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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 19:00 GMT 20:00 UK
Ali Smith's split world
Ali Smith
Ali Smith: "Clear and lucid prose"
Scottish author Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962, and now lives in Cambridge.

She made her mark on the literary scene in 1995 with her first book, Free Love, a collection of short stories, which won the Scotland on Sunday/ Macallan Prize and the Saltire First Book Award.

Since then she has produced two more well-received books, Other Stories and Other Stories, and her first novel, Like.

It's a thing I wanted to do and knew I should do and then avoided doing and then had to do

Ali Smith on writing
She now also writes for The Scotsman and the Times Literary Supplement.

Smith studied for her first degree in Aberdeen, but moved to Cambridge to do a PhD in American and Irish modernism.

Rather than studying hard, she started to write plays and ended up dropping out of her PhD.

She moved back to Scotland, to Edinburgh, where she worked as a lecturer before being hit with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Her partner suggested a move back to Cambridge to help her recover - and it was here she wrote the stories for Free Love.

Smith has said of writing: "It's the thing I had to do in the end. It's a thing I wanted to do and knew I should do and then avoided doing and then had to do."

Her experience of moving from Scotland to Cambridge and her interest in the difference between South and North became the basis for her first novel.

The novel
Like is set in Scotland for its first half and Cambridge for its second, and focuses on two childhood friends and their separate accounts of their friendship.

Kate Atkinson, author of Behind the Scenes at the Museum, said of the book: "I love Ali Smith's prose - clear and lucid and at the same time full of little quirks and subtleties that make hers an individual voice.

"Not only was the novel beautifully written but it was fascinating reading."

Hotel World is Smith's second novel, and has already featured on the Orange Prize shortlist.

Her memorable protagonist is the ghost of a young woman who dies in a hotel dumb waiter at the beginning of the novel.

The reader follows Sarah's ghost as it visits her own corpse, her grieving sister and the still living characters who live or work in the hotel where she died.

She has said the germ of the idea for the novel was "the notion of transience that hotels are all about, and at the same time the notion of tiered social hierarchies" - with three characters trapped in their class roles.

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