'Although you can imagine the Saffron Hill rookery that Oliver Twist was spirited away to by the Artful Dodger to meet Fagin, the place itself is now home to luxury apartments, and shops. Dickens' poor no longer live in the city centre.'
'My mother taught at the school; French usually, but also Social Health. In front of my form group, she unrolled a condom onto a cucumber to demonstrate the precise use of a prophylactic. '
Alicia Foster speaks with Catherine O’Flynn about her unusual childhood in an isolated former nursing home, growing up goth, her twin passions of visual art and literature, and accidentally becoming a novelist after being an academic.
'My dream of the countryside was, as I'm sure you've guessed, to lead to a rude awakening. The farms were not the pretty places I imagined; they were huge industrial concerns, with pigs in metal sheds the size of aircraft hangars.'
'I thought about the Hebrides, looked up crofts on Right Move, and then realised that even there I couldn't get away from writing; George Orwell, a great literary hero, had famously lived on Jura. Quite a ghost to have as a neighbour.'
'If I say I can't imagine you, and I've never tried to, please don't take it the wrong way; it's not arrogance, it's just that when I write it feels as if I'm speaking to myself.'
'From the Starship Enterprise to Star Wars, it's wall-to-wall screens with not a bookshelf in sight; when books do appear in future homes they're usually part of a dystopian vision.'
'I met the real-life inspiration for one of the women characters, Carolyn Cassady, wife of Neal, or 'Dean' as he is known in the novel. She'd just published a memoir describing what it was really like to be a woman in the Beat world.'
Researching her study of the artist Gwen John, Alicia Foster was struck by the attic setting of many of John’s paintings. This led her to a wider exploration of the role played by the attic room in art and literature.
'I can sit at my desk and a whole day will pass like this; the sky will brighten, darken and go black without me realising. This is an ideal state for me. Too often, I'm interrupted.'
'There are enough stories of great writers who are impossible to live with to suggest that having writing talent, and even winning enormous recognition for it, does not always mean a calm and contented personal life. Thinking about it from inside, though, is different.'
'A photograph of a Victorian Gothic villa which I immediately recognised because it's on a hill in my home town of Folkestone — in fact I can see it now from my study window as I sit here writing. This seemed to me to be a sign.'