How do you prepare for the adrenaline rush, the sleepless nights, the strange light-headedness of the chase you go on with your characters?
Oh, that’s just like my life, really. I’m used to that, so I just go with it. I just sit down and do it, because that’s what the book needs. You’ve obviously been talking to proper writers who say it’s quite difficult. It’s not. You just get the job done. This character has to do these things for this to happen… It’s almost like a tsunami kind of writing. Very often I write without punctuation and capitals, because I can’t type but I have to get the words out. I’ve heard other people say when they write that way, the reader reads it that way, because they get pulled along. The next day I print it out, go through it, and change it all by pen, but the thing I’m after is there. If you have to prepare yourself for that, you’re not doing it right. You shouldn’t have to work at it.
Why does Anderson work out his own nightmares by dealing with those of other people?
Because he’s a man. Next question.
Is that how you deal with your own?
Yeah, I write about them. This is going to sound very strange, and I think people go through far worse things, so let’s clarify that, but from the age of about 13 until God knows when, I was in a lot of back pain and on a lot of medication every single day. I was one of those kids who could never do PE at school, and when I broke my back I thought I would lose my job, my house, and my ability to walk. When your back’s against the wall like that, there aren’t that many nightmares left, so I think it’s a very good baseline for life.
What do you draw on now when you try to give your characters credible anguish?
I see them as other people, so the things they worry about aren’t the things I worry about. I remember Val McDermid saying she used to get into a wee bit of trouble by trying to read too much into what her characters were doing. When they started getting into her head she felt uneasy about some of her thoughts, so she had to go to an office, write them, and leave them there when she went home. I see my characters as people, but their nightmares are their own.
Do you write in an office?
I would like to say I write in a turret, but I lost my turret in the great storm on the third of January, and they’ve not come to fix it yet, so at the moment I’m writing in the dining room. My writing room is marvellous. I like to hang my hair out of the window and pretend I’m Rapunzel, but it’s not really a turret. It’s just got a big bay window and it’s very high up, so I write and look into the trees.
What’s the price of writing?
The price of writing for me is having no life. Everything I do outside of work is writing. I never see my other half. We communicate by post-it notes on the fridge. The dog is overweight, because she doesn’t get walked enough, because I’m too busy writing. I am never ever not working.
Do you have any regrets about becoming a writer?
I never look back. That’s just daft. I always look forwards.
Looking forwards, can you see yourself retiring from writing?
No, but I might move into different kinds of writing. Somebody at Radio Four is quite interested in doing a radio play with me. I’ve been asked to write a libretto for a really nasty version of Jack the Ripper. I’m also doing something for the Women’s Library. These are all works in progress, lying about in my writing room, so I’ll never be bored.