Zoe Heller interviews popped up everywhere over the weekend. For the uninitiated, Heller’s Notes on a Scandal was shortlisted for last year’s Booker (and is a far more impressive novel than the winner) and now is a contender for the Orange prize. Last year one critic or another characterized Notes, Heller’s second novel, as “Anita Brookner, with jokes.” That’s about right, provided you’re talking about one of the better Brookner novels, like The Bay of Angels or Undue Influence.
Perhaps the most interesting of the latest interviews appeared in the Guardian, where Heller talked about her writing process:
Quite often, it can be when I’m food shopping, or driving, or doing some activity which is so routine that I’m on auto-pilot and something can pop into my head. The minute I realise I’m thinking about the novel, everything shuts down.
Being in a London cab is one of those places where ideas come to me. You’re on your way somewhere. Looking out of the window, you can let your mind go.
With the Financial Times interviewer (no free link), she discussed the difficulties of plotting a novel:
I spend a lot of time bogged down trying to work out how to disperse the information over time. I’m terrible at it.
Finally, the Independent interviewer focused mostly on Heller’s tendencies toward self-deprecation but finally segued into the regular column Heller writes for the Guardian about life in Manhattan. Heller says people fail to realize that the column is:
just another narrative voice I’m putting on. People expect me to turn up in a ra-ra skirt saying, ‘Look at my knickers!’ It’s not the whole story. I don’t get creepy old men writing in anymore saying, ‘You don’t seem to be able to keep your legs closed, do you? PS, Can I have a signed photo?’ Maybe I’m just too much of an old bag now. But I did get lots of mail when I wrote about Brazilian bikini waxing for the Telegraph. They all cancelled their subscriptions.
You can hear Heller’s transatlantic twang in this BBC Radio 4 interview.