Q&A with Sarah Stovell

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Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and grew up in Oxfordshire. The Night Flower was written as part of a PhD in Creative Writing at Northumbria University. She lives in Northumberland with her partner and two young children.

1. Who was the first fictional character you fell in love with?

I fell in love with Heathcliff and John Milton’s Satan at about the same time, when I was eighteen. They set the tone for a rocky relationship decade…

2. You’re throwing a dinner party for fictional characters. Who do you invite?

Elizabeth Bennett, Jo March, Hamlet, Oliver Twist

3. Are there any books that still haunt your dreams, even years after reading them?

Wuthering Heights

4. Is there a book you wish you’d been the one to write?

Beloved, by Toni Morrison

5. Where do you write, and how do you feel about your workspace?

I write anywhere I can. I’m a full-time mum of two very young children so I have to fit everything in around them. I always carry my netbook with me and if they fall asleep suddenly when we’re out, I dart into the nearest cafe and get as many words down as I can before they wake up. Sometimes, I write in the car while I’m waiting to collect one of them. I’m currently absurdly excited about the idea that it won’t be long before they’re old enough to ignore at soft play centres, so I’ll be able to write while they bash each about with huge foam bricks. Ideally, though, I write on my laptop in bed, but those days are a rare luxury.

6. What is the most beautiful book you own?

All my books are just plain old paperbacks. The most beautiful book I’ve ever held was a first edition of Ulysees, inscribed by James Joyce to his brother. It was for sale at £200,000.

7. Which author, living or dead, would you most like to spar with in a Slam-style literary death match?

Kathryn Stockett

8. And which author would you grant immortality so their books never stopped coming?

Toni Morrison

9. Who’s your biggest non-literary artistic inspiration?

Sarah-Jane Szikora. I absolutely love her art.

10. You’re the coach of one of the teams in Monty Python’s Philosophers’ Football Match. Who’s your star striker?


11. What fuel do you use to sustain yourself when you’re writing?

Coffee with cream

12. Tolstoy famously wrote standing up, and Cormac McCarthy writes all his novels on an old Olivetti typewriter. Do you have any unconventional writing habits?

Not really. (I could never write standing up. One of the main reasons I wanted to be a writer at all was because it was something I could do without getting out of bed.)

13. An English composer once said that a live orchestra generally gives a 40% accurate rendition of the symphony he hoped to write. How do the novels you actually write measure up to the ones imagined in your head?

Oh, they’re never as good. Before I started writing, I used to dream about the moment after I’d written the last sentence of a novel, and I’d imagine it to be full of elation and pride. Instead, I usually feel very down about it and how bad it is. I work very, very hard to keep the confidence about my work. Usually, that means never looking at it again.

14. If money were no object and you suddenly lost the desire to write, what would you do with your time?

Ski, hike, drink, smoke.

15. What would be your menu for the last meal of your life?

A bottle of gin, ten bottles of tonic, three lemons, ice, six tubes of Pringles, one doner kebab.

16. If you had to spend the rest of your days in just one place, where would it be?

If I were able to freeze time as well, it would be in hospital during the first few days after the birth of one of my children, in that utterly sublime space where the pain is over and reality hasn’t yet hit. Otherwise, I’d happily spend the rest of my life on Brighton beach, with a naff picnic, some cheap wine, a million Marlboro Lights and my old university friends. That way, I could kid myself that I was still 21.