Salley Vickers’ latest novel The Librarian is the story of Sylvia Blackwell, a woman in her twenties in the 1950s who moves to the quaint Wiltshire market town of East Mole to work in a library. When she falls in love with an older man, her interactions with his precocious daughter and her neighbours’ son have alarming unintended consequences.

Where are you now?

In rural Wiltshire, where The Librarian is set

Where and when do you do most of your writing?

I write where the book is principally located so that means it is pretty peripatetic.

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

Don’t get dressed, don’t look in the mirror or read emails or newspapers.

Full-time or part-time?

Full-time (supposedly); but in my view a writer must also live to absorb material for the writing. So I do a lot of part-time living.

Pen or keyboard?

Pencil for notebook; keyboard for first draft and thereafter.

How do you relax when you’re writing?

I play or chat with my grandchildren, garden, walk, daydream.

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

A book set in the 1950s, exploring the value of reading and libraries, tracing their effects on the lives of three children with a modern-day conclusion. I hope witty and a bit subversive.

Who do you write for?

It a bit depends on the book. This one was for my grandchildren because it celebrates the value of stories, which they very sensibly enjoy.

Who do you share your work in progress with?

My younger son, Rupert Kingfisher, who is himself a children’s writer.

Which literary character do you wish you created?

Grandcourt in Daniel Deronda, the most superb evocation of a subtle evil and strangely attractive.

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

He would not stay for me; and who can wonder?
He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand and tore my heart in sunder,
And went with half my life about my ways.
Gate_of_AngelsA.E. Housman

Which book do you wish you’d written?

Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Gate of Angels.

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

Pretty much all of Muriel Spark, whose entire works I have just reread.

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

William Trevor, Rowan Williams, Robert Louis Stevenson, Paula Fox, The New Testament translated by David Bentley Hart, David Foster Wallace.

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

A Brief History of Time.

Which book/s do you treasure the most?

My old childhood Beatrix Potters and Phillipa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden, a first edition bought by my ten-year-old self.

What is the last work you read in translation?

Swann’s Way by Proust (for my next book).

Which story collections would you particularly recommend?

Any Katherine Mansfield

What will you read next?

I’ve enough on my table already.

What are you working on next?

I never tell.

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

John Donne, Charles II, Fielding, Viola, Sylvia Pankhurst, Marilyn Monroe, Jesus, Elvis, Beatrix Potter.

If you weren’t writing you’d be…?

On the streets, very probably.


Salley_Vickers_newSalley Vickers is the author of many acclaimed novels including the bestselling Miss Garnet’s Angel, Mr Golightly’s Holiday, The Other Side of You and The Cleaner of Chartres, and two short story collections, the latest The Boy Who Could See Death. She has worked as a cleaner, a dancer, a teacher of children with special needs, a university lecturer and a psychoanalyst. She now writes and lectures full-time. The Librarian is published by Viking in hardback and eBook.
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Author portrait © Luke Nugent