Almost too hard to say but… the chance to meet John Julius Norwich, John Man and Justin Marozzi is probably the thing I am most looking forward to.
John Julius Norwich has consistently written histories in the grand manner and it is a style that is far easier to admire than to emulate. John Man has written two forewords for me in the past and I owe him a vast debt, he is also one of the most ‘page-turning’ history writers I know of and he has done so much to bring the history of Central Asia to western readers. Justin Marozzi’s study of Tamerlane is a superb biography and it will be interesting to discuss the nature of tyrants with John and Justin especially as I have just completed a study of the ‘real’ Dracula.
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
After reading Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire [All Six Volumes!]
What book do you find yourself re-reading most often?
Oddly enough, it’s fiction not history – Catch 22. But I have also read Ulysses by Joyce some 8 times and always find something else in it each time, with Finnegan’s Wake however I have never got past page 33…
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Essentially what I am a lot of the time; a (sometimes) practical academic.
And finally, we have a number of aspiring writers attending the Festival. What one piece of advice would you give them?
In ‘Slow Learner’, Thomas Pynchon says the new writer should ‘write what you know.’ I can think of no greater piece of advice.