|Born||12 December 1952|
|Occupation||poet, novelist, children’s writer|
|Alma mater||University of York|
However, the difficulties and pleasures of the writing itself are similar for a novel with a historical setting and a novel with a contemporary setting, as far as I'm concerned.
I enjoy research; in fact research is so engaging that it would be easy to go on for years, and never write the novel at all.
I concentrate on the lives of individuals whom the reader comes to know and feel with intimately.
The language has got to be fully alive – I can't bear dull, flaccid writing myself and I don't see why any reader should put up with it.
Mourning Ruby is not a flat landscape: it is more like a box with pictures painted on every face. And each face is also a door which opens, I hope, to take the reader deep into the book.
If we understand the past, we are more likely to recognise what is happening around us.
I didn't choose Russia but Russia chose me. I had been fascinated from an early age by the culture, the language, the literature and the history to the place.
It is a violation which has obsessed the tyrants of the twentieth century. They do not want simply to kill their opponents, but to liquidate them, to deny that they have ever existed.
I could start with Mandelstam, who was a huge influence on my early writing.
However, I began to submit poems to British magazines, and some were accepted. It was a great moment to see my first poems published. It felt like entering a tradition.
As individuals, we are shaped by story from the time of birth; we are formed by what we are told by our parents, our teachers, our intimates.
I hope that readers will tear through my books because they can't stop themselves – and then, maybe, read them again and find new things there.
My first collection of poems was published by Bloodaxe Books, which was then a very new imprint.
When you are young you don't always realise how full of doubts everybody is.
I have learned so much from working with other poets, travelling and reading with them, spending days discussing poems in progress. There is the sense that we are all, as writers, part of something which is more powerful than any of us.
Writing children's books gives a writer a very strong sense of narrative drive.
Writing poetry makes you intensely conscious of how words sound, both aloud and inside the head of the reader. You learn the weight of words and how they sound to the ear.
I can remember being in my pram: children stayed in their prams much longer then than they do now. A big bouncy pram with black covers and a hood with metal clips that could trap your fingers. I was looking up at my sister who was sitting on the pram seat, with her back to me.
The poets whom I knew then were all men and all seemed dauntingly sure of themselves – although I am sure that really they were as uncertain as I was.
Children will not pretend to be enjoying books, and they will not read books because they have been told that these books are good. They are looking for delight.
Fiction came quite a while later. I began with short stories and fiction for children.
A novel, in the end, is a container, a shape which you are trying to pour your story into.