5 minutes with author Amanda Hampson
In 5 minutes with author, Over 60 asks book writers about their literary habits and preferences. Next in this series is Amanda Hampson, author and writer of 20 years. She has published two non-fiction books and five novels. Her latest fiction work, Sixty Summers is out now.
Over 60 spoke with Hampson about “unreadable” work, the book that made her cry, and the importance of salsa dancing.
Over 60: What is your best writing tip?
Amanda Hampson: Don’t get too caught up in trying to impress with literary acrobatics. Readers enjoy a good story well told and good writing grows naturally from that ambition.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
I’m reading Milkman by Anna Burns which is a book I resisted because of a review that condemned it as ‘unreadable’. It does require some degree of intestinal fortitude. Rather than finish a chapter before bed, you feel you’ve accomplished something if you finish a three-page long paragraph. But it’s an extraordinary book with wonderful subtle humour.
What was the last book that made you cry?
Less by Andrew Sean Greer is a hilarious topsy-turvy story with an ending so simple and sweet it brought tears to my eyes.
What book do you think more people should read?
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins was published in 1859 and established the mystery/thriller genre. A textbook of conceal and reveal techniques, it draws the (increasingly uneasy) reader into gothic foggy landscapes shrouded in mystery.
Paperback, e-book or audiobook?
When I escape into a book, I also want to escape from the screen – so it’s paperback for me. I keep those books I really enjoyed, and my bookcase is packed with reading memories.
What is the best literary quote you have ever read?
The most useful for a writer is EL Doctorow’s advice: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I think of it when I’m stuck and frustrated that I can’t see further ahead.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
That was the exact question I asked myself last year when I finished my latest novel, Sixty Summers. Writing a book inevitably takes over your whole life and, when it’s done, out of habit you start another one. But this time, I decided to get out more so began learning Spanish and salsa dancing – seems to be my year of alliteration! They really helped me reset and refresh my thoughts.
Do you have any literary cliché that you love?
I love the ‘innocent bystander’ character who witnesses the story unfold without being able to influence the outcome; for example, Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby or Stingo in Sophie’s Choice. It’s as though that character represents the reader, watching helplessly from the sidelines as it all goes wrong.