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Writing biographies

30 May 2011

'If you get to hate them you should give up the book! But it is a bit like being married. You have days when you feel fed up and days when you feel passionately in love. Dickens did terrible things in his life. But a good thing about being old is that you've seen it, you've done it. You know we all do terrible things...

There are a lot of authors, like John Updike, for example, who hated the idea of a biography of themselves. I can understand that, because here comes some blundering fool who thinks they can explain away the life and work. So (the key) is tone: have affection and respect, but also a sharp eye, and put people in the context in which they lived.'

Claire Tomalin, author of nine biographies, with Charles Dickens : A Life coming later this year.