I wrote my first novel when I was seventeen, and in the middle of my ‘A’ Level year. I wrote three more while an undergraduate at Oxford, and yet another after I had graduated. None saw daylight; all pages of them have long ago vanished. If I haven’t since then written (or published) nearly as many novels as I would have liked, this is perhaps because of the exalted hopes I have always had for any attempts of my own in the medium which means the most to me. My personal novelist mentors have been, since youth, Turgenev, Mauriac, the Gide of Les Faux Monnayeurs, and Richard Hughes in The Fox in the Attic and The Wooden Shepherdess. Also Stevenson in his Weir of Hermiston (which I edited for Penguin Books). I must include too Americans Willa Cather, Eudora Welty and James Purdy.
I have never wanted to write fiction about myself or my family, or even about situations in which I have been placed. I have wanted each novel to have its own life independent from me. Each has arisen from a conjunction of two (or more) scenes which made a particular appeal to my imagination and feelings. So Harmonica’s Bridegroom (1984) began first with my seeing somebody play a harmonica in an Oxfordshire garden, and was joined by my witnessing, some years later, rightwing demonstrators in downtown Madrid. Kingfisher Weather (1989) derives from a fusion of a walk near Epping Forest when I saw a kingfisher and a crossing of the Atlantic in a cargo-boat on which the young cook struck me as quite different from any other crew members.
Harmonica's BridegroomKingfisher Weather
My Cousin The Writer

My Cousin the Writer (2002), my favourite of all my books, has its origins in a popular radio programme of my childhood and adolescence, Mrs Dale's Diary, invented and scripted by my own godmother. In my head was a picture of three people, none of them myself – a woman and two boys – at tea in a sitting-room listening to the programme on a radiogram. This picture united with one from a journey I had made in adulthood through sub-arctic Swedish forest and on which I saw an elk. And so the novel came into being.

My Cousin the Writer was novelist Francis King's book of the year, was, among other glowing reviews, described in 'The Spectator' as a 'masterpiece' and is now a FaberFind.