Masters at Work

Do you have any tips for budding writers at Oxford?
Not to be too troubled by the anxiety of influence. I would also stress the value of reading widely. Think about the novel you’re reading and why it does or doesn’t work for you. Avoid trying to emulate the style of the latest Man Booker. They’re looking for a new voice, not another Zadie Smith. Finally, if you’re serious about writing, write regularly and be ruthless with your time.

Do you find it difficult juggle both your academic research and your creative pursuits?
Yes, I do. I was speaking to Andrew Motion the other day who says he writes from 5 to 9 every morning, and you do have to exercise that kind of ruthlessness. I’ve been very fortunate in having excellent and supportive colleagues, who allowed me sabbatical leave to write. It’s incredibly hard to juggle running the Creative Writing programme with doing creative writing. Writing is something you are: if you’re really passionate about it you will ensure there is a balance.

What is the best thing about your job?
The way in which my academic research has become so intertwined with the books I write. Academic research is very different from writing a novel but both are very complementary. Both are explorations of a world one doesn’t really know yet.

Why did British literature of the 19th century become your area of particular interest?
I was interested in the writing of the 19th century because it accompanies huge, swift changes: from the rural to the urban, from the non-mechanised to the mechanised. I’m fascinated by the construction of modernity of the last two hundred years. But I’m also fascinated by the Enlightenment, and the writers and painters of that period.

Clare Morgan’s acclaimed Book for All and None was published in paperback on February 16th