Before you published your first book in 1977, you were a bookseller. What do you think about what is happening to bookshops now?
With the book trade, if anyone tells you they know what’s going on, they’re lying. Everyone is winging it, and it changes from month to month. It’s quite alarming. Bookshops are closing every week because Amazon and the wholesalers are deliberately squeezing them out. If you’re notreviewed in the nationals and on the front table in Waterstone’s, you may as well set fire to your books. I think soon there will be a few big-name authors at the front [of the average bookshop] and cookbooks and art books at the back. I’m depressing myself now. Maybe one ought to get a proper job.
You have magnificent facial hair. How did that come about?
At the age of 19, I inherited an electric shaver which gave me a terrible rash. I decided to stop inflicting this pain on myself. The amazing question is not "Why do you have a beard?" but "Why do 99% of the male population shave every day?" It is quite unnatural.