novelist (whose latest book, Dating, is nominated for McNally Robinson Book of the Year)
1. If your house were on fire, heaven forbid, what's the one item contained within that you would try to take with you? (People, pets and computers not included.)
My autographed copy of the 1959 novel Billy Liar, by Keith Waterhouse. This classic comedy, about a young man with a vivid imagination and his three girlfriends who don't know about each other, spawned a wonderful movie, a stage play, a musical, and at least two TV series. Besides being a gem itself, the book brings back a memory of 1975, when I had "lunch" with Waterhouse in the English journalists' favourite London haunt, El Vino. Waterhouse, who died in 2009, not only published over 30 books, he was a wildly popular London columnist for most of his life.
2. What's the one clothing/fashion item you can't live without?
Probably my "New York" sweatshirt, purchased years ago for $16 from a Manhattan street vendor. It has a certain inspirational magic that causes me to wear it whenever I'm faced with a writing deadline.
3. What's your favourite knick-knack and why?
A 1996 family portrait in which all of us (except our golden retriever) are wearing jeans and white tops. It's the best group shot we ever had taken. If that doesn't qualify as a knick-knack, then the stuffed dog which has a central place on my coffee table. When I need a lift, he sings My Girl.
4. What's the oldest thing you own?
An album of 32 photos called Souvenirs of Cairo, sent by my father to his then sweetheart in 1915. He was in Egypt as a First World War English soldier. The brevity of his inscription, to the young woman who would eventually be my mother, can be attributed either to wartime censorship or to English reserve. It reads: "We are doing desert patrols here before we go to the Dardanelles. Yours, Bill."
5. Describe your most beloved piece of furniture.
My built-in bookshelves. They are the flawless work of a real craftsman, and they give my books the best possible home.
6. Is there an edible item we'll always find in your pantry or fridge?
Grade A large eggs. The item I feel most confident about cooking is poached-eggs-on-toast. I have that for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday and for dinner mid-week. Last I heard, eggs are back in favour as a healthy choice.