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Comment from the book world in December 2013

December 2013

Post-apocalyptic thrillers

30 December 2013

'Once the world ends, all your worries about your mortgage and your job get shunted off to the sideline. We use genre fiction to tell us what we are; I think with all genre fiction, where it becomes great is when it is saying something about the world we are in.

Paradoxically, as the world's various crises worsen we take more refuge in alternate worlds. I've never seen sci-fi as escapism, but I think horror is. I don't believe there will be an apocalypse that will sweep us off the earth but I think our civilisation has a sell-by date. There are only so many fossil fuels left in the ground, and it's not even energy, it's plastics - what are we going to do when there is nothing left to make plastic out of?'

Mike Carey, author of The Girl with All the Gifts in the Bookseller

In 2013 we had more questions than answers

24 December 2013

'I remember writing at the end of 2012 that whatever else 2013 brings, the only thing we can all rely on is that we'll know a little bit more by the end of the year than we knew heading into it. Digital does not move in a digital way. The year asked more questions that we knew we had to answer.

There are constants. Readers still read, writers still write. Everything in-between these two poles is up for grabs, however. How readers will read, and the types of content they will want to read, are moveable items.

The transfer to e-readers suggested a relatively passive shift of content from one format to another, but with e-books sales growth tapering, what happens on tablets will dictate the types of books we need to produce. Where readers buy their content from seems more secure. Amazon continues to set the pace both in terms of online retail, and e-book sales. In 2013 we also learned what a relentless innovator it can be with multiple beta-launches, from Kindle Worlds to MatchBook. And yet even here, Amazon is not unassailable.

The biggest headache for the sector might not come from tangibles such as book formats, or retailer power, but the continuing struggle for the sector to show its worth, and the value of the structures that underpin these activities. We cannot overstate the importance of copyright in this respect, and the importance of keeping a check on the Open Access debate as it grows.

There is plenty working in the industry's favour. Despite the noise around digital, much hasn't changed, and where they've needed to adapt many of the traditional business we know and love have shown they can. But let's not get lulled into a false sense of privilege. If we spent, as I'd thought, much of 2013 waiting for others to answer the big questions for us, then we were wasting our time. In 2014 we should seek these answers out for ourselves.'

Philip Jones, Editor of the Bookseller, in Futurebook  (Apologies for quoting so fully from this, but it is an excellent summary of where we stand.)


'What I'm after is a gripping read, with stuff going on behind it.'

16 December 2013

'I treat it like a job. I like a nice long day. I can't work in bits and pieces, and I prefer not to work at evenings and weekends... The thing about writing a novel that's so funny is that there are perhaps just two or three moments of three minutes - those moments when you have the key ideas - and that's the whole book. Everything else is just filling the gaps. Of course there are moments of fun, but there's a lot that's just work, sometimes hard, sometimes dull...

I have a quite clear sense of what I want from a book. I have a vision of the impact I want to make, and I suppose the writing process is about trying to achieve that. What I'm after is a gripping read, with stuff going on behind it. That's about as articulate as I get about my method.'

Sarah Waters, author of The Little Stranger in the Observer

'To succeed you need discipline.'

7 December 2013

'Books are my first love. I started reading seriously at seven or eight, books about myths and legends, the Narnia series... By the time I was 11, I had read all the children's books in my local library, so I moved on to Jane Eyre. What I loved about Jane Eyre was that she didn't rely on her looks but her character. She had a spirit nobody could break...

To succeed you need discipline. If, for example, you want to be a writer, you need to apply your bum to the chair, and get on with it. Everyone has ideas, but it's all about perseverance. I wrote about eight or nine books and had 82 rejections before I first got published, but there was no way I was ever going to give up...

I find it's important to revel in the arts. About four years ago, I had a serious case of writer's block. I thought my career was over. So I decided to do other creative things in the hope of getting my own creative juices flowing again. I had piano lessons, I went to art galleries, museums, the theatre. It worked. It got me back writing. I was very relieved.'

Malorie Blackman, author of Noble Conflict and many other books, and the Waterstones Children's Laureate for the UK in the Independent on Sunday



'The difference between a storyteller and a writer'

2 December 2013

'Proud? Frightened about the next book, actually, always frightened about the next book, If you've had 16 number ones in a row, you wonder if the next one will be. We can all think of a lot of authors who have died overnight. You see such big names disappearing and you think, 'That could be me'. There's always pressure. You sit down each day and say, 'this has to be better than anything I've done before', because these are real readers and they are sitting there waiting for it. The day the bookshop opens there will be half a million people round the world in straight away, and if I haven't delivered... well it is a horrific pressure.'

'I don't think a storyteller ever knows where he's going to or where it will end up. I know where Book Four will go, because I have written it, but the one after that I haven't got a blimming clue. Because if I know, then you'll know. If I don't know, how can you know? So I take the risk, and it is one hell of a risk, of never being more than three pages ahead. That's the difference between a storyteller and a writer, a writer probably has it all mapped out all the way through.'

Jeffrey Archer, whose latest bestseller is Best Kept Secret, in the Bookseller