Today I welcome author Justin Lee Anderson to A Life in Books. His novel Carpet Diem or How to Save the World by Accident was published in 2015.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I’ve been writing professionally for more than 15 years, as well as writing scripts, plays and books. Many moons ago I came second in a BBC scriptwriting competition, and was sure my future lay in TV and film, but that hasn’t come off (yet!). Instead, I’ve focused on books, and I’m currently writing the sequel to my debut novel Carpet Diem – a comedy fantasy in the vein of Tom Holt or Good Omens. I may go back to scripts at some point in the future, but for now, I’m writing books. I also quite fancy the idea of writing comics, at some point.
1. What was your favourite book from childhood?
I read a lot of comic books as a kid. It was always a treat when we went shopping, and I got to pick a comic to take home. I was a total superhero geek. I was more of a DC kid than Marvel, though I did like the X-Men. As for more traditional books, I read a lot of stuff like Choose Your Own Adventure and Encyclopedia Brown, but the one book that really stands out was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. My aunt took me to see a play version of it at the Edinburgh Fringe in about 1985, and that was what made me fall in love with theatre too.
2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?
A lot of fantasy and sci-fi. I can vividly remember finding A Spell for Chameleon, by Piers Anthony, on a stand in my school library when I was about 12. I loved it, and devoured all the Xanth novels after it. As I got older, I got into his more mature series, like Tarot, Incarnations of Immortality and such, but it all started with that first book. I read a few others, like Terry Brooks’ Shannara books, and Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, but Piers Anthony definitely defined my teenage reading.
3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?
I did a degree in English, so there are a lot to choose from! But I think probably Slaughterhouse 5, narrowly over Catch 22. They’re both such powerful and yet entertaining books about the folly of war and the deeply flawed nature of humanity.
4. What is your favourite classic book?
Wuthering Heights. Beautifully written and with one of the great classic antiheroes. I have a gorgeous old leather-bound copy of it that is one of my great treasures.
5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?
The ones that stick out the most are actually ones I never expected to like. My whole family had read The Hunger Games before I finally succumbed and gave them a go – and I completely raced through them. I read the first in a day, and I think the other two were three days between them. Brilliant storytelling, great characters, great world – everything about them was gripping. And I was pleased to see how well they translated to the screen, too.
6. What book to you think you should read but never get round to?
God, there are loads on my shelf that I’ve bought intending to read and just never got to. The one I keep thinking I’m going to read and just never pick up is The Three Musketeers. I love that world (the recent BBC version was great) and I know I’ll probably love the book, if I ever get round to it!
7. What do you consider to be your favourite book?
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. His writing is like the voice I hear in my head, and his imagination is just stunning. I love the way he takes existing mythology and twists it into new tales – they somehow feel more real for it, I think.
8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?
I’m sure there are several! But the most recent I can remember was The Girl on the Train. I gave it over 100 pages, but just didn’t care and didn’t really like the main character, so I gave up and gave it to my wife. She enjoyed it, but said she completely understood why I didn’t!
9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?
Something very long! Maybe something like the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes? Not Shakespeare – I always prefer that onstage to the page. Oh, and something by Bear Grylls to teach me how to stay alive! I am not a natural outdoorsman. Without a guide, I’d probably poison myself or get eaten within a few days.
10. Kindle or Book?
If I have to pick one, then definitely book. I love the feel and smell of a book. However, I have been converted to reading a fair bit on my wife’s Kindle these days, so I’d prefer to keep both if that’s OK?