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Comment from the book world in October 2013

October 2013

Writing four books a year

27 October 2013

'When I'm working at full tilt, I average about 1,000 words an hour. I sit at the keyboard and it all comes out. It's an extraordinary thing, but I think it's because fiction is created by the unconscious mind, which is always exploring situations and possibilities. I suppose that's the thing I love about writing, what got me into it in the first place...

I first began writing in the 1980s, and initially it was children's books. It was only after the success of my first adult novel, The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, in the 1990s, that I quit law and started writing full-time. I've since written several sequels to that book; many others as well. On average I write about four books a year, and I'm told they have sold around 20-25m worldwide - it's hard to believe.'

Alexander McCall Smith, author of The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon in The Times



Look at the work in your hand

21 October 2013

I've met a lot of authors weighing their options, seen a ton of hands shoot up in panels hoping for that one last piece of advice to push them off the fence one way or the other. There's a path on both sides of that fence, and writers can see crowds beating the grass flat. They can see the books that lie along either way. My advice, for what it's worth, is to stop looking at those crowds and those books. Look at the work in your hand.

'I don't have very much sense of myself, I think I've lived other people's lives since I've started writing them. I really have lived those other lives more than my own life. That's been a terrific thing to do, actually.'

Claire Tomalin, author of Charles Dickens: A Life in the Evening Standard

A successful debut

14 October 2013

‘When that happened I thought it was the most natural thing in the world. I had no idea; I'd never written a book before. I wrote this book, someone said they would publish it. I always thought they would, I didn't know books got turned down. The one night they rang up and said, "You've sold it in America for $40,000." They said, "Are you sitting down?" I thought "You're being a bit overwrought, aren't you? What's to sit down about?" Then it was the prizes. It really seemed to be just what happened to you.' (His next book did not sell, or win any prizes.)...

‘I do overdo it, I do, I know. I'm not thinking when I'm writing, how's this going to be read? Or what percentage of the audience is going to stay with me? The thing itself is what gives me pleasure. Sometimes stuff just falls onto the page so beautifully and happily that it's deeply satisfying. It's selfish. I like shaped things. I like shape in things and I do over-shape things, it's true. I've got a big long list of stuff you're entitled to hate about my books.'

Jim Crace, whose Harvest is the favourite for this year's Booker, in the Evening Standard

'Conditioned to defer'

5 October 2013

'The overwhelming number of readers of crime fiction are women, but most of the people who write about crime are men. Women are still conditioned to defer. We are less likely to push ourselves into the limelight and we are less likely to get our agents or publishers to run to the papers with every little thing we do.'

Val McDermid, quoted in The Times