Small Talk: Stella Duffy

Born in London in 1963, Stella Duffy grew up in New Zealand before returning to the UK. A novelist, actor and theatre director, she has published 13 novels, more than 40 short stories and 10 plays. She lives in London.

Who is your perfect reader?

Someone who likes books, cares about story, enjoys character and doesn’t judge by genre, writer’s gender or book cover.

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

Very likely something, or someone, on Twitter.

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

When I was about nine and wanted to be a poet. Then I forgot about poetry, thinking it wasn’t for “ordinary” kids like me, and assumed I wanted to be a teacher while secretly wanting to be an actor. Then I became an actor, which led me to become a writer. Now I’m a writer who directs theatre. I’m still not a poet.

What is your daily writing routine?

On a good day I get up, chant (I’ve been practising Buddhism since 1988), swim, then edit, then eat, then write some more and finish for 6pm-7pm and have a nice cold glass of wine. This almost never happens.

What do you snack on while writing?

Anything to hand – salted almonds are good, chocolate is good, food is good. Wine is also nice.

What book do you wish you’d written?

Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion.

Which literary character most resembles you?

If any readers can think of a hugely gregarious character who also craves silence and the solitary life, do let me know.

Which books changed your life?

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban; The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood; Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction by J.D. Salinger.

What are you scared of?

Having cancer again.

How do you relax?

Swimming, gardening, cooking, watching TV with my wife [the playwright Shelley Silas].

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

If I had to give up both writing and directing I might go back to cleaning houses for rich people – great for story-finding.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Pick London up, put it on the east coast of New Zealand (North Island). That’s my favourite place in the world.

What does it mean to be a writer?

To constantly have glorious images in my head and consistently fail to bring them, fully, to the page. And keep trying anyway.

Stella Duffy’s latest novel is ‘The Purple Shroud’ (Virago)

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