I put it to you that there are no British poets, there are no British novelists. I have heard myself described as one, but I think really I'm an English novelist; there are Scottish poets and Scottish novelists.
You enter a state of controlled passivity, you relax your grip and accept that even if your declared intention is to justify the ways of God to man, you might end up interesting your readers rather more in Satan.
It's good to get your hands dirty a bit and to test how you see things at a given point. And it's very pleasing after writing something like 'Atonement' or 'On Chesil Beach,' which are historical, to get involved in some plausible re-enactment of the here and now.
My parents were keen for me to have the education they themselves never had. They weren't able to guide me towards particular books, but they encouraged me to read, which I did, randomly and compulsively.
It is not the first duty of the novelist to provide blueprints for insurrection, or uplifting tales of successful resistance for the benefit of the opposition. The naming of what is there is what is important.
When I began I thought that literature was contained within a bubble that somehow floated above the world commented upon by newspapers. But I became more and more interested in trying to include some of that world within my work.
It should simply be an empirical matter whether the climate is changing or not and whether we're responsible. But the various sides of the debate have now become so tribal that it's no longer a matter of changing our views as more information comes in.
What I've discovered and really confirmed to myself is that opera really likes loud colours, and you need something bold, something savage, unpredictable, passionate. You can't really run a two-hour opera round some muted murmuring.
Atheists have as much conscience, possibly more, than people with deep religious conviction, and they still have the same problem of how they reconcile themselves to a bad deed in the past. It's a little easier if you've got a god to forgive you.
One important theme is the extent to which one can ever correct an error, especially outside any frame of religious forgiveness. All of us have done something we regret - how we manage to remove that from our conscience, or whether that's even possible, interested me.
Scientists do stand on the shoulders of giants, just as do writers. Conversely, in the arts we do make discoveries. We do refine our tools. So I am arguing with, or at least playing with, the idea that art never improves.
I apologize for being obvious, but every time I watch the curtain come down on even a halfway decent production of a Shakespeare play I feel a little sorrowful that I'll never know the man, or any man of such warm intelligence.
As regards literary culture, it fascinates me that it has been so resilient to the Union. For example, when T.S. Eliot wanted to become poet in these lands, it wasn't as an English poet, it was an Anglian poet he wanted to be.
London in the '70s was a pretty catastrophic dump, I can tell you. We had every kind of industrial trouble; we had severe energy problems; we were under constant terrorist attack from Irish terrorist groups who started a bombing campaign in English cities; politics were fantastically polarized between left and right.
By concentrating on what is good in people, by appealing to their idealism and their sense of justice, and by asking them to put their faith in the future, socialists put themselves at a severe disadvantage.