Welcome, Philippa Rees.
How would you describe your writing style in only three words?
Philippa: Evocative, poetic, humorous (although the last lies quite deep and not everyone finds it.)
If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?
Philippa: In a book not yet published there is a character called Cassimir, a German philosopher, based upon a man who accosted me and my husband in Piccadilly Underground ( on our honeymoon) and simply asked my husband why he did not love me? Straight up. He was quite right and spotted that at twenty yards. He is a central character in a book where he plays a universal Joker, irreverent, intelligent and creatively wise. He would be great fun to spend time with.
If you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?
Philippa: I have just written a collection of short stories, one of which takes place in Provence where a woman is murdered. This murder brings seemingly universal benefits to everyone. Right now I could use a fly on the wall holiday, and spend time exactly where I managed to murder her, and watch the restoration of her house, the family who are restored to their heritage and the vineyard replanted. A Good Year to just smell the roses, in fact.
Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?
Philippa: Rather than combine all those I admire ( and be tantalized by wanting to hear every word from every one) I would be polite and listen to them exploring each other. Virginia Woolf and George Eliot might draw sparks from one another: Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker might be well matched ( and leave a lot of quotes on the floor) Ursula Le Guin and Harry Mulisch would be benign observers and share their sharp perceptions and I’d probably invite a simple writing cook to show off his menu- maybe no-nonsense Nigel Slater. There would be three places set for friends who could apply and help with the washing up! I would like to serve Mozambiquan langoustines peri peri with black beer but Viv Tuffnell says she does not eat things that look at her and I hoped she might apply!
If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?
Philippa: I think I would like to write stage plays. I love dialogue, and writing it: it would be wonderful not to have to seek out readers, and I would love seeing my skeletal creation dressed by other people. I am on the verge of turning my recent blogs (of a Court Case putting my book on trial) into exactly that. A new learning curve.
What do you dislike the most about being an author?
Philippa: I echo some of Viv Tuffnell’s fight about the difficulty of not seeing commercial failure as personal. My books are abject failures commercially and sometimes even the rave reviews are not enough to withstand the questions…’If that? Why not…? So the contrast between the two keeps nose to marketing grindstone. They could have the decency to fail on both counts!
Philippa: Ah. Very difficult, so many to pluck out. Querulous? I do like ‘Q words’. Says what it is in the sound plucking the sleeve. I also offer Voetstoets- an Afrikaans word meaning ‘take it as you find it’ warts and all. Seems an appropriate end!
Philippa Rees was in the chair: author of A Shadow in Yucatan.