Alis Hawkins grew up on a dairy farm in West Wales, subsequently going on to read English at Oxford. After a postgraduate year spent working in a burger restaurant, she trained as a speech and language therapist. She now works part time as a specialist in autism spectrum conditions and spends the rest of her time writing. Her first novel, Testament, was published in 2008. Having written and directed a promenade play for Rochester cathedral in 2009, Alis is currently working on a novel set during the Black Death. She blogs at Hawkins Bizarre.
Why do you blog? > Because on the days when I'm not at work with people it provides 'water cooler' conversation.
What has been your best blogging experience? > People's willingness to have in-depth discussions with somebody they've never met (me).
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Realizing, after a few months, that I couldn't stand the pace of producing a blog-post every day.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > I have only one - my late grandmother. I always admired her staunch opinion that the past was not better than the present and her determination – well into her nineties - not to be left behind by the world.
What are you reading at the moment? > The Night of the Mir'aj by Zoë Ferraris and Classic Case Studies in Psychology by Geoff Rolls.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Charles Dickens and J.K. Rowling.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Pride and Prejudice.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I used to be quite persuaded by Utilitarianism but I've come to believe it's morally lazy.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Compassion before anything else.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Anybody who has an unswerving belief that they and only they have THE ANSWER needs to be resisted.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > The Enneagram by Don Richard Riso. The Enneagram is the only really comprehensive and persuasive personality typology I have ever come across. It has helped me enormously in understanding myself and why I think and behave as I do, and that has led me to a far deeper understanding of and compassion for other people.
Who are your political heroes? > Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Remove tower blocks, build housing estates which feature squares with a green in the middle, and pass a law that, for every 100 dwellings, developers must build a shop and community centre.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > I wouldn't wish the job on a dog.
What would you do with the UN? > Give it teeth and ally it to some kind of supra-national system of legal accountability for political leaders.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > A lack of enough fresh water for humanity's needs.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > All civilizations seem to have looked back to some kind of golden age, so the tendency to look back seems to be inbuilt and therefore suspect. I think the best is yet to come.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Try never to turn down opportunities as long as they're not illegal, immoral or hurtful to somebody you love.
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.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Tolerance.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Egocentricity.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To save people from hurt or harm.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > My children's future happiness.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Oxford.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Walking in the Peak District in a beautiful English summer.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to learn a language in a week, prior to visiting other countries!
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Michael Macintyre.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > The three grandparents I never got to know as an adult.
[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.]