Small talk: Sadie Jones

Sadie Jones’s debut novel The Outcast won the 2008 Costa First Novel Award. It was followed by Small Wars, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Jones was born in London in 1967, and after leaving school spent time in Paris. Back in London, she worked as a screenwriter before completing her first book. She is married with two children and lives in London.

Who is your perfect reader?

I’ve no idea. I try not to picture a reader when I’m writing. It’s like trying to make a great table but not picturing anybody sitting at it.

What books are currently on your bedside table?

It’s a bit backed up: PD James’s Death Comes to Pemberley; DJ Taylor’s Derby Day; Polly Samson’s Perfect Lives; W Somerset Maugham’s Cakes and Ale; A Favourite of the Gods by Sybille Bedford; She Came to Stay by Simone de Beauvoir and more.

What book changed your life?

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. It was one of those times in life when you can feel your synapses connecting, your mind growing.

What is your daily writing routine?

I get to my desk at about 8.30am, after taking the children to the Tube, and work until at least 1pm. In the school holidays I take time off but sometimes the children have to fend for themselves.

Where do you write best?

I have a study now – I used not to. I also love working in cafés; ignoring noise is good for concentration.

What do you snack on while you write?

I don’t eat when I’m working. If I start to fridge-raid, I’m in trouble.

Who are your literary influences?

If I think about the writers I love or might be influenced by, I can’t write at all, so I pretend there aren’t any.

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

None of my heroes. A lift mechanic with hypnotherapy training.

What are you scared of?

The people I love coming to any harm, the concreting of the landscape, the loss of tigers and butterflies, air travel, car accidents, rats, depression, not being able to write, burglars and rapists, public speaking, being read, not being read ... and wasps.

What keeps you awake at night?

Remembering things I wish I had said or not said.

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

Don’t wait for inspiration: work.

What are you most proud of writing?

Everything I’ve sat down to after the thing before failed or did not sell.

What does it mean to be a writer?

To be a fireman means putting out fires and saving people; an architect designs the buildings for the builders to build. To be a writer I think it just means telling stories to the others.

Sadie Jones’s latest novel is ‘The Uninvited Guests’ (Chatto & Windus)

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