Virginia Woolf said of Austen, 'For a great writer, she was the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness,' which is a fantastic line. You're drawn into the story, and you come out the other end, and you know you've seen something great in action. But you can't see the pyrotechnics; there's nothing flashy. Favorite living writer Roddy Doyle
I love all his books. I often talk about him and Jane Austen in the same breath. I think people are slightly mystified by that because superficially they're such different writers. But they both have a very unsentimental approach to human nature. They can be profoundly moving without ever becoming mawkish Another book I love Chéri By Colette
I could never write the way Colette did. I've never found anything to match her descriptive passages, ever. She was a very sensual writer, and way beyond her time. Chéri is a love story between a very spoiled young man and his mistress who has "been there, done that." He's self-centered and vicious, and she ultimately turns out to be very noble. The final scene is incredibly moving; it makes me cry. I absolutely bow to Colette, but I think if she could hear me, she would probably tell me where to get lost, because she was that kind of woman. Favorite book as a child The Little White Horse By Elizabeth Goudge
Goudge was the only one whose influence I was conscious of. She always described exactly what the children were eating, and I really liked knowing what they had in their sandwiches.
Favorite book as a child The Story of the Treasure Seekers By E. Nesbit
She's the children's writer with whom I most identify. She said, 'By some lucky chance, I remember exactly how I felt and thought at 11.' That struck a chord with me. The Story of the Treasure Seekers was a breakthrough children's book. Oswald is such a very real narrator, at a time when most people were writing morality plays for children.
Favorite new children's book Skellig By David Almond
It's the best children's book I have read recently.