matt haig
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Matt Haig talks about his debut novel The Last Family in England and his life as a Labrador.

What inspires you to write?
Different things. The Last Family in England was inspired by the death of my dog, Murdoch. I wondered what went on his head, and whether his life made any more sense than a human's. Also I wanted to tell the story of how fragile family life was, and a Labrador seemed the most obvious narrator because people act so naturally around their pets.

How long does it take you to write a novel?
About six months developing the idea and six months of actual writing. But that's not continuous. I do other stuff as well.

Do you have a writing routine?
Yes. I have to do most of my writing in the morning because my brain tends to get gradually foggier throughout the day. By the evening I struggle even keeping up with Eastenders. And I always write in a pad not on a computer because I'm the slowest typist in the world (you can check the Guinness Book of Records).

Is it harder to start or finish a novel?
The hard bit is keeping going. It's sort of like running a marathon and you can be in danger of hitting the wall and giving up entirely.

How do you cure writer's block?
By not writing in consecutive sequence. I wrote The Last Family in England like a jigsaw and put all the pieces together at the end.

What is your all-time desert island book?
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, or the complete works of Mark Twain.

What are you reading at the moment?
Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson.

What's the biggest myth about being a writer?
That you'll always have something interesting to say. I'm the same rambling idiot I was when I used to do media sales in Croydon.

What advice would you give budding authors?
Become a celebrity chef. Or a reality TV star. Or a professional footballer. Or make sure your father's a famous novelist. Or that you've got a regular column in the Sunday Telegraph. Or marry John Grisham or J K Rowling. Failing that, the best chance of getting a publishing deal is to send a two page synopsis, three chapters and a very business-like letter to as many relevant agents as you can, preferably with endorsement from an established novelist. Getting Jeanette Winterson to back me was a major advantage.

Who are you favourite writers?
It changes every week. This week they are: Dickens, Byron, Joseph Heller, Jeanette Winterson, Nicholson Baker, Jonathan Franzen, Richard Adams, David Mitchell, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Julian Barnes, Angela Carter, Doris Lessing.

What can readers expect from you in future?
More books falling somewhere between fantasy and re
ality.

The Last Family in England is published by Jonathan Cape. Visit Matt's website at www.matthaig.com.