Q & A
Q: What’s the worst job you ever had?
A: I once worked as a sales rep for a magazine called International Electronics for China. I drove around the country for a whole year, and managed to sell just one quarter page advertisement, which was later cancelled.
Q: How did you finance five years of writing?
A: I sold my flat.
Q: Where are you living right now?
A: London. It’s a difficult place to leave as it pretty much has everything, apart from good weather, good public transport, beaches, a laid-back population. Come to think of it, I may move quite soon.
Q: Why did it take you take five years to write The Mango Orchard?
A: The story concerns two continents over two centuries and involves hundreds of people so it took a lot of thought. Also, I’m not a very fast writer.
Q: In those five years, did you ever think, “What the hell am I doing?”
A: Save the occasional off day, not really, but I think my friends did.
Q: Do you miss the job you left behind to write the book?
A: I miss the people I worked with. And the money.
Q: When did you start to travel?
A: I was seventeen when I went on my first foreign trip without my parents. My grandma would give me money with the express instruction that I was to go travelling. I used to wonder if she was trying to get rid of me.
Q: What is the stupidest thing you have done when travelling?
A: Refusing to pay a stoned taxi driver in Managua, Nicaragua. He then tried to kill me, but being stoned, he didn’t make a very good job of it.
Q: Are you still in contact with your Mexican family, and the other characters in the book?
A: Yes, I’m in pretty regular contact with most of them, and at least weekly contact with the Mexican family. When I first returned from Mexico, it was limited to faxes. Now it’s Skype, e-mail, Facebook etc. And Javicito, Tío Javier’s grandson, and my Godson, has been to visit me this year.
Q: Describe your typical writing day.
A: Initially I’d write well into the night, but I found that if I did that I wasn’t very productive the next day. I have now adopted cricketing hours: two hours before lunch, two hours before tea and two hours after tea. And obviously if it’s raining, I take the day off.
Q: How do you get yourself out of writers’ block?
A: I swear at the computer and then try writing with pen and paper. If that doesn’t work, I swear at the computer again and go for a walk.
Q: Are you surprised with how The Mango Orchard has turned out?
A: I guess if I bumped my head and forgot the whole writing process I would be, but having been with it day after day for so long, we sort of grew together, so I’m not surprised, just pleased.
Q: There have been discussions about a feature film, who would you like to play your character?
A: James McAvoy or Leonardo DiCaprio
Q: Where will you be appearing at book fairs or signings?
A: Watch out for announcements on Twitter, Facebook, my blog and on this site.
Q: What did the process of writing The Mango Orchard teach you?
A: The virtue of patience.
Q: What is the subject of your next book?
A: That’s what my agent keeps asking me. I have to keep reminding him about the virtue of patience.
Interviewed by Amy Lawrence of The Observer