The Three Rs: Naomi Alderman

September 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

Naomi Alderman grew up in London and attended Oxford University and UEA. Her first novel, Disobedience, was published in ten languages; like her second novel, The Lessons, it was read on BBC radio’s Book at Bedtime. In 2006 she won the Orange Award for New Writers. In 2007, she was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year, and one of Waterstones’ 25 Writers for the Future.  Her prize-winning short fiction has appeared in Prospect, on BBC Radio 4 and in a number of anthologies. In 2009 she was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award.  In 2011 she wrote the Doctor Who tie-in novel Borrowed Time. Naomi broadcasts regularly, has guest-presented Front Row on BBC Radio 4 and writes regularly for Prospect and the Guardian. Her third novel,The Liars’ Gospel, was published by Penguin in August 2012.

When did you first know you wanted to write books?

Hmmm. Probably when I was 14 or so. I tried to write a novel when I was 14 or 15 – only got a couple of chapters in but I was already trying so I must have known then!

What does your day look like while you’re writing a book?

Typically: I read for 30-60 minutes when I wake up, then go for a walk. Walking wakes up the writing. And then – somewhere between one and four hours of writing, depending on how long it takes me to get to my 800 words, which is what I do every day. But every day. No weekends off. This is what I’ve discovered works for me. Sometimes I procrastinate and put it off, but the good news is that when I’ve got 800 good words I can stop for the day, so it’s an incentive to push on through and get it done as early as I can :-).

Do you type or write?

Type. Been typing since that first attempt, at 14 or 15.

What do you read while you’re writing?

Definitely non-fiction more than fiction. Or fiction written by people who’ve been dead for a while ;-). I love reading about science and history… wandering the halls of knowledge, seeing what little nuggets spark something.

What have you read recently that you really loved?

I’m reading Hitch-22 at the moment. Not a perfect book, but a window to a man with intellect, confidence, widely-read and wide-thinking.

David Eagleman’s Sum is a chewy, tasty delight. MJ Hyland’s This is How is a revelation.

What are your all-time favourites?

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams; Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino; The Whole Story and Other Stories – Ali Smith; Labyrinths – Jorge Borges; Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clark; Knowledge of Angels – Jill Paton Walsh.

And many many more 🙂

You can either write or read for the rest of your life – but not both. Which do you choose?

Writing. I’d miss reading a lot but I could derive a lot of fictional nourishment from radio and TV and movies. And especially if listening to audiobooks didn’t count as ‘reading’ ;-).

What’s your third R, and why?

I actually do like rithmetic. I did Maths A-level, I still sometimes do quadratic equations for relaxation.


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