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Celia Bayfield and Giles Gordon, commenting on why writers improve with age

21 May 2001

Author Celia Bayfield and literary agent Giles Gordon, commenting on why writers improve with age

Celia Brayfield in The Guardian

'Writing shouldn't be about age, it should be about quality - which mostly improves as a writer gets older 'There is a whole range of readers for the kind of novel that isn't being published - for the reader who wants to be addressed as an adult, who is looking for proper enjoyment in a serious sense.'

Giles Gordon

'The older an author gets, the easier it is for them to leave behind the preoccupations of their youth, to invent freely and explore with ambition'...To outsiders, an author's progression through style or genre seems natural. To the author, it can be traumatic, and sometimes fatal to the career. A lifetime of achievement requires huge efforts of will just to do the work; on top of that comes the struggle to persuade your commercial nearest and dearest that you know what you're doing ...'

"The ideal author, from the viewpoint of a modern publisher, is a twentysomething babe making her debut in chick lit who'll look hot posing naked in a glossy magazine. It is far more difficult for an author to stay in print than it is to get the first novel accepted, and harder to break a mould than to create one. Modern publishing is a risk-averse industry, which does not encourage an author to change the "formula" that has produced successful "product" in the past. While popular fiction has many successful older authors, including PD James and Ruth Rendell, they have seldom been allowed the freedom to experiment.'