I don't have a constituency, and I'm not autobiographical in any way. I write these deeply moral books in a country which would prefer irony to anything with a moral tone.

If you read the fables, 'Beowulf,' for example, you will know something about the person who writes them, and I like that. Secondly, they will not be about individuals; they will be about community. Thirdly, they're all about moralizing. Fourthly, the way they express themselves takes its tone from the oral tradition.

There's a convention that books are mirrors of the real world, but our fact-obsessed age also wants fiction to be factually based and trustworthy.

English politics is so much more concerned with the proprieties than with defending dogmas.

For all the splendours of the world's greatest galleries, visitors are likely to be kept at arm's length, spectators of a world that can seem too rarefied to let them in.

I'm a very secretive person.

Even though my brother and I loved scrumping - we loved the act of climbing trees and grabbing fruit - there was always fear we would be caught. We feared we'd be imprisoned, sent to Australia.

You can't sing baritone when you're a soprano.

When people asked me what I did, I'd say, 'I work in publishing', and when they then say, 'What side of it?', I say, 'Supply' - no doubt leaving them to think I drive the books around in a van and deliver them.

I offer detailed but mostly invented narratives about the provenance of my books.

I should have been kinder when I was younger.

The celebrity sense of writers is something which is very tempting... But the enthusiasm comes from the fact that it's such a natural activity, storytelling.

For 'The Gift of Stones,' I spent an afternoon chasing a flock of Canadian geese.

When the narrative itself starts knocking on the glassed-in box that was your prescription for how you were going to write this novel... you have to listen to it.

I invent words you think you've heard - spray hopper or swag beetle.

Storytelling enables us to play out decisions before we make them, to plan routes before we take them, to work out the campaign before we start the war, to rehearse the phrases we're going to use to please or placate our wives and husbands.

I don't have any sense of an audience when I'm writing. I don't consider the audience. Because all I'm interested in is the problem on the page.

When a book goes well, it abandons me. I am the most abandoned writer in the world.

I never think of the reader. I am curious about things; I need to find out, so off I go.

Retiring from writing is not to retire from life.

I didn't go to university straight after school. I went at night.

My tongue is what I used instead of my fists because I was a small and cowardly young man. Amusing people with stories and being bizarre with words was my way of getting out of fixes.

Inside, Penlee House is without pretension. It is a space that knows its limitations and its strengths - and makes the most of them.

I'm not going to write any more novels. I don't want to end up being one of these angry, bitter writers moaning that only three people are reading him. I don't want that.

Almost everyone who's been to primary school in Britain has had towels put on their heads to play the shepherds in the nativity play.

We're all blemished. Yet we do love and are loved.

While we're having all these debates about how the book is being destroyed by the Kindle, we have to remember that narrative will not be affected at all because it's part of our makeup as a creature on this planet.

The western view of Christ is usually of a stainless being with fair hair who appears to have come from Oslo.

Even though the method of 'Harvest' was a historical novel, its intentions were that of a modern novel. I'm asking you to think about land being seized in Brazil by soya barons. It's also a novel about immigration.

Part of me feels that I'm letting people down by not being as interesting as my books.

I'd dearly love to write a political book that changed the hearts and minds of men and women.

I feel the political failings of the U.S.A. are presidential in length, but the aspirant narrative of the States is millennial in length.

I liked journalism and thought it was important, certainly more important than fiction. I'd probably still be doing it if I hadn't been elbowed out.

As a natural historian, I don't believe in the consciousness of rocks or the opinions of rainbows or the convictions of slugs.

I'm a matter-of-fact, office-hours writer.

I like shaped things. I like shape in things, and I do overshape things, it's true.

The Commonwealth Prize is about celebrating the Commonwealth and the special relationship we have with the ex-colonies - which is part guilt and part warmth - and the Booker Prize isn't an essential part of that, but it is part of that.

I adore falseness. I don't want you to tell me accurately what happened yesterday. I want you to lie about it, to exaggerate, to entertain me.

If I talk about my father's funeral, as I did when I was promoting the last novel, 'Being Dead,' I'm not going to tell any lies, but there are certain things I'm not going to tell you, and I'm certainly not going to tell my grief.

Retiring from writing is to avoid the inevitable bitterness which a writing career is bound to deliver as its end product in almost every case.

I'm not thinking when I'm writing, 'How's this going to read?' Or, 'What percentage of the audience is going to stay with me?' The thing itself is what gives me pleasure. Sometimes stuff just falls onto the page so beautifully and happily that it's deeply satisfying. It's selfish!

There is no reason why the Louvre should be your favourite gallery just because it has the grandest collections in France, any more than Kew should necessarily be a favourite garden because it has the largest assemblage of plants, or Tesco your chosen shop because it has the widest variety of canned beans.

Privately, I'm thrilled with what I do, but publicly, I hold it in disdain.

I'm interested in taking hold of the dull truth narrative and finding inside it the transcendence and spirituality and hysteria normally associated with religion.

Narrative has been part of human consciousness for a long time. And if it has played a part in all those thousands of years, it will know a trick or two. It will be wise. It will be mischievous. It will be helpful. It will be generous.

I have, I must admit, despised the English countryside for much of my life - despised it and avoided it for its want of danger and adventure.

I'm not good at dialogue. I'm not good at holding a mirror up at a real world. I'm not good at believable characterisation.

Try pitching a story of happiness to your editors, and their toes are going to curl up.

The problems of the world are not going to be engaged with and solved in Faversham, they're going to be sorted out in cities like Birmingham.