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Jan Carson: 'The best advice I was given was to learn to write tired'

By Kerry McKittrick

The 36-year-old author lives in Belfast and her most recent collection of short stories, Children's Children, was published in February. She will be appearing at the Belfast Book Festival in June.

My best moment

Having my first novel - Malcolm Orange Disappears - published in June 2014, and holding it in my hands for the first time. I was commissioned to write it from the first three chapters; but from start to finish the whole thing took around three years.

My best song

I'm a massive fan of Bob Dylan and there's one particular song of his I love called Visions of Johanna. It's difficult to choose just one of his songs, but this is the best written of all. It's certainly my favourite and every time I listen to it, I hear something different in it. I think Dylan is a fantastic writer and he has lived a thousand different lives and that fascinates me.

My best movie

PT Anderson's Magnolia with Tom Cruise. He's a really good director who can take actors out of their comfort zone. I don't think Tom Cruise is the best actor but I think Anderson pushed him to achieve what he did in that film. Also, Philip Seymour Hoffman was amazing in it.

My best way to relax

I don't really chill out that much. If I've any spare time then I tend to be writing. Writing is my escapism. I also read voraciously and I love the cinema so I could be at the QFT about two or three days a week.

My best job

I worked for Belfast City Council and I've just finished working as the community outreach officer at the Ulster Hall, which was definitely the best job I ever had. I love working with people, older people in particular. Realistically no-one can afford to write full-time and not do another job. As I write very fast I would be extremely bored if that's all I did all day. I also love people so I'm really not cut out for a solitary lifestyle.

My best advice

The best advice I was given recently was that it's not going to get any easier and that I should learn to write even when I'm tired - that came from Damian Smyth from the Arts Council. It was exactly what I needed to hear and Damian tells it like it is.

My best gift

My best friend just gave me a beautiful badge of the patron saint of writers, St Francis de Sales. I also used to work in America and when I was leaving my job there to come home, they gave me a tattoo which says Do Not Feel Fearful. Those were both lovely gifts.

My best achievement

I moved to the States when I was 25 to work as an arts pastor in a church in Portland, Oregon. I didn't know anyone over there so it was the first time I did something by myself. It was a big achievement for me.

My best buy

I have a pair of green Converse trainers which I bought when I was 13 and they still fit me. I got them when I was going to camp for the first time and I'm still wearing them, so I think I got pretty good value for money out of them.

My best book

The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. He's a magic realist which is the same genre I write in. It was the first time I discovered someone else who wrote like me. Magic realism is fiction set in the real world but then something magical happens, such as the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis or Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.

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