Small talk: Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller was born in Bristol in 1960. He studied creative writing at the University of East Anglia and completed a PhD in Critical and Creative Writing at Lancaster University in 1995. His first novel, Ingenious Pain, was published in 1997, winning the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. Its 2001 follow-up, Oxygen, was shortlisted for that year’s Booker Prize. He has worked in several countries, including Spain, France, Holland and Japan, and now lives in Somerset with his daughter Frieda.

Who is your perfect reader?

A woman with a yellow umbrella in Istanbul.

What book changed your life?

DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow. A big, brave, beautiful book.

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

Isabella Rossellini.

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

The woman with the yellow umbrella.

What is the oddest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

Searched the streets of Budapest for the address of a man who never lived.

What music helps you write?

The music I play with my neighbours. Celtic, old English, Klezmer. Whatever a flute, a mandolin and a guitar can manage.

What do you snack on while you write?

Whatever my friend the fridge is hiding. Cold chicken, damson jam, a piece of cheese, an old Easter egg.

What book do you wish you’d written?

Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Beginning of Spring. An odd, wise, very funny book. Impeccable writing.

How do you relax?

Picking my beautiful Breedlove mandolin. Weeding the veg beds. Boozing.

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

I often look at those banners on the backs of buses that say something like “Get out and about! Become a bus driver!” A nice country route wouldn’t be so bad.

Can you remember the first novel you read?

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff.

What novel would you give a child to introduce them to literature?

It’s better to let them follow their noses. Adults too often try to impose their own choices.

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

Eeyore’s birthday party in Winnie-the-Pooh. I’ve read it to my daughter a dozen times, it still delights us.

What keeps you awake at night?

Lust, taxes.

What does it mean to be a writer?

Eyes open, heart open, feet on the ground.

Andrew Miller’s latest novel is ‘Pure’ (Sceptre)

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