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Comment from the book world in June 2008

June 2008

Switching to writing for children

30 June 2008

'Part of the reason why I couldn't finish it is that I think I belong in children's literature. As soon as I thought of writing a children's book my imagination just expanded hugely and all the darkness and the surreal elements that were in my adult novel could still come out but I could deal with them in a more irreverent and playful way. In adult literature there seems to be this pressure to 'say' something, especially something that's 'never been said before', and I realised that I'd been navel-gazing when I was writing for adults, but I found I really enjoyed myself when I started to do it for children.'

Emma Clayton, author of the The Roar, in Publishing News

Literary versus commercial fiction

23 June 2008

'America has a ridiculously divisive line between literary and commercial fiction. One New York Times reviewer skewers me annually, but the best revenge is that review coming outthe same week that you have two books at number one on the bestseller lists. I'll get slagged by critics in the UK too, but I defy them to be able to say that it's not a well-written book...

'Early on I had to choose whether to go towards literary or commercial fiction. Literary fiction gets you the accolades and awards but no marketing budget, a small print run, and no one can find your books in a bookstore. Commercial fiction has marketing, advertising, larger print runs, and you are reaching people which, ultimately, was what I wanted to do. If I happened to slip them a well-written book at the same time, then so be it.'

Jodi Picoult in the Independent on Sunday

Do creative writing courses offer a fantasy?

16 June 2008

'One of the things you notice is that when you switch on the television and a student has gone mad with a machine gun on a campus in America, it's always a writing student. The writing courses particularly when they have the word 'creative" in them, are the new mental hospitals...

'The fantasy is that all the students will become successful writers - and no one will disabuse them of that. When you use the word "creative" and the word "course", there is something deceptive about it...

'When I teach them, they are always better at the end - and more unhappy.'

Hanif Kureishi, speaking at the Hay Literary Festival, quoted in the Independent on Sunday

Graphic novels

9 June 2008

'So why is it that publishers seem to ignore the natural evolutionary step of adapting their own novels to penetrate an increasingly lucrative market? It's down to a clash of cultures. For too long has the poor old comic book, and its big brother, the graphic novel, been overlooked by the intelligentsia as nothing more than a way to get children interested in reading books. Yet graphic novels are an expanding market, as any visit to a bookseller would reveal. And their subject matter is just as varied as any in the fiction department...

Publishers are masters at what they do; but they're not so good when it comes to stepping outside their comfort zones. To make an impact they should be collaborating with an art studio or comic publisher that has a track record in producing quality graphic novels. The keyword here is quality. It sometimes feels that mainstream publishing underestimates the sophistication of the average comic book reader.'

Andy Briggs in Publishing News

'Leave the novels to me'

2 June 2008

'Like any novelist, I'm a sucker for a good story. Yet fiction and non-fiction are shelved in separate sections of a bookshop for good reason. However imaginative its variations, fiction conforms to amazingly strict narrative criteria. Novels begin with an instigating event, develop complications and plot tributaries, build to climax and proceed to a swift, satisfying resolution. Novels employ heroes and villains, red herrings and suspense. Even contemporary literary novels still need to make a point or teach a lesson. And all novels require an element of surprise...

Journalists have to remain committed to keeping reality intact, even if the real story is flat. Because that is their job. My job is to make stuff up. My job is to concoct stories that work in their own narrative terms, and I try to craft proper page-turners. Like many literary novelists, I may blur the distinction between hero and villain, but I still furnish conflict, a climax and thematic resolution. So leave the novels to me. That's what capitalism calls division of labour.'

Lionel Shriver, author of We Need To Talk About Kevin, on the Madeleine McCann case, writing in the Sunday Telegraph