Amanda Craig, author of Hearts and Minds, takes a tea break with Author Attic to tell us about her writing.
Hearts and Minds
Rich or poor, five people, seemingly very different, find their lives in the capital connected in undreamed-of ways. There is Job, the illegal mini-cab driver whose wife in Zimbabwe no longer answers his letters; Ian, the idealistic supply teacher in exile from South Africa; Katie from New York, jilted and miserable as a dogsbody at a political magazine, and fifteen-year-old Anna, trafficked into sexual slavery. Polly Noble, an overworked human rights lawyer, knows better than most how easy it is to fall through the cracks into the abyss. Yet when her au pair, Iryna, disappears, Polly’s own needs and beliefs drag her family into a world of danger, deceit and terror.
all my characters are different aspects of my own character, but distorted and made more extreme.
Q. Who are your literary influences?
My strongest literary influences are, as far the the novel goes, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Balzac and Trollope. I also read a lot of detective fiction, and particualrly admire the recent novels of Kate Atkinson, who like myself is interested in describing contemporary society through the lens of a murder mystery.
Q. Do you base any of your characters in your books on people you know?
I sometimes get ideas for characters from small details of, or stories about, people I know but they grow into something different. Othewise, there’d be no fun, and no point. That hasn’t prevented one or two journalists I know identifying themselves (with legal threats) as characters. The problem with journalists is that they put all their imagination into their expense claims, leaving nothing left over to conceive of the very different uses to which novelists put theirs. Essentially, all my characters are different aspects of my own character, but distorted and made more extreme.
Q. What book what you have liked to have written?
I would have liked to have written Elizabeth Jenkins’s The Tortoise and the Hare, an overlooked masterpiece about an unhappy marriage, every word of which is perfect; also Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, ditto.
Q. What are you currently reading?
I have just finished reading Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child, which is beautifully written but less original than The Line of Beauty, and I am continually reading children’s fiction in my role as the children’s critic for The Times, in which capacity I recommend Eva Ibbotson’s One Dog and His Boy.
You can also find out more about Amanda by visiting her website at Amandacraig.com.