Skip to Content

Comment from the book world in February 2005

February 2005

'Entertaining for an audience'

28 February 2005

'Someone once said to me: "Don't you think it unfair writing about your mother when she couldn't answer?" The answer is: absolutely not. I couldn't have written about her when she was alive as it would have hurt her terribly. I think one should respect someone like mad while they're alive and write what you like once they're dead. I don't mind what my son writes about me once I'm dead. Books should not be written to be cathartic for the author but to ring bells with and be entertaining for an audience.'

Virginia Ironside, author of Janey and Me, quoted in the Observer

'Some giant beast'

21 February 2005

'I'll probably be completely forgotten. Most of the work in the world is forgotten. There have been so many writers who dominated a period and then slipped off. History is like some giant beast - it simply wriggles its back and throws off whatever is on it.'

Arthur Miller, quoted in the Independent.

'Not enough time to write a good book'

14 February 2005

'So many thrillers today are formulaic and one-dimensional. I feel like there used to be a higher standard. I know I'll get in trouble for saying this, but the problem is that the whole industry is built around writing one book a year, so the next hardcover comes out with the mass market paperback of your previous one. That's great from a marketing perspective, but from a writing perspective it's terrible, because people have to write their novel in six or seven months. It's not enough time to write a good book.

I've done it for the past five years, but if I'm completely honest, three of my first four books are the best I ever wrote because I spent two years apiece on them. Some of the stories I've come up with since then are just as good, but have I been able to do those stories justice? No, not completely.'

Greg Iles in the Bookseller

'The achievers and the strivers'

7 February 2005

'There is something about the contemporary scene that has made competitiveness, doing the next person down, a central part of the writing business rather than just a sideshow. Dominated by the marketing imperative, the publishing and bookselling process no longer has room for the semi-success, the slow burn, the author who was once successful or may possibly be successful in the future. Almost from the moment the first book contract is signed, a brutal bifurcation takes place between the achievers and the strivers...

It is a shock to many people to discover that writers can be as vain, competitive and boastful as those in any other profession, but add a snobbery all of their own.

It occurs to me that in writing, and maybe in most other walks of life, talent and generosity tend as a general rule to go together. It is the most successful who are least likely to bother with the trivial idiocies of gamesmanship... the most effective way of succeeding and staying sane is to concentrate on one's own project and let others get on with their own. Working well is the best revenge.'

Terence Blacker, author, journalist and former publisher, in the Independent