Travelling is important. I lived in Japan for a year and a half, and I’ve done stints in China and Peru. I’ve got my eye on the Arctic next. I always end up writing about people who go to and come from far-flung places — it’s because staying too long in one place feels wrong.
I have bad luck with animals. The last time I went on a proper holiday, I went up a mountain to look at a waterfall, where I was promptly bitten by a territorial monkey and then spent six months being treated against tetanus. And I’ve been pinned to a fence by an annoyed goat.
I love languages. I did linguistics as part of my degree and I was the worst in my year (my tutor flat out told me so) but I still think it’s massive fun. I speak some Japanese and Spanish, and I want to try Norwegian or Danish next. Researching for books, actually knowing the local language opens a lot of doors. A surprising amount of brilliant stuff, historical records especially, has never been translated.
I’m lonely a lot of the time. I live by myself — writing is pretty solitary — and most of my interactions are with the automatic checkout at Morrisons. But that’s important; it all goes into stories.
I write fantasy, usually set in real historical periods. I’m always blown over by what crops up in the real world — marvellous, magic-sounding things sometimes — and I like the idea of not just having magic versus real in a book, but a spectrum where it all fades together.
I’ve only ever been a writer. I’ve worked briefly in bookshops and publishing houses, but only to fund my masters, which, not surprisingly, was in Creative Writing. I teach now too at a couple of universities, but I teach writing: there’s nothing else to fall back on, so I’m hoping pretty fervently that it works out.
I sleep badly. I tend to wake up at about four in the morning. It’s great, though, because good ideas often come along then. I think a lot of it is about being tired enough to let go of what you think ought to happen, and see what you really want to.
I talk about seeing what you’re writing because I do. I was much better at art than writing when I was younger — I even did mural painting as a summer job once — and that affects how I imagine. Now, the point at which I feel like I know a story properly is when I can see the dust in the air and the trademark imprints on people’s buttons. I think that detail is important — I think you have to know far more than you ever actually include. There’s less of a chance then that you’ll be unclear, and more of a chance it will feel rich.
The next book is in the works. It’s on my editor’s desk now. It’s a sequel to the first, and it’s set almost completely in Japan, in 1889. Part of it takes place in Tokyo and part in an extremely cold place in the far north, called Abashiri, where I once dragged twenty over-obliging members of the English Society round a prison museum for research.
I have a proper horror of sex scenes. My grandma reads my books. One day I’ll be brave, but that day is not today!
Natasha Pulley’s new novel, The Bedlam Stacks, is available on Audible.co.uk now, and is published in hardback and ebook by Bloomsbury Circus.