I’ve tidied my bedside table, so it’s a much shorter list than it would usually be. Though a crime writer myself, I don’t read mysteries exclusively or even mainly. As it happens, however, both of the books there at the moment are crime. There’s CJ Sansom’s Dissolution, one of the best historical (or any other sort of) detective stories I’ve read for along time, and I’m about to start Ariana Franklin’s Mistress Of The Art Of Death, which looks promising.
Which writer makes you despair of your own abilities?
Great writing inspires me to do better rather than makes me despair. So, who has inspired me most? Probably Evelyn Waugh – at his best, every line is perfect.
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What book would you recommend
There is no such book. Fortunately for us writers, reading tastes vary enormously. Even the in-all-respects wonderful The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger doesn’t meet with universal acclaim – in fact, my friends seem equally divided on whether it’s a modern masterpiece or pseudo-scientific rubbish. But, having said that, I’ll make a recommendation anyway: The Card by Arnold Bennett. It relates how the likeable but completely undeserving Denry Machin becomes richer and richer and happier and happier until he eventually becomes Mayor of Bursley – a feelgood story for credit-crunch Britain.
Which writer lived the life you most admire?
Much though I’d like to be F Scott Fitzgerald in a silk dressing gown with a cocktail in my hand, I guess I admire Anthony Trollope for churning out up to four books a year, in spite of the day job at the Post Office. A hard act to follow.
What book do you first remember being read to you as a child?
I think it must have been Teddy Robinson. I can remember a bit about him being asked to watch the toast, and how he watched it turn from white to golden brown and from golden brown to black. I still think that’s funny.
What is the most overrated book you have ever read?
I used to say The Color Purple, but I looked at it again recently and it wasn’t half as bad as I remembered. So I’ll just go along with everyone else and opt for The Da Vinci Code.
Do you have any rituals or superstitions as a writer?
My main superstition is that I won’t show anyone what I’m currently working on or even talk about it. I also find it takes a while to pick up from where I left off the previous day. The first hour seems to consist mainly of making coffee, checking my emails and Amazon ratings – doing anything in fact other than writing. Conversely, once I’m started, I usually feel I could go on for ever.
Ten Little Herrings features a crime writer as a main character. Were you tempted to be autobiographical?
There are certainly plenty of autobiographical bits and pieces there for those who like to spot that sort of thing. I thought that Ethelred himself was pure fiction, but my family point out that many of his most irritating features are absolutely me. I’m not sure I resembled Ethelred when I started writing, but I think I am becoming more and more like him. At the time I wrote The Herring Seller’s Apprentice (in which he and Elsie first appear) I wasn’t a published writer and knew nothing about how writers operated or the publishing industry. Macmillan were kind enough not to point out how many mistakes I probably made.
Ten Little Herrings by LC Tyler is published by Macmillan, priced £16.99