Anne Tyler, author of the 2020 Booker Prize-longlisted Redhead by The Side of The Road, talks about her writing. 

The second time-longlistee on the inspiration behind Redhead by the Side of the Road, and why there’s no contest when it comes to her favourite Booker Prize winner.

How does it feel to be longlisted for the second time? 

It feels wonderful, of course, but also it’s kind of a shock. That book covers such a narrow sliver of a life, I didn’t expect it to be given much attention. 

What’s the inspiration behind Redhead by the Side of The Road

It’s the only novel I’ve written whose beginning seemed to be dictated to me. The first sentence, and then the second, came out of the blue. After that I was on my own, but at least I’d been given a nudge to start me on my way. 

Your writing demonstrates such affection for your characters. How do you let go of them at the end of the process? 

It does make me sad, but once a book is in print I feel I can say goodbye – as if my characters were children I just needed to see settled in their careers. 

In this novel we witness your protagonist’s careful routine disrupted by a few unexpected events. Why do you feel that chance encounters hold so much fictional potential? 

I like the idea of confronting a cautious person with the chaos of normal life and then watching what he or she does about it. 

What is your favourite Booker-winning novel? 

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro; no contest. I loved the quiet thud of realisation that fell over the main character at the end of his story. To me it felt as cataclysmic as a bomb. 

Anne Tyler