Sebastian Faulks …
Sebastian Charles Faulks (born 20 April 1953) is a British novelist, journalist and broadcaster. He is best known for his historical novels set in France – The Girl at the Lion d’Or, Birdsong and Charlotte Gray. He has also published novels with a contemporary setting, most recently A Week in December (2009), and a James Bond continuation novel, Devil May Care (2008), as well as a continuation of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves series, Jeeves and the Wedding Bells (2013). He is a team captain on BBC Radio 4 literary quiz The Write Stuff.
He was a featured author in the Guardian Writers Rooms series in 2009.
I have worked in this room for six years. I wrote novels called Human Traces, Engleby and Devil May Care here, and have nearly finished a new one, provisionally called A Week in December. The room is part of a small flat in Holland Park, in west London. It’s at the top of a building so there’s no noise from above. I come here from home, 15 minutes’ walk away, from roughly ten till six every weekday. I sometimes stay later or come in at the weekend as well, so I guess I must like it here.
It faces east and overlooks a garden square with a pink horse chestnut. The room is not as seedy as the picture makes it look, though I admit that the decor – if that’s not too strong a word – is the subject of some hilarity to female interviewers. I don’t care what it looks like, only how it works.
The desk belonged to a furniture dealer called Simon Horn. It’s too low to get my knees under, so the middle drawer has gone and the legs are propped up by copies of Charlotte Gray in Danish. The chair I got via the Wellcome Trust; it’s the same as those in their library and very good for someone with a chronically painful back. I inherited the curtains from the previous owner.
On the coffee table are books and notebooks relating to the novel in hand. The buff envelope at the front of the upper in-tray on the desk is the next VAT return. The temperamental phone/fax machine doubles, when it fancies it, as a photocopier.
On the wall I face are a small cameo of Tolstoy that I bought in his house in Moscow and a bronze relief of Dickens, half obscured by the computer screen, that was my mother’s. For each book I invoke a sort of patron saint. For A Week in December it’s Orwell, just visible at two o’clock from Tolstoy. The message of the old wartime poster next to him gives solid advice on a slow day. The bag was a Christmas present from my wife.
You work from around 10am to 6pm every weekday. What is it like to spend your working day in an imagined world?
It is exhilarating, though occasionally I do wonder if 21 years in a solitary cell is good for anyone. I do also wonder what it must be like to have a proper job. I guess it is too late to find out now. I would like to have been a diplomat. Or a psychiatrist.
Faulks was also asked about Devil May Care, his James Bond continuation novel in the style of Ian Fleming. Faulks said he had adopted a suitably devil-may-care attitude for his style of writing.
“In his house in Jamaica, Ian Fleming used to write a thousand words in the morning, then go snorkelling, have a cocktail, lunch on the terrace, more diving, another thousand words in late afternoon, then more Martinis and glamorous women. In my house in London, I followed this routine exactly, apart from the cocktails, the lunch and the snorkelling.”