At what age did you know you wanted to become a writer?

Probably around age 8.

Was your first book published or is it still lurking in a drawer somewhere?

It sounds unbelievable, but I’ve made almost continual use of just about everything I’ve ever written. I’ve only ever heard of novels getting stranded in drawers—likely the genres I work in are more forgiving, in terms of sections and phrases and concepts cycling in and out of a writing life.

What was your favourite childhood book?

I can’t remember, sadly.  I didn’t read decent literature until high school. After that I kind of came alive when I hit the 19C Russian novel. And poetry—Paul Celan.

What is your ‘ if you don’t like this, you can’t be my friend’ book?

I cannot imagine having a friendship on such terms!

Do you find the process of writing agony or pure pleasure?

Neither. It flickers. As my friend Eileen Myles once said, why would you want to commit your life to doing anything that was one thing all the time?

How long did it take you to write the book that is shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize?

About 2 years of writing, 20 years of reading, 40 years of living.