I would say I have sort of a natural gift for character, and following one person's point of view at a time, and dialogue, but I'm not naturally good at strong plot.
I remember a period where my publisher said to me, 'Look, your historical work is selling much better than your contemporary work, so please give us more historicals.'
You know the way there are two kinds of actors - the De Niro kind who's always De Niro, and then somebody like Daniel Day-Lewis, who transforms himself eerily? Well, I aim to be the Daniel Day-Lewis kind of writer. I don't have a house style.
There's no neutral language about travel. Either travel is described in ways that make it sound kind of shallow or just glossy or silly or a way for rich people to spend their time; or else travel is often described in quite derogatory ways, you know, like immigrants swarming across borders, for instance.
I think the only difference between me and other people is that when I hear of an interesting historical incident, I immediately write it down and Google it.
I come out of an academic background, and I'm aware that what I'm doing is simultaneously research and fiction. I want to meet both those obligations.
Ah yes, the paradox of publicity is that even as we do it, we know it's killing off the chance of another reader happening across our book in the ideal state of innocence.
I'm constantly saying, 'I read a fascinating article in 'The New Yorker'... ' I say it so often that sometimes I think I have nothing interesting to say myself, I merely regurgitate 'The New Yorker.'
I tend to be so lost in the work that I don't notice the weather. My partner will come home and say, 'Beautiful day, wasn't it?' and I'll say, 'Was it?' as I won't have noticed the real world at all.
Kids delight in 'magical thinking', whether in the form of the Tooth Fairy or the saints: whether you see these as comforting lies or eternal verities, they are part of how we help kids make sense of the world.
One thing I like about historical fiction is that I'm not constantly focusing on me, or people like me; you're obliged to concentrate on lives that are completely other than your own.
I love it when novels contain a broad cast of characters, including queer ones.
I have never been depressed or thrown a plate, which I attribute to the cathartic effects of writing books about people whose lives are more grueling than mine.
You know, plenty of people headed off to Canada or America on the basis of government information, propaganda campaigns. Often you'd go off with a brochure in hand and you'd turn up and it wouldn't be like that at all.
I'm not at all snobby about book prizes and how they pollute the world of literature. Just like with the Olympics, a little bit of competition gets people truly engrossed in the business of literature.
At the door, there was one of those moment when two people realize that they like each other more than they know each other. This is nicer than the opposite situation, but more awkward. You try to remember the protocol for touching. You hate to gush, or presume to much, yet you are unwilling to let the moment pass without without some gesture
Everyone's got a different story.
Me and Ma have a deal, we're going to try everything one time so we know what we like.
When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I'm five I know everything
It turns up the heat under a narrative when you limit the characters in their movements or their freedoms.
...real loneliness is having no one to miss. Think yourself lucky you've known something worth missing.
If I was made of cake I'd eat myself before somebody else could.
Stories are a different kind of true.
I always wince a little bit when I send me to each of my new books. I wince at submitting myself to my father's judgment. But, of course, he's such a fond father that he always writes back, saying it's the greatest thing ever written.
In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time...I don't know how persons with jobs do the jobs and all the living as well...I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter all over the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there's only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit.
It's painful to consider anything but writing.
I'm very interested in how idealistic young people can get caught up in all sorts of systems of extreme belief, you know, whether it's cults or whether it's suicide bombers.
Books are the air I breathe, so I don't notice the seasons.
Maybe I'm a human, but I'm a me-and-Ma as well.
Everybody's damaged by something.
Sometimes, I think there's a lack of ambition in me. But then sometimes, I think, no, you can, like William Blake said, you know, see heaven in a grain of sand. If you look really, really closely at a situation, you can find almost endless interest in it.
Scared is what you're feeling. Brave is what you're doing.
I remember manners, that's when people are scared to make other persons mad.
There are some tales not for telling, whether because they are too long, too precious, too laughable, too painful, too easy to need telling or too hard to explain. After all, after years and travels my secrets are all I have left to chew on in the night.
The great thing about a short story is that it doesn't have to trawl through someone's whole life; it can come in glancingly from the side.
Once I spent a whole day there, a blade of grass in each hand to anchor me to the warm earth. I watched the sun rise, pass over my head and set. Ladybirds mated on my knuckle; a shrew nibbled a hole in my stocking while I tried not to laugh. Such a day was worth any punishment.
I'm really not one of these procrastinators who cleans the house in order to put off writing, but life gets in the way.
When I was four I thought everything in TV was just TV, then I was five and Ma unlied about lots of it being pictures of real and Outside being totally real. Now I'm in Outside but it turns out lots of it isn't real at all.
I'm named after Jane Austen's Emma, and I've always been able to relate to her. She's strong, confident but quite tactless.
Change for your own sake, if you must, not for what you imagine another will ask of you.