Tamar's published two books: The Genizah at the House of Sheper and Kafka in Bronteland and Other Stories.

I interviewed her this week via email.

* When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer. I began writing stories at the age of six or seven.

* What did your parents want from you?


* What crowd did you hang out with in high school?

I was pretty much a loner. I didn't enjoy institutional life.

* What type of characters do you prefer to write?

I seem to have a thing about elderly men. I'm not sure why that is, I just relate to them.

* What do you love and hate about being Jewish in the UK? I was there 18 months ago and being Jewish in London seems very different from my LA Jewish experience.

I don't know what it's like to be Jewish in London. I've lived in the north of England most of my life. North-of-England Jewishness is very local and particular. Try reading Howard Jacobson. In my case, there was a sense of Israeliness which added to the mix.

There are pluses and minuses to being Jewish in Britain. On the one hand, we're positioned at the crossroads between Europe and America. We share in the British tradition of being open to influences from both directions. On the other, we're different without being considered exotic. In a sense, to be British and Jewish is to be a sort of ghost. We exist in a limbo-land between America and the Holocaust. As a writer, I find that a rather interesting place to be.

* What do you most want your readers to experience when they read you?

The elation of a good read.

* What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

I'm always in control. On the other hand, I'm always in control.

* What in Judaism and Jewish life inspires you and what depresses you?

I love the eclecticism of Jewish culture. The humour, beauty, sadness and intelligence of Judaic tradition fascinates and inspires me. I'm depressed by the bigotry and clubbishness of those who believe themselves more truly Jewish than others.

* How much do you socialize with other writers and how important is that to you?

I used to be very isolated as a writer. Since the internet, that's changed. I've met a number of wonderful writers from as far afield as Florida, New York and Belgrade who are now my friends and our mutual support and encouragement have been invaluable. I've been a member of an online writing community called Storyville for the past seven years. I think, though, that I'm always essentially alone with my work. That hermetic solitude is very important to me. I'm pretty secretive about my work-in-progress and rarely share it until it's at a late stage of development.

* Does literature make people better? If so, how?

I've definitely felt that reading, say, Tolstoy or Primo Levi or Milan Kundera has made me a better person. It's taught me things I didn't know, enabled me to empathise, uplifted me spiritually and made me think more deeply. If it's done that for me, it can do the same for other people.

* In what ways are your perceptions of life keener than other people's?

I've often wondered whether novelists and poets have a keener perception of life. I don't think they do, necessarily; I think what they have is the ability to express those perceptions in words and so crystallise them for others.

* How has devoting so much time to writing affected your life?

David Grossman once put it into words for me: he said, "A writer can't live a normal life." I was grateful when he said that; it gave me sanction.

* How has publishing your two books affected your life? I feel like a public writer now instead of a private one. Before, my readership was only a theory; now it's an actuality. That's wonderful, but I need to protect my privacy and my solitude.

* How has marriage/motherhood affected your writing? My husband has been endlessly supportive of my writing. He's provided the stable emotional and financial base from which to write.

* Your husband and your writing? Does he read it in advance? Is he allowed to critique it?

My husband is an accountant! He doesn't read my books, he does my tax returns. Actually, he's a much more accomplished critiquer of literature than he thinks he is.

* What is it like for you as a Jew to be so immersed in English aka christian literature?

I adore English literature, but I will always be in some way outside of it. It's not the Christianity so much as the anti-Semitism which alienates. It's like I describe in my story "Mrs Rubin and her Daughter": the references to Jews "jump at out them like brigands on unexpected pages," they are "alienated and repatriated in a flash," they "press on, admiring and despising, and forget the literary mugging until next time."

As a young writer, adoring the Brontes, I used to dream sometimes of meeting them. But it was very painful to realise that even Emily Bronte was probably an anti-Semite.

I'd especially preclude Shakespeare, though. Who knows what his real intentions were, but the fact that 'The Merchant of Venice' is open to such a huge range of interpretations suggests to me that his human sympathy was far ahead of its time. That's part of what makes him such a genius.