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William Nicholson

By Sarah Hutchings

William Nicholson

This interview with William Nicholson by Julie Singleton was first published on The Deckchair website on 26/09/2010.

How did you get your first break?
There were competitions I entered and won, but my real break came when I was already working in the BBC as a documentary producer and my boss asked me to write a drama script. He’d already seen my unsuccessful novels and was struck by my dialogue.

Could you describe your working day.
Up about 6.15am, out to my office for coffee, then prepare the day’s work. Breakfast at 7.15, back out by 7.45am and down to work. Best writing time is about 8.30-12. Lunch at 1pm. Then no more work. Time to live.

How does an idea become a book?
I do a lot of pre-planning, working out the plot and the characters, usually while I’m engaged on other projects. I find books take a long time to incubate.

What are your favourite opening lines of a novel?
Don’t know. I’m willing to read more than a line of any novel.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Reading the paper, drinking wine and eating crisps: something I yearn to do every early evening. But if I do it, after about half an hour I feel sick.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Tolstoy before he became an annoying old man. Chekhov at any age. Evelyn Waugh to annoy the others. Emily Dickinson, who wouldn’t show up.

Do you always finish reading a book you’ve started?
No. I’ll give a book about 70 pages, but if I’m not liking it by then, it’s out.

Which book do you wish you had written?
War and Peace.

If you weren’t a writer, what job would you like to have done?

Describe your perfect day.
A good morning’s writing followed by a whole lot of nothing shared with my family.

What keeps you awake at night?
I go to sleep very quickly. If I wake, as I sometimes do, in the small hours, then I start thinking about what I’m writing, and that keeps me awake.

Why did you choose to live near Brighton and Hove and what keeps you here?
I spent the first eleven years of my life in Seaford, so the Downs are the landscape of my childhood. It’s not the tidy Home Counties here but it’s good and near to London.

How does living here inspire your work?
Sussex is often my subject because this is the world I know. I’m currently writing a sequence of novels set round Lewes. Of course really I’m writing about love and pain and death and all the things writers write about, but they happen in Sussex too.

This page was amended on 14/01/2012
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