Jane Rogers’ latest novel Body Tourists imagines a secretive, privately funded clinic in a near-future London that is experimenting with the digital transfer of the minds and personalities of the dead into young, supple bodies. The poor and healthy are recruited from the grim estates of northern Britain, compensated with hard cash for their brains to be shut down for fourteen days while their bodies play host to reunions between scientists and their peers, parents and future generations, the lost and the living. As the trials are marred by unforeseen battles between will and flesh, tantalising moral questions are raised about gender, class, race, mortality and the pursuit of ever smarter, ever more human artificial intelligence.

Where are you now?

On a train returning home from Cambridge.

Where and when do you do most of your writing?

At my desk at home. Mornings are my best times for writing.

If you have one, what is your pre-writing ritual?

I might sharpen a pencil. I try to avoid opening emails, because I get distracted.

Full-time or part-time?

Part-time.

Pen or keyboard?

Both. First drafts are longhand, using my ancient Parker which I’ve used to write all 10 novels. Then I correct on paper and type it up when it’s well-nigh illegible. Then I can print out later drafts for more revision. I don’t much like revising onscreen.

How do you relax when you’re writing?

This is a weird question! I try not to relax. I try to concentrate and be as alert as possible.

How would you pitch your latest book in up to 25 words?

The memories of the old are stored digitally and inserted into young volunteers. The old can have youth again. But at what cost?

Who do you write for?

Myself.

Who do you share your work in progress with?

I don’t show anyone until I have a draft I think is OK-ish. Then I ask for feedback from my husband and several other trusted readers. Other writers are the best critics.

Which literary character do you wish you created?

The narrator of Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann.

Share with us your favourite line/s of dialogue, poetry or prose.

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

W.H. Auden: ‘Lullaby’, from Another Time

Which book do you wish you’d written?

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Which book/s have you most recently read and enjoyed?

Milkman by Anna Burns is extraordinary; likewise Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. I visited Russia recently and found Red Plenty by Francis Spufford was informative and fascinating. Beneath the World, a Sea by Chris Beckett is very engaging sci-fi.

What’s on your bedside table or e-reader?

Books I might not get round to finishing, I fear. My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, plus Stone Clock by Andrew Bannister and The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. The last is so hideously depressing I can only read a page at a time.

Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet?

I’ve started and failed to read Proust several times. Likewise Thomas Mann.

Which book/s do you treasure the most?

This changes all the time. It’s like asking, “which friends do you treasure the most?” Different ones at different times! I don’t treasure physical copies, although I do prefer to read pages rather than eBooks.

What is the last work you read in translation?

Second-Hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich.

Which story collections would you particularly recommend?

Any by George Saunders. Alice Munro. Lucy Caldwell.

What will you read next?

Stillicide by Cynan Jones.

What are you working on next?

A short story about a tree.

Imagine you’re the host of a literary supper, who would your dinner guests be (living or dead, real or fictional)?

Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny Osbourne. His writing makes me love him. Doris Lessing – a heroine, although I suspect she’d be prickly. Shakespeare, out of pure curiosity. The narrator of John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids, for his youth and innocence. And someone to make us laugh; maybe Dorothy Parker?

If you weren’t writing you’d be…?

An architect (assuming, in another incarnation, I could do maths).

 

Jane Rogers’ previous novels include Conrad and Eleanor, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, Mr Wroe’s Virgins, Island and The Voyage Home. She has also written original television and radio drama, and adapted her own and others’ work for radio and TV. Writing awards include the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Somerset Maugham Award, Writers’ Guild Best Fiction Book, BAFTA nomination for best drama serial, Guardian Fiction Prize runner-up and an Arts Council Award. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and teaches the Faber Short Story Writing course. Body Tourists is published by Sceptre in hardback, eBook and audio download.
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@SceptreBooks

Author portrait © Wendy Rogers

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