5 Minutes With:

Jackie Copleton

Jackie Copleton photo

Jackie Copleton, author of A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding, reveals why hanging laundry can be one of the landmark moments in your life and her dream of drinking ill-advised martinis with Tennessee Williams and Raymond Carver.

Why do you write?

When I was eleven years old I wrote a poem about my pet dog Smartie after he was hit by a car and killed. It made me feel marginally better. Probably that reason.

What’s your inspiration for writing?

For this first book, my parents and Nagasaki.

What were you doing before you became a writer?

I still work as a newspaper sub-editor. We’re a dying breed of grumpy, tea-swilling pedants.

Who are your literary idols?

Anyone at this moment staring at a blank page or screen and thinking: ‘Where do I begin?’

And non-literary idols?

Elderly people crossing busy roads to buy their groceries. Heroic.

Favourite book?

The one open in front of me.

Favourite film?         

Glengarry Glen Ross for the dialogue and cast.

What have been the landmark moments in your life to date?

Landing the publishing deal was awesome. I was hanging laundry out in the backyard when the call came.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

Staying in bed all day reading, whilst overdosing on tea and toast.

What do you do to relax?

There is something therapeutic about lying in a dark sauna. Maybe its womb-like conditions?

Approximately how many books do you own?

Enough to force me to store some of them in the cellar (which is much less grand than it sounds).

You’re hosting a fantasy Dinner party. Who would be your four guests and why?

Tennessee Williams, F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver for some ill-advised martinis, oysters and steak in a low-lit New York bar, or mint juleps and fresh seafood in Key West. We’d talk about some of their trips to Echo Spring.


Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel in New York - a suitably dimly-lit and literary location for a fantasy meeting of minds?

Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel in New York – a suitably dimly-lit and literary location for a fantasy meeting of minds?

Tell us about a book you own that you’ve never read.

Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. I blame the small font.

Do you have any bad habits?

I’ll leave that between me and my conscience.

Hunter S. Thompson used to type out The Great Gatsby to know what it felt like to write it. What would be your choice?

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

If you could be anywhere now, where would it be and who with?

With my gran, on holiday in France, when she put her hand in her cardigan pocket, raised her fist triumphantly above her head and joyfully exclaimed: ‘Look, I’ve found my teeth.’

What are your writing habits?

Erratic, ill disciplined and then feverishly focused. Some middle ground might mean less mental turmoil.

What are you reading now?

Lena Dunham’s autobiography, Not That Kind of Girl. Amy Poehler is next.

What and where is your favourite bookshop?

Barter Books in Alnwick, in the north east of England. Open fires, an overhead model railway, cake and all set within a former train station. Reading Lasses in Wigtown, Scotland, is a close second.

Barter Books in Alnwick

Barter Books in Alnwick

Who is largely undiscovered and should be read?

She’s really well known but I’d urge people to read Jeanette Winterson’s Why be Happy When You Can be Normal? The title alone is a winner.

Where is your favourite place to read?

Sitting in the blue wooden chair on the beach as the sun sets over Gairletter Caravan Park on the Cowal Peninsula in Scotland. Gin and tonic optional; heron, seal and oystercatchers all welcome visitors.

Jackie's favourite reading spot

Jackie’s favourite reading spot

Further inspiration from Jackie Copleton


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