Secondly when did your own preoccupation with character begin and how important to you is the relationship between how characters are shaped by and shape a story?

You’re asking this at just the right time, since I realised a couple of days ago that it began with The Herbs, a lovely kids’ programme. When the narrator uttered the password, you went through a door in a sunlit wall and met these characters, a lion, a lord and lady, a witch, and so forth. At the end of the programme, the door shut – but it wasn’t over. Most of the talk of Shakespeare in British Story, is concerned with Falstaff when the door shuts.

To the next bit of the question, I’d say that characters must dance the story. Of course, the dance can be a slow one, such as your saraband – indeed, this may be best for a man who’s tied his shoes together.

You said the idea for your first book, La Rochelle, came from a dream your brother had. How did you get the idea for British Story?

Long ago, an August evening in Edinburgh, in the alcove of the flat where my wife and I lived, just behind the King’s Theatre, I saw a pale young man in a white shirt who’d run away from home; with shaking hand, he was trying to write … a moth fell in his tea and died; he gave up, and went into the city. His name was Ian Brown. Soon enough, he ran into a green-eyed Welshman. But it began with Ian Brown …

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