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Comment from the book world in August 2018

August 2018

‘Writing is such a private thing'

27 August 2018

‘Writing is such a private thing, especially with the research I was doing, it was quite solitary and nerdy. I mean, no one is that interested in what you found out about the 18th century today. So to go from that, to having loads of people (at the publishing houses) read it and be so enthusiastic about it - I just didn't know what to do at all...

She remembers ‘sitting at the dining room table in the house share I was in at the time, and doing the thing I did - sitting there with my laptop and writing - and realising that I was doing the exact same thing one year ago. Materially nothing had changed, I still have an unfinished novel, it's got 80,000 more words on it but still feels like the ending is as far away as it ever was...

She concluded that ‘I could pour myself into getting a career or a proper income or I could pour that same amount of myself into the book. I just knew I would be sadder if I didn't choose the book.'

Imogen Hermes Gowar, author of debut The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, described by The Times as 'A cracking historical novel - with a twinge of the surreal - about passion and obsession' in the Bookseller.


Third time Hugo Award winner

20 August 2018

‘This is the year in which I get to smile at all of those naysayers: every single mediocre, insecure wannabe who fixes their mouth to suggest that I do not belong on this stage, that people like me cannot possibly have earned such an honor, and that when they win it's meritocracy, but when we win it's identity politics. I get to smile at those people and lift a massive shining rocket-shaped finger in their direction...

I know that I am here on this stage accepting this award for pretty much the same reason as every previous best novel winner, because I worked my ass off.'

N K Jemisin, in her acceptance speech after winning the Hugo Award for the third year in a row for The Stone Sky, the last in her Broken Earth fantasy trilogy

Television 'hungry for writers' content'

13 August 2018

‘Television is suddenly hungry for writers' content because long-form television is much closer to novels than anything else. A lot of people invested in short stories, things you can read on your phone, all very interesting but putting the technology first. Actually what we've seen is authors like Hanya Yanagihara and Donna Tartt - very long novels (being successful). So something is going on in reading which is much more analogous to long-form television - immersive reading and immersive watching. So there's this hunger for writerly content and story writing skills, which is great for an agency like us who don't do anything but writers...

Personality matters in agenting... I think the personality of the agent informs the way they do the job in a way that can't possibly be true any more in publishing, in the way it was when it was Carmen Callil, Tom Maschler, George Weidenfeld were active - now publishers are part of a corporate entity.'

Clare Alexander of the London literary agency Aitken Alexander AssociatesAccepts fiction and non-fiction. No plays or scripts. in the Bookseller

Switching off the adult editor

6 August 2018

‘I can't stop writing. It's not something I physically enjoy, but I can't switch off the head. There was something else, something I'd lived with all my life - the fear that I wouldn't live to finish a given piece. Having finished Boneland at the age of 77, with no idea in front of me whatever, I thought - that's it. Now, given that it takes me between five and nine years to write a novel, the joke runs a bit sour when you're in your early eighties...

No book of mine has ever had so many drafts. What I had to do was remove myself as an observer and let the voice of me at that age genuinely establish itself. The trouble was that I didn't want to be arch or twee or laced through with dramatic irony. I like technical challenges. I just let it settle and listened, I didn't try to impose anything on that voice as it emerged. It couldn't be infantile, it must be simple. It expresses the complex thought of a child of that age...

There was no research. To a fault, I love the research and it puts off the writing. But with this, I simply had to not interfere. It's not mystical, it was just allowing myself to switch off the adult editor until the words were there.'

Alan Garner, author of just-published Where Shall We Run to? (a wartime childhood memoir), The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Stone Book Quartet and many other books for children and adults in the Observer.