What were your favourite books when you were growing up?
‘“Growing up” covers a lot of reading material for me, from “Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes” (this was my introduction to surrealism) to the tales of Beatrix Potter (a taste of dark gothic). I went from “Wild Animals I Have Known” by Ernest Thompson (furry romance) to Sherlock Holmes (my pre-teen pop idol crush) and on to the outer galaxies of Austen, Brontë and Curt Siodmak’s sci-fi “Donovan’s Brain”. Let’s just say it was very inclusive.
Which books give you utopian or dystopian inspiration?
‘I’ve been deeply immersed in the early forms: all of HG Wells, much of Jules Verne, and onward to Huxley, Orwell and Ray Bradbury. For those who don’t know it, you can also have a lot of fun with “Consider Her Ways” by John Wyndham. And I do love “Riddley Walker” by Russell Hoban for the language and “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K Le Guin for its sheer effrontery.’
Has a book ever inspired you to do something strange?
‘“Wildwood Wisdom: Classic Wilderness Living” by Ellsworth Jaeger inspired me to try almost all of the wilderness survival foods it mentions. I didn’t manage the porcupine, but I’ve eaten cattails, acorns and many more which are best relied on for emergencies only.’
Which book has hand the greatest influence on your work?
‘This is a question for future dissertation writers. Why spoil their fun?’
What would you be if you weren’t an author?
‘Realistically, a gene-splicing botanist cloning glow-in-the-dark potatoes. I was good at botany when I was younger, and examiners didn’t take marks off for spelling, unlike those marking the English exams – like a lot of writers, I was a bad speller. Unrealistically, an opera singer. Though I might have ended up as a graphic designer. I still take an unhealthy interest in my own book covers.’
Which book have you re-read more than any other?
‘All the murder mystery novels which are kept at our family summer house in the woods. Why? Because they are there. For a similar reason, I also read the Bible a lot – the stranger parts, such as the dismembered concubine – because the nice Gideons leave it around in hotel rooms for people like me who are taking a break from the TV news while doing book tours.’
Margaret Atwood’s new novel ‘MaddAddam’ is published by Bloomsbury priced £18.99. Click here to buy a copy.
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The Blues Kitchen Camden
This lively, contemporary bar-diner on the main Camden drag celebrates American musical heritage in song (live shows, DJs, free harmonica lessons), spirits and sustenance. The food is all-American in spirit and substance, with barbecue and burgers featuring prominently. Though you can, if you insist, order a 'superfood salad.' There are around 50 bourbons in a variety of categories, some used as bases for cocktails. Rarer types (Blanton’s Gold, Sazerac 18-Year-Old Rye, Woodford Reserve 1838 Sweet Mash) go for a tenner or more, but otherwise you’ll be paying £3.50 to £6. ‘America’s native spirit’ is how Kentucky bourbon is described, with Ancient Age and Evan Williams typical examples; Tennessee, ‘the first cousin of Kentucky’, is honoured with a full suit of Jack Daniel’s labels.
Venue says: “Free birthday bubbly for parties booking in for drinks at Blues Kitchen Camden on Friday nights. Get in touch for more details.”