At what age did you know you wanted to become a writer?
Was your first book published or is it still lurking in a drawer somewhere?
Everything I’ve ever written until 2004 has been published!
What was your favourite childhood book?
What Katie Did. Anne of Green Gables. A Nest of Sparrows. That Imp Miranda. Beautiful old hardbacks on thick paper and with illustrations. My mother used to buy them for me in a second-hand book market in downtown Cairo. I think I loved the objects before the stories.
What is your ‘if you don’t like this, you can’t be my friend’ book?
Edward Said’s Orientalism
Do you find the process of writing agony or pure pleasure?
Agony when it’s not happening. Pleasure when it is. Both incomparable.
Who, in your opinion is the most under-read author?
Who or what have been your most important influences?
My mother, Fatma Moussa. My husband, Ian Hamilton. George Eliot. Tolstoy. Visconti. Colette.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
Saving and restoring old houses, neighbourhoods, cities …. in Egypt or Palestine.
Is being a literary prize judge exhausting or exhilarating? Or neither?
The Godfather Part I
Very tough, but let’s say: Fleetwood Mac, Rumours.