Adam Foulds will lead our fiction master class in January 2020. Learn more in this exclusive interview with Under the Volcano.

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What books are you currently reading? 

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. Thomas Hardy: Half a Londoner by Mark Ford. America Was Hard To Find by Kathleen Alcott. The Years by Annie Ernaux. And a variety of things for research towards what I think will be my next novel.

What books do you return to over time? Why? 

I reread a lot. Just recently I reread Middlemarch and Wuthering Heights and was amazed again at what the novel can be. There are a few writers who excite me into language and to whom I return often for that stimulation: James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Saul Bellow, Virginia Woolf. They also remind me to write in the truest, most open way, with full sympathy and honesty.

Which three writers, dead or alive, would you like to have coffee or drinks with? Why? 

Shakespeare, though his accent is likely to be hard to understand. William Blake. I’d like to meet both of them just to know what on earth that would be like; for charm and good company, I suspect Chekhov was a delight to hang out with.

Do you have a secondary passion or talent apart from writing that might surprise people to know about? 

I don’t think any of my hobbies or other interests are particularly surprising – playing the violin, visual art, birdwatching, internal martial arts.

If you could offer three tips to writers what would they be? 

Read as much as you can.

Become so absorbed in your material that you forget about writing as such. Ideally you should reach a point where putting vivid words on a page is just the way in which you stay as close as you can to the thing you want to see unfold.

Don’t give up. Be spurred by rejections.

What was your moment of greatest despair as a writer and how did you get out of it?

That comes around fairly often. What is this book? It’s not working. It’s a disaster, an embarrassment. I’m failing to live up to the possibilities here. Meditation helps me to get out of it, returning to the creative source rather than standing outside it in a hail of self-criticism. Also, I take a break from the work. I go for a walk. I read things that bring me pleasure. And ultimately I persist in the writing.