Naomi Alderman & Margaret Atwood
Jacques, Adam, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
How we met 'We ended up talking about whether zombies are able to love people'
Margaret Atwood 73
The award-winning Canadian novelist (right in picture) is best known for her works of speculative fiction, including the Booker Prize-winning 'The Blind Assassin', and most recently her 'Oryx and Crake' series of novels. She lives in Toronto
I met Naomi in Toronto early last year. She'd been flown over by the Rolex folk as part of its mentoring scheme that I'd been asked to take part in. So we met for lunch to talk and see what we could get out of working together.
We both found pretty early on that we're prone to digression. So rather than talking about the main challenges of writing, we ended up talking about the latest in digital weirdness - and whether zombies are able to love people.
Naomi's pretty self-starting, having hauled herself into writing with no grants - and like me she had to develop a way of making a living in the meantime. Though looking at her life as a video-game author, I would never have guessed she'd grown up in an Orthodox Jewish family.
A number of people have redone the story of Christ as a novel. Someone even did one in which Jesus was a magic mushroom. But Naomi's book The Liars' Gospel is pretty cunning as it's charting the events of Christ's life but reported from four different points of view - and it indicates that this is a mature writer.
We've hung out in New York, working on alternating chapters of a character novel, Happy Zombies Sunrise Home, which we did on [the online writing community] Wattpad. Naomi would mischievously end her chapter with a life-or-death situation that I would then have to get that character out of. And I've been over to London to see her, eating fish and chips with a pint of beer while writing a script [for a zombie-themed fitness app co-created by Alderman].
We come from very different backgrounds. Her's was suburban, while I grew up in the wilds of Northern Canada. And she's had this fascinating point of view growing up Orthodox Jewish, with the restrictions that caused.
Our pairing could have been a disaster but we spend all our time laughing our heads off. She's coming to Toronto next month to stay at my house and work on her new novel. I'm not trying to do any major shaping, though; we're just going to bounce ideas off each other.
Naomi Alderman 39
Following her award-winning debut, 'Disobedience', about a young woman rebelling against her Orthodox Jewish upbringing, Alderman has written two further novels. …