Annabel Gaskell was born in Purley, Surrey. She studied Materials Science at Imperial College, London, and worked as a proper scientist in the chemical industry for years, before her biological clock went ping at 39. Annabel took several years off work after having her daughter, and now works part-time as a lab technician in an Oxfordshire prep school. She is a staunch supporter of literary events in Abingdon, and recently compiled and hosted a well-supported literary quiz night for charity that may become an annual event. Annabel blogs at Gaskella.
Why do you blog? > It started as a way of sharing and expanding the book reviews I'd been writing for my own use, and to improve my writing. Now it's much more than that, as I've discovered a brilliant community and made many online friends.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > The best way to get people to visit your blog is to find others you like and pluck up courage to start commenting. To paraphrase Field of Dreams, 'If you comment, they will come!'
What are you reading at the moment? > I'm just finishing The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (our book group choice of the month), and am about to start re-reading Tolkien's The Hobbit.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Katharine Hepburn, Kenneth Branagh, George Clooney, Edward Hopper, Tom Waits, Paul Auster, Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Can I have two? They're The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, and The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Ozymandias' by Shelley.
What is your favourite movie? > The Blues Brothers. I saw it the week it opened in Leicester Square (1980).
What is your favourite song? > Today it's 'Rain Dogs' by Tom Waits.
Who is your favourite composer? > Rachmaninov.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Bad Science and creationism.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Ever since my Dad introduced me to it, I've been mildly obsessed with dictionaries, encyclopaedias and reference books, which led to quizzes, crosswords etc. I'm a general knowledge geek.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I'm the glass-half-full type, so I hope for the future.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Generosity.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Selfishness.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > At sixteen I had to choose whether to do English, Music and Latin for A-Level, or Maths and Science. I don't regret it, but some days I do wonder what would have happened if I'd not chosen the science route...
What would you call your autobiography? > Never Leave Home Without a Book: A Life in Reading.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > A pretty New Hampshire country town within reach of Boston would be ideal.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Wherever we are, to be quietly busy, with lots of museums, galleries, historic buildings and sights to visit, plus good wine and food in relaxing surroundings.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > It's always been reading as number one pastime - until I discovered blogging.
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > Possibly Miranda. A good Shakespearean name, it's the first name that came to my mind for my daughter, and it's also the name my Dad first chose for me, I later found out. But respective other halves didn't share the same feelings about it.
What talent would you most like to have? > To be able to improvise and play boogie-woogie on the piano.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > To work in the creative team at a top ad agency, or to write features for a top magazine - either would be lovely.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Bill Bailey - who does it with music. His Cockney Beethoven and Kraftwerk Hokey Cokey are hilarious.
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > None. My Dad and brothers support Crystal Palace rabidly which was enough to put me off football for life.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > To live long and prosper. (Although I got over being a serious Trekker years ago, it does have a tendency to reappear from time to time.)
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd give up work and study creative writing – I know there's a book in me somewhere.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > I'd choose Michael Caine for the stories, George Clooney to gaze longingly at, and Patrick Stewart to 'make it so'.
What animal would you most like to be? > Definitely a cat – of sleek and slinky build.
[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.]