, among many others. There are hundreds of paintings I’d love to own.
Which book do you wish you’d written?
Anything by Cormac McCarthy or John Fante. My sister described the feeling well when she saw a Klimt painting and said she wanted to rip it off the wall and lick it. It’s so beyond admiration it’s almost outrage.
Where is your favourite place?
There are several but the beach at Durdle Door in Dorset is one of them, especially as the sun sets.
Can you remember the first novel you read?
It’s not a novel but Struwwelpeter was thrillingly gruesome to me as a child. I would read it at my grandparents’ house, newly horrified each time.
‘Everland’ is published by Fig Tree