Talks with Kate Atkinson about ‘Starting Late’ as a Writer and Her Latest Book

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The bestselling novelist of Life After Life also reveals which literary character she’d like to be in another life.

Life After Life

Atkinson’s novel Life After Life has appeared on the shortlist for The Women’s Prize for Fiction, and picked it as one of its Best Summer Books of 2013.

British writer Kate Atkinson’s new novel Life After Life has already appeared on the shortlist for The Women’s Prize for Fiction and is destined to be shortlisted for – if not win – many more literary awards. picked Life After Life as one of our Best Summer Books of 2013.

Recently had the opportunity to ask Kate three revealing questions.

In Life After Life, Atkinson’s central character Ursula Todd has the chance to live her life over and over again – by dying over and over again. We asked Atkinson what she might do differently if she had the chance to live her life as a writer again. She revealed that having come from an academic background, she was initially fearful of being amateurish. So she wrote for women’s magazines, among other things, in an effort to learn her craft. She also said that she ‘started late’ as a writer – and that she would perhaps change that aspect of her career … but then again maybe not.

When asked which literary character she would love to be if she had the chance, Atkinson chose Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth is ‘quite the proper heroine’, she says, and the character ‘transcends time’.

Given that Ursula Todd meets her end time after time, we also asked Atkinson about the sorts of endings she likes to read. Interestingly, she prefers ‘symphonic’ endings, in which the reader thinks the story has ended but then discovers that it has not. Atkinson finds it difficult to come to a stop in her own books. Life After Life, however, is different. It is ‘circular,’ she says – and was trying not to end the book.

Atkinson is the author of seven previous novels and one collection of short stories. If you want to see more of her thoughts on the writing process, you can watch’s interview here.

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Jeffrey A. Salzgeber
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