While my childhood was in many ways lonely, in my mind I travelled widely. A therapist once asked me who my role models had been, since my parents seemed so absent. I thought for a moment and then said ‘Books’. It was the greatest gift they could have given me.
Writers who inspire me with their unstinting effort. T. E. Lawrence, who lost the only copy of his massive The Seven Pillars of Wisdom on a train and immediately began to write another version. Shirley Hazzard, who wrote thirty drafts of her masterpiece The Transit of Venus.
When my family left Lebanon in the middle of the civil war, Stories from the Sands of Africa was one of the few things I brought with me to the UK. On its cover, a girl sits astride an alligator with sharp teeth. She’s being swept downstream to who knows where. But she looks happy.
I remember my heart breaking for Joe when he goes to visit Pip in London, and Pip’s embarrassment at Joe’s starched collar and ill-fitting suit. I would recall this scene when my dad came to see my play; he turned up in a suit, thinking that’s how people dressed for theatre.
'Writers often talk of an inner compulsion, of having to write. Rachel Carson was big on this. So too was that old showman Ernest Hemingway. But I think there’s always an element of choice — a secret (or not so secret) pride. It’s an inner toughness.'
'I think about books all the time. In bed at night, in the shower, when I’m cooking a meal, during country walks, on long car journeys. I think about books I’ve read and books I want to read. I compile lists in my head of books to buy and in what order. '
RLF writers lay out their reasons for calling someone their favourite author, exploring the role that biography, style, message and childhood influences play in fostering powerful affinities.
Roy Bainton asks whether writers improve as they age and explores the long career of a personal literary icon, Ray Bradbury.
'I had no idea anyone else would ever read what I had written, let alone publish my story, so nothing about it mattered, giving me complete creative freedom. Writing a book now has become a different experience, more satisfying and more terrifying. '
'Seventy-four years after Dickens’ night-walk, in the year 1930, Virginia Woolf sets out from Bloomsbury to the Strand. Her object is not to get through the night but to purchase a pencil. Under cover of this, she can indulge in the pleasure of rambling.'
'In my rewrite of It’s a Wonderful Life, George would be Georgia. On a cold Christmas Eve, she sits alone. Born at a time that allowed her dreams, but no chance to pursue them. The wife who made her husband’s life easier and the mother who made cakes.'