Book Talk: Author Graham Swift says writing is no easy life

NEW YORK, (Reuters) - Novelist Graham Swift loves writing and could not imagine doing anything else with his life but it is not a career he would recommend for anyone who wants a secure life.

Swift, 58, said he always knew he wanted to write and only ever worked temporary jobs until he could survive on writing.

He has now published eight novels, with his most recent “Tomorrow” just released, and won the prestigious Booker Prize for his 1996 book “Last Orders”, which was made into a film, as was his book “Waterland.”

“Tomorrow,” similarly to his previous book “The Light of Day,” is a narrative of a short period - a single night, in which a couple are mulling changes to occur the next day.

He spoke to Reuters about his writing:

Q: What is appealing about setting a book in a brief time?

A: “Well you have the immediate time span which is short but the historical time span goes back. That is something that appeals to me, more than one time level.”

Q: Do you start a novel with a clear idea of its course?

A: “It is more of a mystery tour than a known plan. I’m very much a writer who writes by instinct and intuition. Things do change their shape as you write. That is very healthy.”

Q: It’s been four years since your last book. Why the gap?

A: “How long does it take to write a novel? It takes as long as it takes. The gap between my books if you average it out is about three to four years. That time is not all sitting down writing by any means. A large part of the time is simply waiting for the right idea to come along.”

Q: Ever considered continuing characters in other books?

A: “That would not be me or my kind of novel. I do feel that a number of my characters have for me a sort of weird existence beyond the pages of the book -- it sounds fantastical -- so that if I were to meet them I would not be surprised. I have the kind of imagination that can make up characters.”

Q: Did you always want to write?

A: “I have been a writer for a long time and wanted to be a writer for a long time, even when I was quite small. Maybe I recognized then that I had this kind of imagination.”

Q: When did writing become full time for you?

A: “It wasn’t until my third novel “Waterland” in 1983 that I could get near the point of making the jump into just being a writer. I had all kinds of other jobs to support my writing, from being a hospital porter to security guard. My mainstay for a number of years was being a part-time teacher.

Q: Was it hard to break into writing?

A: “I look back and remember when I started out I did not know a single other writer and had no one to teach me. It was a very solitary, long period of working away at it and eventually getting into print. It is not something I would recommend for anyone who wants a secure and easy life.”

Q: Are there plans for any other films from your books?

A: “The Light of Day” is a possibility. I hope it will happen and I certainly see it as being a terrific film. I think of all my novels it could be the best one made into a film.”

Q: You don’t have a Web site?

A: “I guess I wouldn’t want one. I do get a lot of mail from readers and I am constantly delighted they take the trouble to write to me...I have a computer for writing but I am really a pen and ink writer.”

Q: What do you read?

A: “As a novelist I like to read lots of novels. If I am in the middle of a novel myself I sometimes prefer to read non-fiction because it intrudes less into what you’re doing. I am a general reader with fairly Catholic tastes.”