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Comment from the book world in January 2019

2019

'I like third person'

14 October 2019

‘First of all, I'm always writing from a point of view. I decide what the purpose of the scene is, and at least begin with some purpose. But, even more important, from whose point of view is this scene seen? Because then the narrative will take on somewhat the sound of the person who is seeing the scene...

I like third person. I don't want to be stuck with one character's viewpoint because there are too many viewpoints. And, of course, the bad guys' viewpoints are a lot more fun. What they do is more fun. A few years ago, a friend of mine in the publishing business called up and said, "Has your good guy decided to do anything yet?"'

Elmore Leonard, author of 45 novels, including Fifty-two Pickup, The Switch, Freaky Deaky, Get Shorty and Cuba Libre http://www.elmoreleonard.com/index.php

 

'What happened after the end of that novel'

7 October 2019

‘Before the actual placing of words on pages, The Testaments was written partly in the minds of the readers of its predecessor, The Handmaid's Tale, who kept asking what happened after the end of that novel. Thirty-five years is a long time to think about possible answers, and the answers have changed as society itself has changed and as possibilities have become actualities. The citizens of many countries, including the United States, are under more stresses now than they were three decades ago.'

Margaret Atwood, author 17 novels, including The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments, which is shortlisted for this year's Booker Prize, in the Sunday Times Culture. http://margaretatwood.ca/

'Genre writers have a greater responsibility'

30 September 2019

‘I first thought Reacher would appeal mostly to men. But the majority of my readers are women, which is really interesting. Even in the 21st century, women struggle to express themselves, they have to shout that much louder. It is usually women who are busier at work, holding families together, making the tough decisions. So I think they strongly identify with the fantasy of walking away from commitments. And being able to kick the crap out of other people...

I only really care about my readers. But I've always been irritated by the lazy assumption among critics that what I do is somehow easier than what ‘literary' novelists do. It's actually quite the reverse - to write something to please millions is obviously harder than doing something that only has to please thousands. I also think that genre writers have a greater responsibility. A literary reader has no expectation that everything they read is going to be great. If you pick up the latest Julian Barnes and it doesn't work, you go on to the next one. Many genre readers read one or two books a year - give them a bad book and they may stop reading altogether.'

Lee Child, author of the 23 Jack Reacher novels, most recently Past Tense, in Books magazine https://www.leechild.com/

 

How do you know when a poem is finished?

23 September 2019

'Every time you write a poem you start again. Sometimes things happen quickly, sometimes it can take years for a poem to find its proper mode of habitation. I think as writers we enter into a contract of trust, with ourselves, with our friends, with our editors, with our readers, when sending a poem out. Yes, practically, we have to think about stopping work on a poem. But isn't it more about when a poem is properly ready to be part of a useful exchange?

I am a firm believer that sometimes not writing can be useful. Not writing can be a way of processing difficulty, of making better poems. I am very wary of the poet who is always writing, and who publishes carelessly, too much. Nevertheless I do think it's important to keep reading and writing as a way of engaging with ‘the poem not written'. If it's a matter of confidence, of owning the right to write, then that is a different thing. Being part of a reading and writing community can help with that.'

Deryn Rees-Jones, poet and author of The Memory Tree, Signs Round a Dead Body and Quiver, and editor of Modern Women Poets http://derynrees-jones.co.uk/ in the Poetry Book SocietySpecialist book club founded by T S Eliot in 1953, which aims to offer the best new poetry published in the UK and Ireland. Members buy at 25% discount. The PBS has a handsome new website at  www.poetrybooks.co.uk's Poetips

When your first book is a bestseller

17 September 2019

‘Sometimes I feel like I talk about these things too dramatically. I'm sure some writers might read this and go, "For f*** sake you just published a book. Get over yourself." But you have to understand - before, there was none of it, then everything changed...

It's changed my life, and made it so interesting and exciting. So happy, on a cellular level...

I think it's an exciting situation when motherhood, or maternity, or lack of motherhood, is made more nuanced and put in the canon alongside the existential worries of universal man and war and class Because we've all had a mother and father, whether or not they've been in our lives, and we model our behaviours on that. It just throws up all of the things, doesn't it?'

Jessie Burton, author of just-published The Confession, The Muse and her bestselling first novel The Miniaturist in The Sunday Times' Culture.

 

'Success is not particularly good for creativity'

9 September 2019

'I put my whole soul into this book, but I didn't allow myself to hope that it would lead to anything. In fact I firmly hedged my bets against it having any success at all, because it would have been too painful to hope and then be disappointed," she said. "But then this happens, and I'm proven miraculously, incredibly, joyously wrong...

Success is not particularly good for creativity because it feels like your permission to fail has been revoked, and that is basically a prescription for failure. I wish the book and characters could have terrific success while I myself continue to toil in obscurity. I think that would be healthier for everybody.'

Jessica Love, winner of the £5,000 Klaus Flugge award for illustrated books for her picture book about a trans child, Julian Is a Mermaid, in the Guardian

Publishing for global audiences

5 September 2019

‘The book trade tends to get into a publishing bubble. Readers don't understand why they have to wait for the audio book or ebook; a simultaneous release is very important for them. Whenever a new format launches, we as the publishing industry acquire new audiences, and that's important...

I think we've become slightly hijacked in the industry by an obsession with schedules and that it should take 13 months to bring a book to market. So one of Boldwood's commitments is to sign all of our authors on multi-book deals. The vast majority will be publishing two books a year. Many of our authors write quickly and they can't understand themselves why they can't publish sooner. It seems to me that we have to change that mindset in publishing and technology allows us to do that...

(Why now is the perfect time to launch Boldwood) ‘There are two reasons. Firstly, the global consumption of English language books, particularly fiction, has never been higher. Secondly, we now have the opportunity to deliver an author's work in many different formats, which is very exciting. It's a commitment at the very heart of Boldwood: to deliver our authors' work to global audiences at the same time on one publication date. Thanks to technological advances, sending content around the world from - as in my case - a basement in Fulham is now possible.'

Amanda Ridout, founder of new publisher Boldwood Books, in Bookbrunch. https://www.boldwoodbooks.com

 

'The joy of Jane Austen'

26 August 2019

‘I think people don't often realise that a lot of the joy of Jane Austen is that these books are funny. People think that, to adapt her, you've got to use long words and fancy sentences, and that's not the case at all. She could be very succinct and to the point and had a great sense of humour...

Sanditon is ‘very uplifting, really... there's a lovely light feeling to Austen's writing in the fragment. I was particularly taken by her description of Charlotte watching the light dancing over the waves. I thought: yes, that's the feeling I want to capture...

I just write the show I'd like to see myself. But I do respond to the young colleagues I work with - they're so in touch with everything, and so stimulating. Trying to keep up with them, understand their jokes and make them laugh is a lot of what keeps me young and alive.'

Andrew Davies, acclaimed 82-year-old screenwriter of Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace and many other successful TV series, whose Sanditon has just started airing on the BBC, in the Observer.

'An overactive imagination'

19 August 2019

‘I was often accused of having an overactive imagination as a child and I was an avid reader. I used to fib to my mum, saying I was going out to play with the other kids and actually having a book in my pocket. I'd built a den on the waste ground at the far end of the housing estate where I grew up and I would hide there and read. I wrote a novel when I was 11; I even cut out cardboard covers because I wanted it to be a hardback. And I spent a lot of time in the local library. It made me into a writer...

I was into fantasy and science fiction. I loved the Ursula K Le Guin Wizard of Earthsea books. Fantasy at that age is about pure imagination, and what those books showed me is that the whole world is at your fingertips if you write. And before that, the Narnia books: I remember spending a fair amount of time in wardrobes hoping to get through and see a talking fawn.'

Louise Doughty, author of just-published Platform Seven, Whatever You Love, Apple Tree Yard and six other novels in the Observer https://www.louisedoughty.com/

 

'It wasn't really writing.'

12 August 2019

‘It wasn't really writing. It was sort of doing something at night, rather than cultivating friendships. I found myself very good company, so I never needed a party or a dinner in order to make me wonder on Saturday night, what are you going to do? And besides I had these little children, so I wrote at night, sporadically, trying to build on a story I had written years before. I liked the authority of being in a place where I was doing it, and I liked how hard it was. And I liked the privacy, the interior world that was all mine, the freedom to explore that in a systematic way...

Piercing knots in language and in ideas, assisting in the discovery of clarity, connections, illustrations, tone are what editing requires. I thrive on the urgency that doing more than one thing provides - on the sense of pressure that I either need or am accustomed to...

People used to say how come you do so many things? It never appeared to me that I was doing very much of anything; really everything I did was always about one thing, which is books. I was either editing them or writing them or reading them or teaching them, so it was very coherent.'

Toni Morrison, author of Beloved, Song of Solomon, Sula, Jazz and 7 other novels, in a 1987 interview with Publishers WeeklyInternational news website of book publishing and bookselling including business news, reviews, bestseller lists, commentaries http://www.publishersweekly.com/

 

'Write great parts for actors.'

5 August 2019

‘The best advice on writing drama was given to me by Barrie Keefe, wondrous playwright and screenwriter of The Long Good Friday. His guidance was simple: "Write great parts for actors." A brilliant actor is a dramatist's strongest weapon. And remember, as you stay at home writing, actors have to be in make-up at 5am, in the pouring rain, miles from home, standing around for twelve hours to shoot three minutes of screen time. Make it worth their while.'

Chris Chibnall, television writer and producer, whose credits include Torchwood, Broadchurch and Doctor Who.

'Publication is not all it is cracked up to be'

29 July 2019

'I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do - the actual act of writing - turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.'

Anne Lamott, prolific author of 7 novels, including Hard Laughter and Imperfect Birds, several bestselling books of non-fiction and a number of collections of autobiographical essays on faith.