London's hottest new writers

Soviet space travel, life after God, agoraphobia, 'Wayne's World', Chinese national identity, 'yobbish' rain, an Englishman's whaling adventures in seventeenth-century Norway... four of London's hottest new writers reveal the inspiration behind their work

  • London's hottest new writers

    Jed Mercurio

  • Jed Mercurio

    Inspired by 'Wayne's World?' We speak to Jed Mercurio about his new novel 'Ascent'.

    Georgina Harding

    'I feel rather guilty i didn't travel to the Artic, but I didn't travel to the seventeenth century either'.

    Daljit Nagra

    Few contemporary poets are household names, but Daljit Nagra is well on the way.

    Xiaolu Guo

    'Some of the reviews, they really expect that I am super clever writer trying to manipulate bad Englsih!' We speak to Xiaolu Guo about her latest novel ‘A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers’

    Jed Mercurio

    Jed Mercurio’s ingenious new novel ‘Ascent’ is about an alternative Soviet moon landing. Yefgenii Yeremin is a single-minded orphan who trains to be a fighter pilot and cuts his wings in the Korean War before being rescued from exile in an outpost of Franz Joseph Land and put into the Cosmonaut programme. Mercurio, who lives in Teddington but works out of an office in Soho, is best known for writing hospital-set TV series (‘Cardiac Arrest’, ‘Bodies’), based on his own experience of being a doctor in Birmingham, that are big on flawed characters and short on sentimentality. The tone of ‘Ascent’ is equally cool. ‘I don’t worry about alienating people,’ says Mercurio. ‘You’ve got to take a view that you can’t appeal to everybody. There’s a line in “Wayne’s World” about Led Zeppelin, that they didn’t try to be liked by everyone, they left that to the Bee Gees.’ At 40, Mercurio isn’t old enough to remember Neil Armstrong’s moon landing. His interest in space travel started between the Apollo and Shuttle missions when he was a lad growing up in a small town near Stafford. ‘Ascent’ isn’t like ‘Headlong’ – Michael Frayn’s novel which shows off his knowledge of Bruegel between slivers of plot – but Mercurio did train as a pilot at university and complete some military training with the RAF, and can’t resist filling the early chapters with detailed descriptions of technical manoeuvres during the Korean War dogfights between US and Soviet pilots (who were masquerading as North Koreans). ‘I don’t think you can wear your research too prominently,’ he says. ‘There is a temptation when you’ve done lots of research to show off and I hope “Ascent” is enough of a character study not to be a massive turn-off.’ Emma Perry

    ‘Ascent’ is published by Cape at £12.99.

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