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Zoe Heller
What inspired you to write THE BELIEVERS?
I read an article about scientists who were trying to locate a ďbelief geneĒ Ė the gene that would predispose a person to being a person of faith. This got me thinking about what it is, emotionally, mentally, experientially, that distinguishes believers of all types (political, religious, etc) from sceptics. I wanted to write about the complicated mental acrobatics that believers often have to perform in order to preserve their most cherished articles of faith.
THE BELIEVERS is very funny in parts and the tone is deceptively light considering the subject matter. Why did you choose to write the book in this way?
Gosh, I donít know; Iím not sure a writer chooses her voice exactly. Iím very glad if the book is funny, but then I donít regard humour as antithetical to seriousness.
There are very few sympathetic characters in either NOTES ON A SCANDAL or in THE BELIEVERS. Is your view of humanity as bleak as it seems from your books?
I donít think my books suggest a bleak view of humanity; Iím rather fond of humanity. Perhaps itís just that my fondness tolerates more folly and venality than most peopleís.
What did you think of the film of NOTES ON A SCANDAL?
I enjoyed it immensely. It was quite different from the book in tone, but I never expected to see an illustrated version of the novel. I thought it was an intelligent and entertaining movie and I was downright envious of some of the scenes that Patrick Marber, the screenwriter, had invented.
Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench were excellent as Sheba and Barbara. Who would you like to see playing the main characters in the film of THE BELIEVERS?
I donít know. Iím not good at casting. There are any number of talented actors who might play these characters brilliantly, but none of them can replicate the people I have in my head.
What writers do you read and who are your literary influences?
I read everyone, more or less. I especially admire Austen, Flaubert, Joseph Roth, Sybille Bedford, Angus Wilson, Shirley Hazzard and Paula Fox.
Are you writing anything at the moment? If so, please can you tell us a bit about it.
Iím writing a short story for a collection commissioned by Oxfam. Itís set in the Bahamas where Iíve been living for the last 18 months. I will try not to make it bleak.
Zoe Heller

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