Tina Seskis grew up in Hampshire, England, and worked for more than 20 years in advertising and marketing. Her first novel, One Step Too Far, was published in the U.K. in 2013 and released in the U.S. this month by Morrow. Seskis lives in North London with her husband and son.
On your nightstand now:
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner, because I am trying to go back to the books I've always wanted to read but never managed to get to; Daughter by Jane Shemilt, a fellow Penguin author in the U.K. who managed to make me miss my tube stop yesterday as her book is so gripping; and Slash: The Autobiography--I love reading about other people's lives and have always had a fascination for where someone starts off and how they turn into the person they become, and this is also research for my third book, but it's an insane, eye-popping read.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Watership Down, partly because I won it in a competition and partly because I became so consumed with hope and fear and terror for a bunch of fictional rabbits. I read in an interview with Richard Adams last month that he thinks now that he made the story too dark, with rabbits being gassed and snagged on barbed wire, but I loved the way it opened me up to emotion in that way, and what the story put me through. However, when my son and I read it together recently, he wouldn't finish it because he thought it was too sad, perhaps because he has experience of bereavement, whereas I hadn't.
Your top five authors:
I will interpret this as the five authors who have both given me the most pleasure over the years and have helped influence my writing. I am a sucker for a) the great storytellers of any genre, so to pick two, I'll choose Thomas Hardy and Jilly Cooper; b) mystery--Agatha Christie was the master; and c) the wielders of magic quills/keyboards, so Salman Rushdie and William Shakespeare.
Book you've faked reading:
Pretty much every management book I was meant to read for my degree in business administration. The problem with being a school-leaver in the rather dour U.K. economy of the mid-'80s was that I was encouraged to choose a course that would help me get a job. If I'd done my first love, which was English Literature, I'm sure I would have read more of the course books.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Well, possibly The Sea by John Banville, which was an extraordinarily hard slog, but the ending makes it worth it. I know so many people who have given up on it so I tell them to keep going. And G by John Berger, which hardly anyone seems to have heard of but which is brilliant.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. I saw it around the time I was hoping One Step Too Far would get published one day, and thought the cover was so brilliant I didn't even look at what the book was about.
Book that changed your life:
The Other Hand [published as Little Bee in the U.S.] by Chris Cleave. I picked it up on impulse at the airport on my way to spend Easter in Venice, because the editor had put a personal message on the cover about how extraordinary she thought it was. It was the book I was reading when I had the idea for One Step Too Far. I was so convinced that the editor would think my book was special, too, that, months later (once I'd written it, obviously), I even cold-called her to try to persuade her. She was so nice that she did agree to look at my manuscript, but sadly didn't agree with me, and as it was a very rough draft, I think I was somewhat precipitous in my approach. I will always be grateful to her, though, both for being so kind on the phone and for taking the time to take a look and get back to me. I called her two days after my mother had died, and I think she probably thought I was some kind of nutter.
Favorite line from a book:
"The problem these fifty-nine years has been this: how can a novelist achieve atonement when, with her absolute power of deciding outcomes, she is also God?" --Ian McEwan, Atonement
Which character you most relate to:
Sherman McCoy in Bonfire of the Vanities--not because I am like him (I certainly hope not), but because Tom Wolfe does an amazing job of making Sherman's life come alive on the page. Wolfe sucks you into Sherman's dilemmas, and the character development as well as the story itself is masterful. I found myself deeply involved with the journey of a man in a life I had no experience of, and the depiction of that sham way of living has always stayed with me. In fact, I'm going to read it again, now I've thought about it.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. My original answer: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (before I knew about Bertha).