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Comment from the book world in September 2019

September 2019

'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


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 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'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.