Here's a short piece by novelist Barbara Trapido about how she came to write her first novel: Guardian Unlimited Books | By genre | The awkward squad.
Trapido, born in South Africa, is well known in the U.K., but deserves a wider audience here. She is a ggenius novelist: one of the rare ones where you finish the last page of the book and wish you could just sit down and read the whole thing all over again. My favorite is Juggling; The Traveling Hornplayer is also particularly good; most of her novels depict the same big cast of characters, concentrating on different individuals and different angles. Really magical stuff, anyway.