Paul Torday Interview

Paul Torday was born in 1946 and read English Literature at Pembroke College, Oxford.  He spent the next 30 years working in engineering and in industry, after which he scaled back his business responsibilities to fulfill a long-harboured ambition - to write.  

He burst on to the literary scene in 2006 with his first novel, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, an immediate bestseller that has been sold in 25 countries. He is married with two sons by a previous marriage and has two stepsons and lives close to the River North Tyne.

What books are you planning to read on your holiday this summer?

I'm going to read ‘Dear Lupin: Letters to a Wayward Son" by Roger Mortimer and edited by Charlie Mortimer. My friends tell me this is hilarious: the letters from a father to his son written in the sixties and seventies. As a matter of fact the writer of the letters is my ex- father-in-law and the editor my ex-brother-in-law, so I do have some idea of what's to come.
Which book evokes a memory of a holiday past for you?

"Tender is the Night" by F. Scott Fitzgerald evokes the south of France before it became an enormous and continuous suburb - pristine beaches, villas overlooking the Mediterranean surrounded by wonderful gardens. Despite everything I still love the French Riviera and this novel has sometimes accompanied me there.   

Which book is your dessert island read?

If I was only allowed one book to take away with me, it would be ‘A Dance to the Music of Time' by Anthony Powell. This is a cheat, because it is in 12 volumes, but it is a brilliant and tragi-comic survey of English life between the wars, and in the forties and fifties.
Will you be writing on your summer getaways this year?

I never write on holiday, but I usually take a notebook so that I can jot down ideas that occur to me in relation to whatever book I am working on at the time. When I get home, half the time the wonderful thoughts I had on holiday don't seem to work, but it's worth trying to capture them at the time.
What is your favourite way of relaxing on holiday?

I can enjoy 2 or 3 days of doing nothing but after that I need something to do. Fishing, for example, which is why I make at least one trip to Scotland every year.
Which book transports you to a foreign land, from the comfort of your living room?

Any good guide book, especially one that tells you where the best restaurants are.
What is your favourite holiday destination and why?   

I think the best holiday we've ever had was sailing around Spitzbergen in a converted icebreaker, cutting through the pack ice and watching out for polar bears - of which there were many. The Arctic light has to be experienced, it can't be described.

Where do you feel most inspired to put pen to paper?

At home - I occasionally work on edits while travelling but for original writing, it has to be at the desk in my study. I have an enormous iMac, which doesn't tire my eyes out too much, and all my reference books at hand for any research I need to do.

Read our review of Paul Torday's best books


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