Showing up for the genie

Has anyone asked about your writing recently in the voice we use for people with illnesses which aren't going to get better? 'How's it going?' they say, consciously radiating willingness to receive a terse 'Fine, thanks,' or a half-hour outburst of gruesome symptoms and existential fears. When you first declared, or mumbled, that you wanted to be a writer, did you get an anxious spiel about how agonising rejections are before you get a deal, and even worse four books down the line when even your agent will drop you? And how lonely it is! And what about the terror... Read more →

Under the bugle-beaded bonnet

A few weeks ago, in the piece I did for the Independent's My Book of a Lifetime slot, I found myself saying, "Both my first novel, The Mathematics of Love, and now A Secret Alchemy are about love, war, and the life of the spirit. At the most fundamental level, I sometimes think, what else is there to write about?" The rhetorical question was designed to get readers disagreeing, and of course it's only partly true of my own work, let alone anyone else's. There are a million other things to write about, from being conceived, to hunting a great... Read more →

The paradoxical cave

A long time ago I went on my first-ever writing course, on Skyros. Not only did I have the most heavenly time on one of the most delectable Greek islands, but I came home and wrote the first novel I wouldn't be ashamed to show you, or my agent. (I wouldn't want it published, mind you, but that's another story). Skyros is the original alternative holiday in the sun, and as well as big name writers teaching what's now called Writer's Lab, it's full of yoga, self-healing, dancing, Tai Chi, windsurfing, meditation, massage and so on. They do get the... Read more →

Blood for Breakfast

Settle down now, everyone, settle down. Right, now, as you know, I´m giving two big lectures this week. (What did you say, George? Well, they´re important to me, and there were a lot of people there at the first one. No, not just idiots. Now that´s enough, George, or I´ll send you to sit outside the Head Mistress´s office...) Where was I. Oh, yes? I´m going to have to leave you to be very sensible and quiet while I´m away. And what I´d like you to do is think about the relationship of symbols to reality. (What´s that, Alicia? Yes,... Read more →