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Jon McGregor interview

Jon McGregor interview

In this Man Booker Prize 2017 longlisted author interview Jon McGregor discusses the short stories he is working on set in the same village as his novel Reservoir 13 and describes why landscape is a character in our lives.

What has it been like to be longlisted?

It's been fun. Having been longlisted twice before (in 2002 and 2006), I did wonder if I might take this more in my stride and be super-nonchalant about it, but no: it turns out to be as exciting as ever. It's a list packed full of writers I've long admired and respected, so I'm delighted to see Reservoir 13 up there. The big difference now seems to be that age has worn away some of my humility - I'm feeling pretty ruthless about wanting to get to the next round. 

What are you working on next?

I've been working on a series of short stories called The Reservoir Tapes, which will be going out on Radio 4 later in the year (and will subsequently be published by 4th Estate). They're set in the same village as Reservoir 13, and form a kind of prequel. After seven years of working on the novel, I found myself with plenty of stories and characters I wanted to come back to; and writing those as stories for radio has been a very different kind of discipline. 

What are you reading at the moment?

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Damn fine piece of work.

What is your favourite Man Booker-winning novel?

Probably still How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman.

The Peak District is a character in its own right in your novel: do you think landscape affects the people who live in it?

I think landscape is a character in our lives, as much as the people around us who we know and don't know, and as much as weather, politics, economic circumstance, culture, and the opportunity to experience all the complexities of life and love; and I think people are often affected by the characters around, yes. I also think if you want to tell a story about people who live in a place other than your own and other than that of the reader, the landscape needs to be part of that story.

Reservoir 13