The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Alan Titchmarsh

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Alan Titchmarsh

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Summary: Alan Titchmarsh writes his novels in between making television series. We managed to catch him for a chat on the day that his latest book was published.
Date: 15 September 2011
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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Alan Titchmarsh writes his novels in between making television series. We managed to catch him for a chat on the day that his latest book was published.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Alan Titchmarsh: I suppose mainly women. But I do enjoy it when men come up and say 'when is the next novel due?'. I write for people who just enjoy reading a good story; a yarn, if you like. What they call page-turners. It's important to me when my readers get to the end of the story that they don't feel short-changed. It might not be the ending that they expected, but I don't want them to feel disappointed.

  • BB: What inspired you to write 'The Haunting'?

AT: I never know where the ideas come from and it surprises me every time but I always try to evoke the highs and lows of relationships between men and women. With THE HAUNTING I wanted to explore our often unacknowledged links with our ancestors and to point out that most lives are filled with what we call 'coincidences'.

  • BB: I liked Anne Flint – the scullery maid who wanted to better herself – and I thought you really brought the nineteenth century to life. Did you enjoy doing the research?

AT: It's a period which interests me hugely and I had a fair amount of knowledge but it was fascinating adding to that and immersing myself in Georgian daily life.

  • BB: Where and how do you write – and how on earth do you find the time?

AT: I write in the hay loft of the barn next to my house. I write on a laptop, starting early in the morning and finishing at one or two in the afternoon. Writing novels is what I do in between television series and I find that the solitude is a great counterpoint to the sociability of television. I have always been very happy in my own company and that of the people in my novels.

  • BB: Talking of time – do you find the time to get out and get your hands dirty in the garden? And how do you manage a big garden without putting every waking hour into it?

AT: When I finish writing I go out into the garden and potter for the rest of the afternoon. I'd like to say that's when I get my ideas, but it seems to be more subconscious. I find gardening a great way of unwinding and when I relax my mind is more receptive.

  • BB: I think it was Fred Truman who said that you should never ask a man if he came from Yorkshire. If he was he'd tell you and if he wasn't, then you wouldn't want to embarrass him. You've always struck me as a man who's proud of his roots – so why are you living in Hampshire?

AT: I'm doing missionary work. There's another thing that they say: 'you can always tell a Yorkshireman …. But not very much!'

  • BB: Are you a great reader? What are you reading at the moment?

AT: Yes I am. Both fiction and non-fiction. At the moment I am reading a biography of Joseph Duveen who was the most successful British art dealer in the early part of the twentieth century.

  • BB: If you could only take one book (other than the Bible or Shakespeare) to a desert island, which one would it be?

AT: Emma by Jane Austen

  • BB: Good choice! You've got one wish. What's it to be?

AT: Can I conduct the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra?.

  • BB: We'll see what can be arranged. What's next for Alan Titchmarsh?

AT: Bed …!

  • BB: Thanks for chatting to us Alan, and good luck with the missionary work.

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