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Bear Grylls chats about writing, reading and what keeps him awake at night

Published in the Sunday Times

Burning AngelsBurning Angels
•Bear Grylls (Orion)

What books are on your bedside table?

Tana French’s In The Woods and The Likeness. William Trevor’s Felicia’s Journey and Linda Greene’s While My Eyes Were Closed.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?

Writers for their wit, warmth and humour would be Anne Fine, Anne Tyler and Roald Dahl.

Which book changed your life?

The Secret Seven books from Enid Blyton. They made me want to either be a writer or a detective.

Which current book will you remember in 10 years’ time?

Dave Eggers’s What is the What. The way one boy’s life was decided by powers greater than he simply because his country was at war was so sad and made me angry on his behalf. It’s a book that never stops being relevant as long as there is war and refugees.

What words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Is anyone making coffee?”

What novel would you give a child to introduce them to literature?

For young children it would have to be The Cat in the Hat so I could read it to them!

What book do you wish you’d written?

Aside from The Cat in the Hat, there are so many: The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver), A Patchwork Planet (Anne Tyler), Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë) …

What keeps you awake at night?

Holes in my plots and how to fix them. It drives me mad and though I know it does absolutely no good to lie awake all night and fret, I still do it.

What are you most proud of writing?

I’m proud of all my books really. I suppose recently my most special writing memory was a play I wrote to celebrate the centenary of Ireland’s fight for independence called Conquered Not We Were. While writing it, I managed to trace the unmarked grave of a soldier who fought for Ireland and arranged to have a plaque erected to mark his life. The National Archives also requested a copy of the play, which made me proud.

What is the last thing that you read that made you laugh out loud?

It was Hugh Leonard’s Home Before Night. It’s Leonard’s own story of growing up and I would advise anyone to read it for sheer comic timing.

What is the strangest thing you’ve done when researching a book?

For Proof, the book I’m busy with, set during a murder trial, I attended the Central Criminal Courts in Dublin on a regular basis just to see how the whole system worked. I found myself sitting alongside criminals. The first time it happened, I got quite a shock. It seemed that out of everyone in the courtroom that day, I was the only one not on trial.

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