Some writers write primarily for love of language and literature. It wouldn’t bother them too much if their work remained unpublished: their pleasure and pride lies in the writing itself.
I write, on the other hand, almost exclusively to communicate. It is a lonely business being human. We are complex creatures with inner lives which barely match the public roles we have to inhabit.
My first protagonist, Robert Standing, was inspired by an adventure (see Why I write). Reviewers applauded the fact that this was not a thinly disguised autobiography as many first novels are, but I knew the truth: it was absolutely about me, and my longing to reach the interior life of other people. I wanted to say, 'Is this how life seems to you, too?’
All my novels have been questions, both to ask myself and my readers. I have opinions on many subjects, but have made up my mind on none of them. If I had, I would already feel half-dead. My philosophy is to be open to every idea.
I have also written a book of sixty-six short essays, The Conversations, whose aim is not to preach or teach but to ask you, the reader, what you think about the different aspects of your life to date, and to share your thoughts with friends or a partner.
When I first began to write, I had two readers: one was my sixteen year old mother’s help, who left school before she had taken her GCSE’s, and the other was a Cambridge don. If either confessed to being bored for a moment, I would do another draft.
We are all of us cleverer than we think. School, sadly, has made us doubt that, with its measuring of a spurious kind of intelligence. The questions I ask are universal ones: which means they are for us all, and about us all.