In 1946, George Orwell articulated the reasons why he put pen to paper in an essay entitled Why I Write.
In this Web series, authors talk about their literary habits and reading preferences,
and examine Orwell's question that lies at the heart of being an author—why they write.

Charles Cumming


Typhoon

 

Charles Cumming is a British writer of spy fiction. He has authored six novels: The Hidden Man, The Spanish Game, A Spy By Nature, Typhoon, The Trinity Six and A Foreign Country. Typhoon, a thriller about a plot to destabilize China ahead of the 2008 Olympics, was hailed by The Times as the best spy novel about Britain’s relations with China since John le Carré’s The Honourable Schoolboy.

 

Why I write
Everybody has a talent for something – in my case, it’s writing. I would be a terrible businessman, a lousy teacher, a third-rate lawyer. But writing is something that I enjoy doing and it’s a great way to make a living.

 

Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
I try to work every day, for seven or eight hours, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Most writers will tell you that they do their most productive work as a deadline appears over the horizon…

 

Worst source of distraction?
My two small children. Staring at them is a lot more interesting than staring at the four walls of my office.

 

Best source of inspiration?
I’m a great believer in going for a walk in order to solve an intractable problem. Other than that, Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock was a huge source of inspiration while I was writing Typhoon.

 

How often do you get writers’ block/doubt your own ability?
Writer’s block is a myth. There are days when all creative people feel dried up, but the trick is not to tie yourself in knots about it. The anxiety will pass.

 

Contemporary writer in any medium who you never miss?
There are a couple of British journalists – Giles Coren and Toby Young – who always make me laugh. Simon Jenkins in The Guardian is always worth reading, ditto Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. Richard Ford is probably my favorite living novelist.

 

Favorite Chinese writer?
Confucius.

 

Best book about China?
Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China’s Most Wanted Man by Oliver August offers a fascinating glimpse of a side of China that we in the West rarely see.

 

Favorite book?
Possibly The Magus by John Fowles.

 

Favorite writer?
It would be a toss-up between Shakespeare and Philip Roth.

 

The book you know you should have read but haven’t?
There are too many to mention. Pride and Prejudice is the one that sticks out.

 

You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
There are bits of A Spy by Nature which are toe-curlingly embarrassing, but other sections that I’m very proud of. It’s definitely a first novel by a writer with something to say who didn’t quite yet know how to say it.

 

Does writing change anything?
Absolutely. Politicians are at the mercy of print journalists. Novels are banned by corrupt government around the world. That tells you something about the power of writing.

 



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Posted on: March 7th, 2013 by JFK Miller No Comments