My physical home is London, but my spiritual home is Cape Town, South Africa.
I love London for its diversity, history, arts and my friends, but I crave Cape Town for its breathtaking mountains, spectacular coastline, the enormous skies, and the blend of Africa and Europe that it offers. The climate is temperate, the proximity to the wild is wonderful, and the city has a small-town atmosphere that embraces you.
I adore dogs. I like humans with long faces and dogs with long faces. I have always loved terriers especially, for their headstrong, wanton characters, inexhaustible energy and fierce loyalty. To stroke, to talk to, to scratch, to groom, to return a stare and make happy with a treat, a game or walk, dogs calm me and make me feel happy. With a dog, a walk always makes sense.
Whatever I have planned for my characters, they can only do what I feel is true to them. Sometimes this leads to plot changes and re-writes, but to force a human being into illogical or unreasonable actions just to suit a pre-destined conclusion, seems lazy and patronizing to the reader.
I love the rhythm of speech. From Shakespeare to Cockney rhyming slang, from an American deep-South accent to Aussie intonation, the rhythms of speech and language sound beautiful to me. Onomatopoeia is used brilliantly by authors like James Elroy and David Peace, but even a conversation or interview between two characters displaying different speech rhythms can become electrifying.
I have suffered from chronic depression my entire life. It is harrowing and exhausting, but I accept that it is part of me and that it has formed me as a person and as a writer. For the sake of my physical health, and that of my close friends, I sought medicinal help some years ago and, working closely with my wonderful GP, found something which – most of the time - takes away the depths of the lows.
Classic cars are so much more fun than modern ones. I have never bought a new car. Driving in London is horrendous, but I appreciate the privacy and thinking time. New cars are soulless and mind-numbing, but the shape of classics, their bodywork, interiors, their sound and smell, makes every journey an adventure. 1960 and 70s Mercedes, old Jags and Bentleys, 50s - 70s American cars, even 60s and 70s Japanese cars, all have character; all bring pleasure in their own way.
Sharing food with friends is my favourite way to relax. Tapas, Meze, a big buffet, Chinese take-away, giant pizza - to share food and drink with one friend or a small group is the way I love to relax. When I’m doing this, I realise how lucky I am: friends and food – not everyone in this world has access to these two things.
I believe in chivalry. I know I’m old fashioned, but I believe that manners and courtesy, empathy and kindness, are all important traits to strive to display. I like to hold open doors, give up my seat, offer assistance. These days such acts sometimes receive not thanks, but scorn. I think that’s a shame. I try to remember this: Everyone is struggling with problems in their lives of which we have no comprehension. One kind act can transform a day for someone.
Theatre on a cinema screen is fabulous. I’m lucky enough to live close to the Olympic Cinema in Barnes, South West London, which is particularly comfortable, and I’ve taken to watching live or recorded theatre productions there. I’m 6’4”, so a theatre seat is not a comfortable place to be - and it’s difficult to know whether to be close to the stage or a good way away. In the cinema, you’re shown the full stage width, then treated to close ups on the performers. It won’t replace going to live theatre, but it is fantastic.
I love how book clubs, women readers and the literary establishment are embracing crime fiction. For a long while, it was considered something of a backwater but, now, readers appreciate that good crime writing can reflect, illustrate, and illuminate both personal problems and societal troubles in thought-provoking and striking ways which leave the reader thinking about the characters and their situation long after the book is finished. In my own books, I want to stimulate thought and discussion, because the reverberations from a story can be deeply thought provoking and life changing.