Sophie Masson was born in 1959 in Jakarta, Indonesia, the third child of expatriate French parents who are themselves of mixed ancestry - Spanish, Basque, Portuguese and French-Canadian, as well as French. She came to Australia with her family in 1963, and for the rest of her childhood shuttled constantly between France and Australia. She is the author of more than 30 novels, for adults, young adults and children, and also of numerous short stories, essays, articles and reviews which have appeared all over the world. Her latest novels are In Hollow Lands (Hodder UK), a fantasy set in 14th century Brittany, and Snow, Fire, Sword (Random House Australia), a fantasy/adventure set in 'Jayangan', a parallel-world version of modern Indonesia. Sophie lives in country NSW, is married to Worcestershire lad David Leach, and has three children, Philippa, Xavier and Bevis. Her website is here. She blogs at Troppo Armadillo.
Why do you blog? > I was invited to blog on the group site, Troppo Armadillo, by Troppomeister Ken Parish. I'd been reading several blogs for quite a long while, often commenting on posts, and it seemed like a logical next step!
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Montesquieu, Edmund Burke, Chateaubriand (for his writings on tyranny), Primo Levi, Hannah Arendt, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, George Orwell and Kanan Makiya.
What are you reading at the moment? > Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson, a wonderfully capacious and exciting speculative novel set in the 17th century; and Talk of the Devil by Riccardo Orizio, a collection of interviews with seven fallen dictators.
Who are your cultural heroes? > The writers of Greek, Norse and Celtic myth, the writers of medieval romance, William Shakespeare, Charles Perrault, Herge, Alfred Hitchcock, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald - to name just a very few!
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset.
What is your favourite poem? > 'The Song of Wandering Aengus', by W.B. Yeats.
What is your favourite movie? > A tie here: Shakespeare in Love and Vertigo.
What is your favourite song? > Right now, it's 'Worcester City', a lovely, tragic traditional English song beautifully interpreted by Eliza Carthy.
Who is your favourite composer? > A toss-up between Henry Purcell and Mozart.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I was brought up to have a rather typically French dismissive view of the US and US culture. (I was never anti-American, just patronising and ignorant.) I've completely changed about this, not only because I've been to the US, but through immeasurably enriching encounters with American culture in all sorts of ways.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That the world is a place of great mystery and beauty.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That everything is relative and that there is no truth.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > In recent years, Kanan Makiya's Cruelty and Silence, which in its unsparing honesty, courage, clarity and pain reminded me of the other major book to have a big impact on me, Primo Levi's The Drowned and the Saved.
Who are your political heroes? > Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev; Winston Churchill; the Vendeen and Breton rebels against the Jacobin Terror; Nelson Mandela; the 'Trio Los Amigos' of Blair, Bush and Howard for having the courage to see Islamist terrorism for what it is, and also for ridding Iraq of one of the late 20th century's most wicked tyrants.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > 'Politics is a blood sport.' (Aneurin Bevan)
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > In the short to medium term: Islamist terrorism, and the consequent convulsions in the Muslim world; Iran's ambitions; the possibility of some rapprochement being made between Islamists and extreme left and extreme right radicals in the West. In the longer term, China's growing nationalism may be a problem, not only in terms of Taiwan, but also re S.E. Asia and Russia.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I think there have been many 'best' points and 'worst' points, and that there are cycles in such things, rather than a linear progression or regression.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Our time on earth is short, and can end at any moment: don't put things off, and don't take the people you love for granted.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > Well, my husband David comes from a rather non-religious, Socialist, 'alternative' sort of family, and I come from a very Catholic, very anti-Communist, 'alternative' sort of family: though our families' philosophies are poles apart, because both are also mavericks, eccentrics, this meant we actually had a great deal in common. As time has gone on, our views and opinions have blended to some extent: we still don't share the same views on everything, but we understand each other very well. I guess it depends how much you love each other, as to whether radically different politics will separate you or not. It's easier, too, when you're young, to grow together; when couples get together at an older age, it's probably much harder.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Courage.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Cruelty.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > When someone else's life depended on it - especially someone I loved.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I wish I had been more understanding of my parents when I was a teenager. They did the best they could, despite both having come from awful childhoods.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Britain.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Going around the world, taking plenty of time to do so.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Reading, watching movies, listening to music, travelling, cooking, trawling the Net!
What talent would you most like to have? > Musical talent.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Musician/composer, especially of film scores.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > John Cleese.
What animal would you most like to be? > I've had lots of dreams in which lions feature, so maybe that's my totem!