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The Stylist 16: Hilary Mantel

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Hilary Mantel is the only woman to win the Man Booker Prize twice. In 2009 she won the contemporary fiction prize for her novel Wolf Hall and last year she won the prestigious award again for Bring Up The Bodies, the sequel to Wolf Hall. The start of 2013 has seen her success continue, with Bring Up The Bodies awarded the Costa novel prize. Judges hailed the book as "truly outstanding with a unique voice."

We spoke to Hilary and posed our usual 15 questions. Don't forget to read to the very end to discover what Hilary would like to ask you and feel free to leave your answer in the comments.

1. When was the last time you hid?

I think probably about a week ago. It’s what writers do, we lurk in corners and watch. I do it rather a lot.

2. What’s in your handbag?

A copy of Bring Up The Bodies, a big bag of make-up, a spare pair of shoes, an umbrella, my purse and about a dozen pens.

3. Do you have any tattoos, if so what?

[Laughs]. No.

4. Sedan chair: good idea or a bad idea?

A very bad idea, especially if you weigh as much as me. I should feel that I was being very unfair. It’s unfair to make others carry you at all.

5. What are you most ashamed of?

Not standing up to my step father when I was a young girl. I was young, but I am ashamed of that and I would like to remember myself as having been more forthright.

6. Is the world getting better, or worse?

It’s getting better, most definitely. One only has to look at dentistry.

7. Cheese or chocolate?

Chocolate.

8. What was your finest hour?

The hour I arrived back in Britain, having lived in Saudi Arabia for four years, that was my finest. I arrived into the airport at dawn and the sky was pink and I had the most brilliant feeling of freedom and having survived. It was a claustrophobic place to live, a very restrictive society. I lived there with my husband and I did not want to be one of those wives who gave up, couldn't cope and went back to England. I walked out of the airport and thought “I have survived and now I can write about it.”

9. What does feminism means to you?

Equality of opportunity.

10. Which part of your home do you like best?

I like my office the most as it has a sea view. It’s very much a working office, not just another room. I have a whiteboard and it’s currently my favourite thing for plotting out a chapter. It’s an excellent visual reminder and you can leave it overnight and re-examine it in the morning.

11. What’s guaranteed to make you cry?

Onions.

12. What do you dream about at night?

I could give you a very long answer as I always write my dreams down. They do tend to be on the dark side though.

13. Complete the sentence: Britain needs more…

Fun. Yes, more fun.

14. Are you a lover or a fighter?

A fighter I'm afraid.

15. Have you left the gas on?

No, definitely not. I am someone who always checks.

16. What question would you like to ask Stylist readers?

Which character in English history do you find the most fascinating?

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