Sarah Hall: ‘I used to almost fear opening a book’

The award-winning author on the urgency she felt when writing her pandemic novel, how she relates to Sarah Connor from The Terminator and what Egon Schiele’s paintings make her feel

Sarah Hall, 48, is the Cumbrian-born author of prizewinning short stories and novels, among them Mrs Fox and The Electric Michelangelo. Her latest, Burntcoat, is one of the first Covid-era works of long-form fiction to grapple with life during – and significantly after – a pandemic, though the plague it describes is far deadlier. Its searing prose deals with much else besides, including themes of art, intimacy and remembrance.

When did you begin writing Burntcoat?
On the first day of the first lockdown in March 2020, with notebooks and a pen, which I’d not done since my first novel, 20 years ago. It felt like a response to what was going on – this odd scribbling in the smallest room in the house, really early in the morning when it was quiet and eerie.

Burntcoat by Sarah Hall is published in paperback by Faber (£8.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at Delivery charges may apply

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