All my fiction starts from a feeling of unique perception, the pressure of a secret, a story that needs to be told.
Eudora Welty’s ‘A Curtain of Green’ had an enormous effect on me. But my early attempts to graft stories from the Deep South onto North of England provincialism were not successful. All were rejected.
I like the condition of being an outsider, just passing through.
I spent most of the ’60s, when I was starting to try to write novels, living and working in Greece and Turkey. These are countries where the ancient past is interfused with the daily present, and I remember being struck with wonder at the constant sense of continuity and connection, the reminders that lie in wait for you at every turn.
Angels are not complete, they need their counterparts, the dark needs the bright, the hidden needs the open, and vice versa. Sometimes they meet and recognise each other. Sometimes, as with Horatio and me, the pairing occurs over spaces of time and distance.
As I wrote I began to see more strongly that there were inescapable analogies. You couldn’t really live through the ’80s without feeling how crass and distasteful some of the economic doctrines were. The slave trade is a perfect model for that kind of total devotion to the profit motive without reckoning the human consequences.
Writers of historical fiction are not under the same obligation as historians to find evidence for the statements they make. For us it is sufficient if what we say can’t be disproved or shown to be false.
We are quite at ease in this no man’s land of ignorance and doubt and dispute, absorbed in the ambiguities of trying to reach truth by mixing fact with invention.
In my generation, history was taught in terms of grand figures, men on whom the destiny of the nation hinged, quintessential heroes.
I’m unemployable in any other capacity.
But whatever the ramifications, whatever turns the path takes, the beginning is always there, in a particular moment, a particular point of access.
I’m not a biographer, I’m a novelist.