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" My nan was a nursery maid. Most people weren't in big houses. They were maids of all work. "
" I used to write at home, but it didn't ever occur to me to be a writer. "
" I was mad about the theatre growing up, really mad. We had a local theatre, the Torch, and I used to usher there. I would see the shows over and over again. "
" The relationship you have with your mother is like nothing else. They do kind of know everything about you, even though they don't confront it. That is often a dynamic from childhood onwards. As a teenager, you want to be independent and do slightly furtive things. "
" All I can do is write about whatever grabs me. "
" When theatre works, it's like nothing else, and when it doesn't, which is often, it's excruciating. It's perhaps not so excruciating when a novel goes wrong, but there is a kind of magic that can and should happen. "
" Sometimes I think I'd be perfectly happy to go on rewriting 'Tipping the Velvet' forever because it was so much fun. "
" I love research. Sometimes I think writing novels is just an excuse to allow myself this leisurely time of getting to know a period and reading its books and watching its films. I see it as a real treat. "
" I never expected my books to do even as well as they have. I still feel grateful for it, every single day. "
" I knew I'd always be a second-rate academic, and I thought, 'Well, I'd rather be a second-rate novelist or even a third-rate one'. "
" The early '20s were like the waist of an hourglass. Lots of things were hurtling toward it and squeezing through it and then hurtling out the other side. "
" People say, 'You're like Dickens', but I'm not like Dickens. Zadie Smith is a Dickensian writer because she's writing about society now, just as Dickens was writing about his society. "
" I'm interested in stories that aren't getting told: it's where my interests lie. "
" I've never managed to get very far with Henry James. "
" I wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall in a few Victorian parlours. "
" I do love the past but wouldn't want to live in it. "
" My story is the story of many postwar British families. Upward mobility. A council house and then new affluence. "
" I was encouraged to be imaginative and read, and it was a great childhood for a budding writer because I had the time and the freedom to go into a world of my own. "
" I love film and, particularly, shorts. You don't get to see them often, and they're a great little form, like a short story. "
" I like dramas because there's a big overlap between film and fiction, so I feel relatively qualified to talk about plot and characterisation and that sort of thing. "
" Novels are nothing but evolution, but there does come a point when that stops, and the story is sealed within the pages of the book. That doesn't happen with a play. Even performances are different every night. "
" I've ended up feeling fonder of 'The Paying Guests' than of any of my other novels. "
" My parents were the first in our family to go to grammar school. My grandparents were in service. "
" Ours is a world which feels so unsettled and dangerous in large ways, whether it's terrorism or global financial meltdown or climate change - huge things that affect us deeply, and yet things about which we can do, individually, very little. "
" I used to hate flying. I would sit there, rigid, convinced that if I relaxed, the plane would drop out of the sky. "