An Interview with Rosie Alison
Born in 1964, Rosie Alison read English at Keble College, Oxford. She spent over ten years working in television, as a producer-director of arts documentaries (her director credits include The South Bank Show, Omnibus and Grand Designs). Currently Head of Development at Heyday Films in the UK – the production company of the Harry Potter film series – she has recently co-produced two feature films (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and Is There Anybody There?). Rosie’s latest book, The Very Thought of You, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize 2010.
1) What led you into writing?
A child’s abridged version of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, read to me at school when I was six or seven, kickstarted my passion for stories: I was entranced by Bunyan’s vision of life as a journey, scattered with crossroads, pitfalls, steep hills and elusive but ravishing horizons. But it was simply “a lonely impulse of delight” – to borrow Yeats’s phrase – which led me into writing. An instinct to record the good things.
2) What was your earliest career aspiration?
I wanted to be a tap dancer and choreographer – I still do, really. My other activities (documentaries, film, writing) have been consolatory.
3) Can you describe your latest book and its inspiration in thirty words?
It’s about various lonely souls who may or may not dare to grasp onto the invisible thread running between them. It’s also about the particular spirit of a place.
4) Do you have any plans for your next book?
My next novel is a contemporary urban love story about two strangers who meet by chance on the London Underground.
5) What has been the most exciting moment in your career?
Dancing with Mikhail Baryshnikov down a street in Brussels, in 1989: I was working on a South Bank Show about the brilliant choreographer Mark Morris, and Baryshnikov turned up unannounced to join Mark’s troupe (due to some corporate quarrel, he had just fled American Ballet Theatre in New York.) After dining with Mark Morris and Baryshnikov, I found myself being spontaneously waltzed down a beautiful street by this astonishing dancer, who was overflowing with happiness at his own impromptu arrival and seized on the nearest woman to hand. A spellbinding few minutes followed for me.
6) What are you reading right now?
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes.
7) If you could have dinner with any three people, past or present, who would they be?
Gene Kelly, Andrei Tarkovsky and John Keats. But for a walk in the country I would hope for Gerard Manley Hopkins.
8) Which period in history would you most like to have lived through?
The interwar years of the Twentieth Century: the astonishing cultural legacy of those years has – for me – somehow obscured what must have been a time of political despair for those who actually lived then. But I love the literature, the music, the art, the ballet, the theatre, the popular music, the films, the architecture, the designs, the clothes, the cars, the telephones, the humour.
9) If your house was on fire, which three books would you save from the flames?
The Great Gatsby, the collected works of Wordsworth, and the collected works of T.S. Eliot.
10) What do you do to relax?
Go to the cinema or watch dvds. Walk. Talk in the kitchen with my husband and daughters.
Find out more about The Very Thought of You