A.S. Byatt, born 24 August 1936, is an English novelist, poet and Booker Prize winner. In 2008, The Times newspaper named her on its list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. Her sister is the novelist Margaret Drabble.
She gave an interview to the Paris Review in 1998 during which she spoke briefly about her writing method and the fact that she sometimes wrote outdoors.
A. S. Byatt lives and writes in her west London house and, in the summer months, in her house in the south of France …
I write anything serious by hand still. This isn’t a trivial question. There’s that wonderful phrase of Wordsworth’s about “feeling along the heart,” and I think I write with the blood that goes to the ends of my fingers, and it is a very sensuous act. For that reason I could never learn to write what I think of as real writing with the cut-and-paste on the computer because I have to have a whole page in front of me that I wrote, like a piece of knitting. On the other hand I do my journalism on the computer with the word count. I love the word count. I can write a piece now to the word, to the length, and then I put the word count on and triumphantly it says three hundred and two. It’s a quite different thing. But I’ve never written any fiction not with a pen. I sit out of doors with very large numbers of very large stones and other objects on top of the pieces of paper that blow away in the wind. I’ve got a cast-iron mermaid and an enormous ammonite that a French ethnologist gave me that came up out of the bed of the road. I put these on the paper and I sit there scribbling in a kind of tempest. It’s great fun.
A.S.Byatt gave another interview to the Guardian for their Writers Rooms series in 2009.
I write in a Victorian attic in Putney, looking out. I need light – I also have a full spectrum daylight light for winter sadness. I can see the tops of ash trees. I counted 19 magpies in one tree the other day, and we have flights of green parrakeets.
Inside is a purposeful disorder. Two of the walls are books, floor to ceiling. There are also, owing to irresistible on-line ordering, tunnels and towers of books all over the floor. The books on the desk are those I’m using for the current chapter – Kynaston’s wonderful history of the City of London, some books on Rye, some books on Art Nouveau, Hofmannsthal, Millicent Garrett Fawcett. I write fiction by hand, hence the absence of a computer in the picture. I write better since I put the computer in a separate office – partly at least because I am less tempted to play Freecell when I can’t think of a sentence. Carmen Callil made the printed sign for me when she was publisher of Chatto. ANTONIA WRITING TIME. It still works against distraction and procrastination. I try to write all morning, and read and think in the afternoons.
Writers Rooms : A.S.Byatt (Guardian Newspapers 2009)
The Art of Fiction – No. 168 : A.S.Byatt (Paris Review – 2001)