Friday, September 25, 2009

Author Snapshot: Gyles Brandreth

A Snapshot of ... Gyles Brandreth

Most recent book: Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man’s Smile (Touchstone)
Born: 1948 in a British Forces Hospital in Germany
Reside: London and Paris
Birthday: March 8th
Web site:

What’s your favorite city?

London, because in my head I am living in the 1890s when London really was the capital of the civilized world. (Followed by Paris, New York and Venice.)

You only have six hours to spend there. What do you do?
Walk along the north bank of the River Thames, from Chelsea embankment, where my hero, Oscar Wilde, lived, to Tower Bridge, near the Old Bailey courthouse where his public life was brought to an end.

What food do you love?

What food have you vowed never to touch again?
Dates. I cannot stand them!

What’s on your nightstand?
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, my favorite comfort reading. And a pencil and pad in case inspiration strikes in the night!

What inspires you?
The amazing imaginations of the great late-Victorian writers: Wilde, Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson -- and from a generation before, the mind and spirit of Edgar Allan Poe.

What are you working on now?
My next Oscar Wilde mystery. He knew everyone and traveled widely: his life was so turbulent: the possibilities are infinite!

Tell us about your process.
I am disciplined. I plot carefully. I visit all the locations while I am plotting -- all of them, whether it is a morgue or the Sistine Chapel. And then I write at the computer, from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm usually. I aim to complete 1,000 words on a good day.

Lift your head and look around. What do you see?
The London subway. As chance has it, I am writing this on my laptop at Baker Street Station. Oscar Wilde used the London subway: it was very new in his time.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was about 8. My first book was an attempt at a life of William Shakespeare. I was 11 at the time!

If you couldn’t write books, what would you be doing?
Running -- or ruining! -- the country. I used to be a politician.

To date, what moment in your career has made you happiest?
None. I am constantly dissatisfied! That said, I am honored and excited by the fact that my mysteries are now translated into 19 languages and appear around the world. From Peru to Russia, people are fascinated by murder and the story of Oscar Wilde.

For you, what is the easiest thing about being writer?
Being able to disappear into a different world, a different era, and to meet extraordinary people, without having to leave my study.

What’s the most difficult?
Beginning. Starting the next one. Writing page one.

What question do you get asked about your writing most often?
Is everything you write about Wilde and his world true? Yes is the answer. All the details are accurate. The mysteries come from my imagination, but the world they inhabit is real.

What’s the question you’d like to be asked?
How does it feel to be Number One on the New York Times best-seller list, Mr. Brandreth?

What question would you like never to be asked again?

Is that really your age?

Please tell us about Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man’s Smile.
It’s a murder mystery featuring some of the most fascinating figures of the late-19th century: from Wilde and Conan Doyle to P.T. Barnum and Sarah Bernhardt. It takes you to the Midwest and Paris and places of laughter and darkness.

Tell us something about yourself that no one knows.
I am descended from the last man to be beheaded for treason in England and from the first man to identify Jack the Ripper.

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