Emma Darwin was born and brought up in London, with interludes in Manhattan and Brussels. She studied Drama and Theatre Arts at Birmingham University, and her debut novel The Mathematics of Love was published in 2006 by Headline Review. The Times described it as, 'that rare thing, a book that works on every conceivable level, a real achievement', and it was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers and Goss First Novel awards. Emma's second novel, A Secret Alchemy will be published in November 2008, and in 2009 in the US. At the moment she's trying to finish her PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College up the road from where she lives in South East London, when she'd much rather be starting a new novel. Emma blogs at This Itch of Writing.
Why do you blog? > Like most writers I don't really know what I think till I see what I say, so my blog is where I can think aloud about things that won't fit in the current novel.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Finding that people actually enjoy what I write, so they comment and come back for more.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > So far (I've been lucky, perhaps) only losing most of an hour's work on a post, because the computer crashed.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Your blog needs a definite flavour: either concentrating on a particular subject, or having a particular tone and take on life which people respond to.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Aristotle, Marina Warner, Karen Armstrong.
What are you reading at the moment? > Barry Unsworth's Stone Virgin and Narratology by Mieke Bal.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Walker Evans, Seamus Heaney, Anton Chekhov.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Yesterday I discovered that some literary Theory does actually connect with what I do as a storyteller.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That aggression is the product of fear and should be dealt with bearing that in mind.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Creationism and other pseudo-sciences.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Do five years of the Guardian Women's Page in the late 1970s count? A brilliant education for a teenager in the history, practicalities and humour of feminism.
Who are your political heroes? > Ex-President of Ireland Mary Robinson, 18th century British Prime Minister Henry Pelham, Elizabeth I.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > I would pay whatever it took to have much, much smaller classes in all schools, so that all teachers could actually teach, and all children could learn.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > Archbishop Rowan Williams: nothing to do with religion, but because he's the sanest, shrewdest, most intelligently compassionate public voice I've heard in years.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The United States' conviction that they should police the world. They do it so very badly, and the fallout is so appalling.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Start by assuming that most people are trying their best, but know that their idea of the best thing to do may not coincide with yours, or with what you need.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Imaginative, clear-headed compassion.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Knee-jerk, un-thought-out reactions on any subject.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I find it hard to think well of people who vote Conservative, even though I know plenty of admirable people who do.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Moaning comfortably and endlessly about how much worse everything is today than 20 or 50 or 100 years ago.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > My children, and being on time for things.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I'd overcome my upbringing and remember that silly, pointless frivolity is as essential to the human spirit as high cultural pleasure.
What would you call your autobiography? > I'd Rather Be Writing A Novel.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Emma Thompson.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Riding a horse somewhere spectacular but not too hot, like Romania or New Zealand.
What is your most treasured possession? > A lifetime of photographic negatives - and now the digital files.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > I can't imagine wanting to do anything as much as I want to write.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Jasper Fforde.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > Very unrealistically indeed, that they'd extend the London Underground to be five minutes walk from my house.
What animal would you most like to be? > An otter.
[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.]