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Comment from the book world in December 2018

December 2018

'Writers remember everything'

31 December 2018

'Writers remember everything...especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he'll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar. Art consists of the persistence of memory.'

Stephen King, author of more than 60 novels and countless novellas, short stories and screenplays, whose most recent novel is The Outsider.

'Two types of writers'

17 December 2018

'I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they're going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there's going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don't know how many branches it's going to have, they find out as it grows. And I'm much more a gardener than an architect.'

George R R Martin, author of a vast number of novels, short stories, scripts and screenplays, including most famously Game of Thrones

A poet and an editor

10 December 2018

'I've always thought that writing poetry has very little to do with the intellect. It's not something one can explain and chat about very easily: certainly not about the making of it. It's very resistant to explanation. It comes from a place that is occult, in the sense of being hidden. It attends to some of our deepest anxieties and hopes in the same way that dreams do...

You can't live from poetry. It's always been my line that this job is entirely counterproductive. I can't go home at night having spent the day editing a novel and turn to my own work, because if I'm any good (as an editor) I've got somebody else's cadences in my ear. Cape has been wonderful in allowing me leniency. I go off for sabbaticals to somewhere solitary and silent, and wait to get back in the zone...

On balance (prizes) are a good thing. If you win one, they bring you new readers. But they've taken on an excessive prominence in our culture, and readers perhaps pay too much attention to them. External validation is important and, if that comes from your peers, it's even more welcome. But they're often uncomfortable, and gladiatorial. It's not a fair way of judging art.'

Robin Robertson, who has published six poetry collections, and whose latest book is The Long Take, which has just won the Goldsmiths Prize, and who is also an editor at Jonathan Cape, in the Observer.