credit: Bill Waters
I am really glad you’ve accepted my interview. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Can you tell us a bit more about how you became a writer?
Sean: I grew up in a house full of books where my father was a journalist and critic and my mother was a translator. I never seriously thought of doing anything else than writing. I spent my twenties as a journalist, but I always wanted to write fiction.
Nicci: As a child who spent most of my time reading, immersed in stories, I always wanted to be a writer – but I think I lost confidence in my teens and twenties. I did lots of other things before actually writing: I taught in adult education; I worked in a home for children with special needs; I became a journalist. I became a mother. I became a single mother. Then I met Sean…. My first novel wasn’t actually mine; it was not by me but by Nicci French.
Was it difficult for the first book to find a publisher?
Sean: By the time we wrote ’The Memory Game’ we already had a literary agent, for other reasons. There are many difficulties about being a writer nowadays. One is writing a book. Another is getting someone to read your book once you’ve written it.
Could you describe literature in three words?
Sean: Making life strange
Nicci: Letting you forget yourself, escape yourself, find yourself
Is there a book you would never read? Why?
Sean: There is no kind of book I would never read, no forbidden genre or subject matter. But I would never read a book that Nicci told me would be a waste of my time. Life is too short.
Nicci: Well, I agree with what Sean’s just said – that there’s no genre or subject matter I wouldn’t read. But, unlike Sean who’s utterly omnivorous in his reading, I read much more fiction than non-fiction.
What’s your favorite book?
Sean: So many, mostly very well known. A wonderful less well known book I read recently was A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. It’s like a children’s story (about children living with pirates) that is absolutely not for children.
Nicci: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, the Moomin books by the great Tove Jansson. (There are more – but these I return to over and over).
Sean: Wittgenstein: ‘If a lion could speak, we could not understand him.’
Nicci: wrongly attributed to Plato, it’s” Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’
EBooks or paper print?
Sean: Ebooks are useful on a plane, on holiday. But the book – its weight, the feel of the pages – is one of the great human invention.
Nicci: Print. Though every way of reading is good.
What inspires you?
Sean: Strange things, things I don’t expect.
Nicci: Apart from Sean, you mean? Those strange, intimate connections with strangers; they are like electric charges pulling through life.
Imagine you were given the opportunity to meet a book character in real life. Who would that be?
Sean: Hamlet. The most fascinating, inexhaustible character ever invented. But I’d be worried what he’d make of me. After all, look what happened to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Nicci: Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking: the strongest child in the world, and the most irresistible
What’s your worst nightmare?
Sean: Finding myself on a train without a book to read.
Nicci: Apart from being with Sean when he’s on a train without a book – something terrible befalling one of the children.
The best decision of your life was?
Sean: Marrying a young woman I met when we found ourselves working in the same office in 1989.
Nicci: Now what can I say! Reader, I married him …
I can’t wait to read your next book. Are you currently working on a project? Is there any release date to reveal?
Sean: Our next book, The Day of the Dead, is published in the Spring.