Victoria Coren


Victoria Coren is, according to The Weekend Australian, a strangely winning combination of lone cowgirl, femme fatale and soft-centred feminist; according to her website she is a writer, broadcaster and poker player. She presents Only Connect on BBC4 and has answered some questions for us… 

What kind of pupil were you like at school?
I was a curate's egg: probably a lovely pupil if it was a subject I liked (the arts subjects, really) but awful for anyone who was stuck trying to teach me physics or geography. I got bored and messed about. I feel guilty about that now, and sorry for the teachers who suffered my "attempts to be amusing and distract the class."

What was your favourite subject?
English. That was a proper treat, like break or lunch.

Is there anything you wish you'd done differently in your time at school?
I wish I'd concentrated harder in the subjects I thought I didn't enjoy because, looking back as a grown-up, it feels like an amazing luxury to be able to sit there while people explain the world to you, and I won't have that chance again (short of an evening class in chemistry, which I certainly won't be taking).

What inspired you to start writing professionally?
I started writing commercially when I was very young. At 12, I was writing and photocopying little newspapers to sell at school. At 14, I was sending short stories to magazines under an assumed name, and sold two of them. At 15, I won a competition to write a weekly column in the Daily Telegraph. My father was a writer, so it's pretty easy to work out why I thought it was a possible route to making money! How lucky for me that he wasn't a drug dealer.

What was the best thing about University?
For me, it was studying my subject (English). I think in general the best thing about university is to have three or four years in such a large peer group: what a chance to make friends, fall in love, spend time talking and arguing. But I was a bit too shy to take advantage of that. I got a lot of reading done!

What is your favourite word?
Quartz. I aspire to playing it one day in a game of Scrabble. It must be worth about a million points. But I've never had all the right letters at once.

If you could give one piece of advice to your sixteen-year old self what would it be?
"Everybody else is worried and self-doubting. It's not just you."

What areas of trivia would be your specialist subjects if you were entering a quiz rather than hosting one?
At the moment, I'm in the middle of making a documentary about PL Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books. I've been doing a lot of reading about her. So if I had to go on Mastermind tomorrow, I'd do that.

Which is better - poker or journalism?
Morally better? Or more fun?
If you mean more fun, then poker. If you mean morally, well… It depends who you ask. They both have their ups and downs.

Do you have any ambitions left to achieve? If so, what would they be?
I'd like to finish a novel. I've published a couple of books, but not a novel (a work of fiction). I'd love to do that, but it takes a lot of time and energy. I'd also quite like to re-paint the bathroom.