Scots crime writer Denise Mina tells Marianne Taylor about the books that shaped her.

Favourite book you read as a child

I couldn’t read until very late, I think I was about eight or nine. We lived abroad, so I attended Dutch and French- speaking schools, and I was way behind. I didn’t find a book I really liked until I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I loved it because Scout’s point of view wasn’t clawing or patronizing and because it addressed racism head-on. I loved the righteous feeling of being on Atticus’s side. I re-read it so often I have some edit notes for Harper Lee (shorten the first chapter).

First book that really made an impact on you.

All of George Orwell had a huge impact on me: 1984, Animal Farm, Keep the Aspidistra Flying. I loved that he was consciously using narrative to present unpopular political views. Animal Farm featured animals because he wouldn’t have been published if he’d criticised Stalin head-on. I used to have a massive aspidistra in honour of him and the bloody thing wouldn’t die.

Which books made you laugh or cry?

I love PG Woodhouse and have to read his books when I’m alone because they make me laugh out loud. I can clear the top deck of a bus by reading PG Woodhouse.

Review: Conviction, by Denise Mina

Favourite character?

Sharik from Heart of a Dog, by Mikhail Bulgakov. Sharik is a starving street dog who is lured back to a warm flat by a surgeon offering him sausage. The surgeon operates on Sharik, giving him the testes and pituitary glands of a human man, and Sharik begins to transform into a disgusting, half-humanoid creature who demands housing rights, enough food and a say in the way the house is run. He breaks things. He gets a job as a cat strangler. The surgeon is appalled and tries to turn him back into a dog but Sharik won’t have it. He’s funny, vulgar, brave, brilliant and horny, one of the best anti- heroes I've ever read.

Least fave genre

Romance. I think I might be very susceptible to Romance because I’m so resistant to it, even when its very well-written and I really care about the outcome. Marian Keyes is a stone genius. I’m still drawn to hyper violent action reads more than happy ending romances.

Book you wish you’d written

Not a book but a short story: The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allen Poe. I read it and was immediately overcome by jealousy. It could be written right now by one of the best and you’d hardly have to change a word. It’s terrifying and dark, yet you full understand the protagonist’s motivation. Poe was very uneven, some of his work is overblown rubbish, and I don’t think he always knew what his audience wanted. He never really hit his stride as a writer but because of that we’ve got all these different bits of writing that don’t really fit together. I think he worried about money a lot and that determined what he wrote. The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Raven are his best known works but The Tell-Tale Heart is his absolute best, I think.

Review: Conviction, by Denise Mina

Book you think is over-rated

This is a difficult question. Lots of very popular books aren’t for me but I’m trying to the think of work by someone who is dead because I don’t want to be rude and there are a lot of fictions in fiction. No-one becomes a writer without being incredibly opinionated about books and writing; then, weirdly, when you’re published we all pretend to love everything everyone else writes. I can become infuriated by the over use of commas, rambling sentences, shoe-horning status totems into a story like cars, country houses, jets etc. The convention in fiction is that every one says they love everything, maybe because it’s hard to get blood out of yurt cloth. I’ve had long conversations with people whose work I hated, who hated my bloody feminist claptrap – I can tell from the eyes – but we’ve agreed that we love one another’s books. So let’s say the Bible.

E-reader or print

Print, always. I can’t clean my finger nails on the edge of an e-reader when the story gets going, can’t hoard e-readers in a big dusty pile, can't go back to it years later and be transported back to the time I first read it or be appalled when I see the same book with an updated cover. That said, I do use e-readers for revisions of my own work sometimes, when I need to see it afresh and also when I’ve run out of things to read. It does feel like sticking a heel on with chewing gum though: it’ll get you through an emergency but it’s not the real thing for me.

Where do you read?

Anywhere. I’m always banging my shins while trying to read and walk. My ambition when I was younger was to find a way to read and smoke in the bath. I bought what I thought was book stand, sat it on the soap rack and the book immediately fell in. I tried several times. Turns out it was a decorative plate stand. Ideally, though, I have a chair with the light behind it, a stool for my feet, a table for a pint of tea and a deadline. That makes it extra delicious.

Last book you didn’t finish

Robert Fisk’s The Great War for Civilization. I bought it for my partner for his birthday, but it was secretly for me. My scam was immediately uncovered by my starting to read it on the night of his birthday. When challenged for being a duplicitous cow I bought him another copy and took it away on a north American tour, but the book weighs about a stone and my handbag was breaking under the weight of it so I ripped it in half and dumped what turned out to be the wrong half in a bin at the airport, got on a flight from Chicago to Vancouver, realised what I had done and had nothing else to read. It felt a bit cursed and the notion went off me by the time I got back. I don’t think my partner has read it either.

Last book you read

Knife by Jo Nesbo because I was chairing him at The Harrogate Crime Festival.

Favourite three novels

You’d have to narrow that down a bit. Is it for morning or evening, is it summer or winter, is it for work or pleasure, am I angry or thirsty? I mean, come on. Off the top of my head: The Heart of a Dog by Bulgakov, The Blunderer by Patricia Highsmith and Thérèse Raquin by Zola.

Favorite three non-fiction books

Same answer as above but randomly: The Victorians by AN Wilson, Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe, The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson.

Guilty pleasure

Take a Break magazine.

Most interesting use of a book

Cleaning my nails on the edge of pages. It’s disgusting and means that the top hand edge of the book is grey but it also means that no one ever wants to borrow my books.

Conviction, by Denise Mina, is out now on Harvill Secker, priced £14.99