Harriet Devine was born in London, into a theatrical family. Her one ambition when growing up was to act, which she did briefly for a few years before getting married and having two children. She taught Transcendental Meditation for several years before going to university in her 30s. For the past 17 years she has taught at Edge Hill University in Lancashire, where she is Professor of English Literature, though about to retire. Harriet has written a number of books and plans to write more. She blogs at Harriet Devine's Blog.
Why do you blog? > To keep my mind active and to participate in a lively and supportive community.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Making friends with so many fellow bloggers and people who leave comments on the blog. I love it when someone new pops up with a comment.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > There hasn't been one, really, though I did make a rather foolish mistake in something I wrote about Jane Austen. I was corrected by a clever undergraduate and had to go back and change what I'd written.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Go for it!
What are your favourite blogs? > I actually have eleven blogs that I read regularly and enjoy. It is really hard to pick a small number of favourites. Dovegrey Reader has to be there, but I also like Cornflower, Random Jottings... and Books Do Furnish A Room... oops, that's four already! So I'd better not mention Patternings, Bluestalking Reader, Topsyturvydom, Tales from the Reading Room...
What are you reading at the moment? > Ian McEwan, Amsterdam; Andrew Taylor, The American Boy; Kate Mosse, Labyrinth.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Probably my favourite is Bleak House.
What is your favourite movie? > I've seen so many great films! But two that have stayed with me forever, for whatever reason, are La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937) and Heaven's Gate (1980).
Who is your favourite composer? > Mozart or Bach, depending on my mood.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > I read Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's translation and commentary of the Bhagavad Gita in the late 1960s. It was an entirely different world view from any I had encountered before and I found it (and still find it) entirely satisfying.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Enjoy it.
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? > No, I couldn't.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Compassion, open-mindedness.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Hypocrisy, a closed mind.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > Any in which telling the truth would be extremely hurtful.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I am unreasonably influenced in my first impressions of people by what they look like – I admire beauty and good taste though I know, really, that many people who possess neither are still really nice and worthwhile people.
What is your favourite proverb? > It's no use crying over spilt milk.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Mulling over the past, worrying about the future.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > My children, especially when they are having problems.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > No. I've made mistakes but all in all I'm glad I did all the things I did - they have made me who I am now.
What would you call your autobiography? > I've already written a childhood memoir with the hideously clunky title Being George Devine's Daughter. The next instalment might be called Trying to Grow Up.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > The French countryside. I find France infinitely more peaceful and less stressful than England.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Spending as long as possible in India.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Read, walk, travel, read.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > I rather like my second name, which is Sarah.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Anything to do with design or craftsmanship.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper and Les Dawson all made me laugh a lot. Also Ronnie Barker. More recently, Ricky Gervais.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd pay off all mortgages and debts for everyone in my family.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats. I'd give anything to hear their conversation.
What animal would you most like to be? > I think cats have a pretty good life – I wouldn't mind being one of those at a push, though in the end I prefer being human.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]