Saturday, 30 April 2011

Sarah Waters / Writer

This week's TT Test is taken by Sarah Waters [link] one of Britain's best loved novelists. Her first novel 'Tipping the Velvet' marked the arrival of a writer who has the rare gift of creating popular & critically acclaimed fiction - much of her work has been adapted for television & film and 'Fingersmith', 'The Night watch' and 'The Little Stranger' have all been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for fiction. With so many accolades her modesty is refreshing. Her answers are great too :) What is your wake up song at the moment ? The last CD I bought was The Resistance, by Muse, and the track I keep playing from it is Uprising.I listen to music mainly when I'm walking through London, and Uprising is a great track to go striding across the city to; it's got revolutionary lyrics, a thumping beat, and makes you feel like Rosa Luxemburg. I do love Muse. Their music is camp and epic at the same time - quite an achievement. I'm longing to go to a Muse concert, but I'm too embarrassed: it would be me and ten thousand teenage boys. Which work of art or single event has most influenced you in your chosen profession ? There are a few authors whose work really inspired me to start writing - most notably Angela Carter, Philippa Gregory and Jeannette Winterson. In very different ways their books have taken on history, tradition, the canon; they've teased new stories out of the past, or invented new, fantasy histories if they didn't like the ones already on offer - I suppose that's what I've tried to do, too. But the single biggest influence on me probably came from a novel called Street Lavender, by Chris Hunt. It's the adventures of a rent boy in late Victorian London - a shamelessly rompy, sexy, romantic story, but a really intelligent one, too. It was published by Gay Men's Press in the mid 1990s: I read it and thought, 'Wow! This is brilliant!' Tipping the Velvet was really my attempt to do something similar, for lesbians. If you could travel back in time, which period would you most like to visit and why? I've written so much about the Victorians that I guess I'd have to choose the nineteenth century. I'd love just to be able to eavesdrop on a few ordinary conversations, on the street and in people's homes. As a researcher, ordinary domestic and emotional life is the hardest thing to get hold of, because it tends not to find its way into the history books. But it's what fascinates me most about the past: the mundane details of people's lives; how they thought about their bodies; what they dreamt about; what satisfied and disappointed and frustrated them. I love eating out and discovering new restaurants, can you please recommend one to me ? To be honest, I'm not at a big restaurant goer. I find food and eating and all that a bit tiresome. My ideal restaurant is one that's cheap and quick, but with a bit of personality - somewhere like the India Club [link], on the second floor of the Strand Continental Hotel, London. It's a wonderfully quirky place where the food's all right, service is sometimes huffy, but you can slope off afterwards to a cinema, a theatre or the South Bank. What is the best advice you ever been given relating to your professional/ creative life ? When I was struggling with an early draft of Tipping the Velvet, my friend Sally, to console me, said, 'But Sarah, you were never going to get it right first time. It would be a miracle if you got it right first time!' I've always remembered that - and I think of it, particularly, when my writing feels stuck, or the words on the screen before me look more than usually awful. Yes, it would be a miracle if you sat down at your desk and wrote, straight off, a perfectly finished novel. But by plugging patiently away at it, by being ready to edit and re-draft, you can make it better. BONUS QUESTION : Is there any truth to the rumour that 'Tipping The Velvet' is being adapted into a stage musical? Can you tell us any more details about this ?! There is indeed some truth to it... But I'm afraid I can't say any more right now, because the project is still in its very earliest days. It's a great idea, though, isn't it? Tipping is such a theatrical book. I'd love to see it bounce into life on the stage.