I was spending more time on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, and noticing how my online identities were often quite different from my real self. I was performing a role for the world, behaving a bit like an advert for myself, shaving off the rough edges in the name of popularity. Of course, this is something people have always done - putting on one face for work and another in the pub, for example - but I was struck by how easy it is now to create different identities, and how much extra pressure there is when you know the whole world is your audience. I began to imagine a character who got a bit too immersed in the social media world, and found the lies he told there intruding into the rest of his life.
2) When and why did you first start writing?
I wrote as a child, and for me it fulfilled the same function as reading: partly to escape from the world, partly to understand it better. I started writing seriously (by which I mean doing it every day) in my mid-twenties, for similar reasons.
3) Who are your favourite writers/influences and why?
I love the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges, because when I first read them they redefined for me what a story could be. Borges uses non-fiction forms, and plays with different genres, and deliberately misquotes from other books, and turns implausible or impossible premises into successful stories. I also admire William Maxwell for his simple, honest style, and Milan Kundera for the depth of his ideas, and John Banville for the beauty of his prose. Oddly, my own writing is quite different from that of my favourite authors. I think it's because I read quite widely, and am influenced by everything. So my own style is quite difficult to trace back to any particular influences.
4) Do you have a writing routine or place where you always write?
I move around a lot - I lived in north London until 2011, then Barbados last year, now south London, and am planning to move again in a few months. But wherever I am, I do try to create a routine. I can't just write in a spare five minutes between dinner and EastEnders. I need to have a designated place that's only for writing, and a time at which to start and stop, and it has to be first thing in the morning, before my head is filled with the clutter of the day. If I'm stuck, I'll go to a cafe or a pub or the beach or a hilltop, just for a new perspective (I wrote the last chapter of my next novel, A Virtual Love, in a cemetery).
5) Apart from writing what are your other passions and interests?
I've always loved to read, which is very much connected with wanting to be a writer. I'm also passionate about human rights and social justice. I joined Amnesty International when I was a teenager, and have been writing letters ever since. Reading about a Mexican journalist getting death threats or a Syrian cartoonist having his hands broken tends to put my own problems into the proper perspective.
6) What was the last book you read?
I just finished reading The Gospel According to Cane by Courttia Newland, about a woman whose baby was abducted, and what happens when a man turns up twenty years later claiming to be her long-lost son. It's also a kind of allegory for the "lost" generation of London youth. Really well-written.