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Choosing your subject matter

9 May 2011

'How do you choose your subject matter? Indeed, do you choose it or does it choose you? Should you follow the adage "write what you know", or should a writer engage with the world beyond their back-yard? How important is research? Are you "allowed" to write a story that doesn't "belong" to you, for reasons of race, class, gender and so on? Is it possible to "own" any story, even the story of your life, given that others who intersect with it (your parents, your lover) will have a different "truth" to tell?...

By the time I got down to the writing, I was following the advice I gave my students: write the book that you are compelled to write, stay true to that and only that, draw the curtains, close the door.'

Monica Ali on writing Untold Story, her novel about Princess Diana, in the Bookseller