The novelist, 53, on Polanski, his Hitler house, and Bob Monkhouse

People are bored by politics because it’s become entirely defensive trench warfare, where the main goal for each party is not to make a mistake that can be seized on by their opponent.

I hate delays. I hate air travel because of the queuing and the time it wastes.

I always wanted to earn my living as a writer. I used to write pretend newspapers when I was nine or 10. One of my first possessions which I bought with my own money was a little pre-war Olivetti portable typewriter.

If Roman Polanski had been arrested three months earlier it would have been disastrous for his film adaptation of my book The Ghost. It’s a terrible shock when a friend is suddenly plunged into that kind of jeopardy.

Watching Polanski direct is like watching a great conductor like Herbert von Karajan. He knows what he wants this enormous number of people to deliver, and he’s running from place to place in order to get it.

Voters feel that they’re not told the whole truth by politicians, and that insults their intelligence. We all know that something huge is going to have to be done to rectify the deficit, but none of the political parties is telling us what it is.

I can generally put the cork back in a bottle of champagne after it’s been opened. The trick is to pinch the cork quickly before it’s had a chance to swell too much.

The secret of a good marriage is never to discuss it.

I was shaped by being born just 12 years after the end of the war because there were so many war movies around. They instilled in me an interest in the Second World War which has never gone away.

My favourite joke is one of Bob Monkhouse’s: “They laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well, they’re not laughing now.” A masterpiece of brevity.

The success of my first novel, Fatherland, was a life-changing event. I remember writing out a cheque for our house in the country: liquidating my mortgage was the best thing I ever did financially. It’s been known ever since as The House That Hitler Bought.

Roman Polanski’s film of Robert Harris’s The Ghost opens on 16 April © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds