Kate Summerscale

 

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

I’ve always wanted to read, and writing has grown out of that. It turns out that it can be an even better way of losing yourself in a book.

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

It was published, amazing though that seemed – it was the story of a cross-dressing millionaire motorboat racer who was besotted with a foot-high doll.

3. What was your favourite childhood book? 

I loved just about everything that I read as a child, so I’ll pick my favourite book box-sets: Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie.

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

If I must have one, it had better be short, with lots of pictures, so that I don’t rule out too many people: Cops and Robbers by Janet & Allan Ahlberg.

5. Do you find the process of writing agony or ecstasy? 

The research is fun. I find it very hard to start writing, but once I begin it can be completely absorbing.

6. Who, in your opinion, is the most under-read author? 

Samuel Beckett’s novels are very funny. And I’ve just read two strange, good novels by Barbara Comyns, a mid-20th-century English writer I’d not heard of: Our Spoons Came From Woolworths and The Vet’s Daughter.

7. Who or what have been your most important influences? 

Perhaps the Latin American soap operas I watched on television every day as a child in Chile. I especially remember one about a lovelorn gypsy girl and her evil employer, who got about in a wheelchair but was only pretending to be paralysed.

8. If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing? 

Ideally I would be a professional surfer, though it’s not something I’ve tried yet.

9. In a word how has reading the books for the Rathbones Folio Prize left you feeling about the state of literature today? 

Glad.

10. What’s your favourite a) film b) album c) artist? 

Film: The Philadelphia Story. Album: just now, Laura Marling’s I Speak Because I Can. Artist: Francisco Goya or Diego Velazquez

 

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Nikesh Shukla 

 

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

At 28. At the time I was coming to the realisation I would never be a world famous rapper. I’d always written. I just only took it seriously when the crushing knowledge that as a rapper I was average at best, was no longer ignorable.

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

My first book-length book is called I’ve Forgotten My Mantra and it’s an interconnected bunch of short stories that form my own version of Eat Pray Love as it involves a trip to India where I – ahem – find myself. Bits of work in it ended up in my latest novel. 

3. What was your favourite childhood book?

It’s a toss-up between the Back To The Future novelisation tie-in or the first Redwall book. 

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

I don’t have any but if you say your favourite writer’s Charles Bukowski, we’re done.

5. Do you find the process of writing agony or ecstasy?

Depends. At the start, I’m golden. In the middle, I hate myself. At the end I’m just rushing.

6.  Who, in your opinion, is the most under-read author?

Niven Govinden. ZZ Packer. Salena Godden.

7.  Who or what have been your most important influences?

Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith and the Todd McFarlane run on the Spider-Man comics. 

8.  If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?  

Trying to be a better rapper and working in a coffee shop. Or I’d still be doing youth work. 

9.  In a word how has reading the books for the Rathbones Folio Prize left you feeling about the state of literature today? 

Will Self doesn’t know what he’s on about. The novel’s fine. Also, we need to nurture more British writers of colour because there were some exceptional ones we read throughout the entire process, and these are the most exciting voices as they’re not what contemporary literature in this country has heard much from. 

10. What’s your favourite a) film b) album c) artist?

Sholay. Rafi’s Revenge by Asian Dub Foundation. Hatecopy. 

 

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Jim Crace

 

1. At what age did you know you wanted to become a writer of fiction?

My parents guessed when I was about ten, but I didn’t find out for another ten years and then did nothing about it for a further twenty.

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

I started a realist novel in 1975 but didn’t get beyond the first chapter. The manuscript is in the archive vaults of the Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. The first book I finished – Continent – was published in 1986. I was forty years old.

3. What was your favourite childhood book?

Robinson Crusoe.

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

I haven’t yet fallen out with anybody over a book – but if you don’t like jazz, I could be a bit standoffish.

5. Do you find the process of writing agony or ecstasy?

When a novel is underway I feel magnetised by it. The agony and the ecstasy only come when I am reading the reviews.

6. Who, in your opinion, is the most under-read author?

Can I sing the praises of the writer/activist Grace Paley?

7. Who or what have been your most important influences?

Being a woolly-hearted Leftie and an amateur naturalist, both inherited from Charley, my dad.

8. If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?  

I like to think I’d be doing something less narcissistic than writing. But what?

9. In a word how has reading the books for the Rathbones Folio Prize left you feeling about the state of literature today?

I’ve learnt that fiction from writers with roots in the Indian sub-continent is in good heart, that the short story cannot be suppressed, that sometimes non-fiction can teach fiction a thing or two, that re-reading (something I’ve avoided in the past) is well worth the effort.

10. What’s your favourite a) film b) album c) artist?

a) it’s either Nashville or Casablanca. b) Ziggy Stardust or Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert or… (an impossible question). c) Jackson Pollock

 

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