About Neil Cross
Q. What is your birthdate?
Q. Previous occupations
A. I've been an industrial archaeologist, a guinea pig for a multinational pharmaceutical giant, a nightshift worker in a supermarket. I ran a market stall. I was a bookseller. I also worked for several years in the sales department of a large publishing house.
Q. Favorite job
A. This one.
Q. High school and/or college
A. I went to a few schools. The last of them was Brislington Comprehensive in south Bristol. Eventually, I went to Leeds University
Q. Name of your favorite composer or music artist?
A. For good or ill, the Cure were the soundtrack to most of my life. So were the Chameleons. I still listen to music every day, but the ferocity of my raw devotion to these bands could never be recaptured - and nor should it.
Q. Favorite movie
A. The Exorcist, Jaws, the Indiana Jones movies, the Bourne Supremacy
Q. Favorite television show
A. David Tenant's Dr Who is the best television show in the world - and I should know, I watch more TV than could possibly be good for me. I tried to resist saying the Wire because God knows I'm bored of hearing writers extol it. I'm not keen to add to their number, but in this case, they're right; the Wire is outstanding. In the interests of balance, I should add that I love America's Next Top Model, Project Runway and Top Chef.
Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
A. The life I dreamed of, with less sleep.
Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. I can't imagine ever being in a position where I might need one, or could use one without looking like an imbecile. "A guilty conscience needs to confess," you say. "A work of art is a confession." You think you sound like Dorothy Parker, but actually you sound like the windy old buffoon you so patently are. I wouldn't mind having my own catchphrase, though, if I could only think of one that wouldn't get on my family's nerves after about five minutes. So it would probably be - "I'll put the kettle on, shall I?", or; "Yes, you can play on the Wii."
Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Being at home, together with my wife and my sons on a day when I've written well and there's something really good on TV.
Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Exactly the same as everyone else's.
Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. At home on a sunny day, writing well.
Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. That's a dangerous game to start playing. I don't identify with (or even slightly resemble) any of my many heroes. It worries me that, because I've never had cause to be brave, I might lack the capacity. So I most identify with the scum and the cowards, fearing that, but for an accident of history, I'd be walking amongst them.
Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. Dr Who
Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. "tea", "cup", "kettle" and "that bloody dog."
Q. What do you regret most?
A. In order for me to be right here, right now, everything that ever happened had to happen exactly the way it happened. Change one factor, change everything. That's not New Age balderdash, it's chaos theory - it's life. I very much like where I am now, so how can I regret anything?
Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. The ability to touch type. The ability to draw, paint, sing, play a musical instrument, fix things, make things. But the fact that I never bothered to learn a single one of these things would appear to indicate that, really, I'm not that interested in any of them.
Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. The constant fear of loss and the sense of time slipping away.
Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. Me, for all that.
Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Yossarian, Indiana Jones, David Tenant's Dr Who.
On Books and Writing
Q. Who are your favorite authors?
A. Patricia Highsmith, Raymond Carver, Joseph Heller, Paul Theroux, Graham Greene, Angela Carter, Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly, Anne Tyler.
Q. Is there a book you love to reread?
A. I re-read Raymond Carver every year, with undiminished awe.
Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
A. It's a truism because it's true: writing is re-writing.
Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
A. How can someone so normal write such disturbing stories?
Q. How did you come to write Burial?
A. I wanted to write about the corrosive intensity of guilt, and I wanted to write something like a ghost story. Mostly, I just wanted to write the kind of book I wanted to read.