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Collated Answers from WW interviews

Who are your favourite writers/influences and why?
Ardella JonesElmore Leonard and Chandler for stylish crime. Evelyn Waugh for elegant comic prose with depth of meaning. Fay Weldon for being such a sharp, funny, observer, a modern didactic narrator. Martin Amis for being so clever and Kingsley for being so funny and non-PC. Alice Walker for the bravery in her choice of themes and the poetic beauty of her prose. My all time favourite book is The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which reflects the complexity of Caribbean identity and the unsung connections with the English literary tradition. Then there’s Zora Neale Hurston’s great love story, Their Eyes were Watching God. Of course I am much more of a Fay than a Jean or Alice. I also love powerful British dramatists such as McGovern and Bleasedale. John Pilger as a journalist…I could go on and on.
Dee WeaverPhilippa Gregory, Elizabeth Chadwick, Sharon Kay Penman and CJ Sansom for their ability to tell a good story and bring history to life at the same time.
Elizabeth SpellerBooks that have made me reconsider how to write historical fiction, include John Fowles’ The French-Lieutenant’s Woman, and Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker (future rather than past!). They made me think about points of view and showed me that narratives could be manipulated or pushed to the limits - that the novel is a very elastic form. They also introduced me to the delightful idea of the unreliable narrator. One that made me realise that humour and tragedy could be combined is Rose Tremain’s Towers of Trebizond. Louis MacNeice’s brilliant long poem Autumn Journal about the summer of 1939 and the sense of imminent war, is the very best illustration of the difference between reportage and an imaginative immediacy that fiction or poetry can provide.

John RitchieTHAT is the question. Just a sample: Jerome K. Jerome, ‘Three Men in A Boat’ sublime silliness. Shakespeare, simply sublime. Arthur C. Clark. ‘2001’ – a real mind blower. J.D. Salinger, ‘A Catcher in Rye’, deceptively simple. Robert M. Pirsig – ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’; read and re-read. George MacDonald-Fraser – very funny. Ian Rankin and Peter James – opposite ends of everything: country, style, format, but cracking writers both. Recently discovered: Gordon Ferris, Glasgow as opposed to Edinburgh, but another excellent noir crime writer.

I suppose I favour tight, economic writing that is witty and intelligent. I hate being spoon-fed and much prefer to work at a text to tease out the deeper meaning. Unfortunately, this tends to inform my writing and I have been accused of being obtuse.
Judith JohnsonPeople: more inspired by other people than other writers. Favourite playwrights, however, are Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Alan Bleasedale, Willy Russell, Stephen Sondheim, Kay Mellor, Joe Penhall, Caryl Churchill, Jackie Kay, anyone who ever wrote for the Sopranos.
Julia CopusThis is a hard one. I have quite wide tastes and I’ll give you the names of two poets from opposite ends of the spectrum: I really love Anne Carson (especially her ‘Glass and God’ collection) because she distils what it is to be human into so few words, memorably and beautifully, but I also love Billy Collins, for his quick-wittedness and because he makes me laugh. I also love W.S. Graham, Dorothy Molloy, Alice Oswald… This is rather a random list, though. There are so many.

My favourite short story writer, without a doubt, is Alice Munro. And one of my favourite contemporary playwrights is the fantastic David Eldridge (‘Festen’, ‘Market Boy’, ‘Under The Blue Sky’) – though I may be slightly biased as one of his plays is dedicated to my fiancé! As for novelists, a great favourite is Carol Shields (‘The Stone Diaries’ and ‘Larry’s Party’). I love the way Shields marries the personal with the universal, the parochial with the global, the outside world with a character’s inner life – in almost every sentence, it seems. For instance, I remember a passage from ‘Larry’s Party’ in which the protagonist carefully sprinkles cinnamon onto his cappuccino in order to get an even coverage. This little cloud of cinnamon forms in the air before it drifts down onto the coffee cup, and in the next breath it’s compared with a dust storm which had coated every ledge and leaf in Winnipeg the previous summer. I love that kind of combination. And quite apart from that, the extraordinary care that Larry takes over this tiny action tells us so much about his temperament, of course.

But in general, I find this a difficult question to answer, as I tend to have favourite poems or stories or books rather than favourite writers.
Kate TymI have quite eclectic tastes but I like what I read to be intelligently written. I don’t do anything mass market. I like to read books and think ‘wow! I could never have written that – they’re so clever!’. Recently I read The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon – absolutely fantastic. The sort of book you get completely immersed in, pacey, gripping, fabulous. And, because I’ve got a touch of the old feminist leanings in me I love The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I’m not a fan of all Atwood’s work, but I love that book. It’s as politically relevant now as when she wrote it. On the poetry front I love Betjeman and Larkin – they are straightforward and yet clever at the same time – I don’t like my poetry to be too esoteric.
Laura WatsonMy favourite childhood author has to be Roald Dahl. His imagination and originality are second to none. The Witches was a great inspiration! In terms of scriptwriting there are so many people I admire, Paul Abbott’s writing is brave, funny and powerful. I’m also a real fan of Peter Moffat’s Criminal Justice (especially Series 1) and his ability to structure and layer a story over five gripping and intense hours. I’m currently into The West Wing and think Aaron Sorkin is fantastic, the episodes are witty, clever and moving. Abi Morgan, Tony Jordan, Sally Wainwright, Simon Ashdown, Jimmy McGovern, I could go on….!

Lee HenshawI can’t say that I have favourites. There are plenty that I like, but when I decide to read a book it rarely has anything to do with the author. Today I chose Brick Lane over Willard and his Bowling Trophies and A Sort of Life, for example, going for an author I know nothing about over two who I enjoy because I felt like reading something contemporary.

Regarding my influences, I’m like a cushion, I carry the impression of the last person to sit on me.

Here’s a list of five books I’ve ready recently that inspired me.

Big Sur and The Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
One People by Guy Kennaway
Blindness by Jose Saramago
The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer
Tara HylandI love commercial fiction - anything that’s easy to read and has a compelling, page-turning storyline. Among my favourite writers are: Ken Follett, Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, Penny Vincenzi, Jackie Collins, Martina Cole, Lesley Pearse, Louise Bagshawe, Harlan Coben and Lisa Gardner
Tracy BuchananMy favourite writer is Angela Carter. Her use of imagery is divine and I love the way she depicts intense, sometimes dangerous, relationships.