Skip to Content

Comment from the book world in January 2014

January 2014

'Writing is an art but it is also a business.'

24 January 2014

'You have to inhabit an idea yourself; writing a book or film takes a long time, so you really have to feel like it is life or death for you. I just wanted a situation where I could then think about women and writing and sex and race - all the things I've been thinking about my whole life. This setup is an excuse to write the book I needed to write, because you can explore certain things: what do these characters think about marriage and relationships? (which means you spend months and years thinking, 'what do I think about marriage and relationships?') A story is an excuse to think about something...

Writing is an art but it is also a business. I'm trying to be an artist but I've also got to send my kids to school. The writing schools often teach about just being an artist, but that's not the half of it; that conversation about being a brand is what it happening, that's what it has become...
As an artist, all you try and do is erase all the effort that it took to do it; all you want at the end is this one line. I'm interested in love, race, sexuality, ageing - the most important things - but I also want to reach an audience and give people a good time. I mean, we're in show business. I wanted this to be - as with Le Week-end - entertaining for the public, not just therapy for me.'

Hanif Kureishi, author of The Buddha of Suburbia and The Last Word in the Bookseller



‘All writers have to be readers first'

20 January 2014

‘All writers have to be readers first. When I was eight I got encephalitis and was seriously ill; I spent a year-and-a-half in bed recuperating. I ended up reading what was on my bookshelf from one end to the other, and when I finished, I went back and read them all again: I must have read the Pippi Longstocking books, The Secret Garden and the Moomin books more than 30 times, and when I knew them backwards I was able to make the judgements on bits that I liked, areas where I thought the dialogue was good and why - and I still use those skills...

My husband is my harshest critic. He's my first reader; writers need someone to tell you what you've done wrong. Though we had a few frosty days once when I showed him an early draft of a book and he told me I should rewrite half of it. It goes both ways though: he (the novelist William Sutcliffe) once showed me two alternative opening chapters of a novel and said, "Which should I choose?" and I said, "Neither; you've got to rewrite it!"'

Maggie O'Farrell, author of Instructions for a Heatwave in the Independent on Sunday

'The biggest ball you must juggle'

13 January 2014

'I think that a crime novel - like any story - succeeds or fails on the basis of character. Creating and sustaining a main character with whom the reader makes empathetic connection is the biggest ball you must juggle when you are writing one of these things. It is also the most difficult task, Your protagonist is the driver of your car. The reader has got to want to get in the car with him and trust him, but still not know where the car is going to go.'

Michael Connelly, author of The Gods of Guilt and many other thrillers

Writing a historical novel set in the Jazz Age

6 January 2014

'I became strangely obsessed about this book in a way that I've never been before, to the point - and I'm usually a very good planner, I'm quite a nauseating swotter about it - where this time I simply couldn't write the last chapter. I just kept finding excuses, I simply couldn't let them go, it was tricky for me. Some authors say: "I'm not in the book at all," but I know I've been a teeny part of every single one of these characters at some point, they're just a much more fabulous and glamorous version of me.

It was a time of intense emotional conflict for women, and that's what I've always written about. Spare Brides is like my other books in lots of ways, it is simply set in another time period. The characters are very much like the characters I've always written, but with this novel with every single thing I wrote, I had to think: "Is that how they would do that? Could they hail a cab in the street? How would they get dressed in the morning?" Someone of Lydia's social standing, at that time, would have been dressed head to foot - and that mix of intimacy yet disregard for her maid is fascinating.'

Adele Parks, author of Spare Brides