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Comment from the book world in January 2019

2019

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Success is not particularly good for creativity because it feels like your permission to fail has been revoked, and that is basically a prescription for failure.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.

"The perfect word in the perfect place in the perfect time"

22 July 2019

'Poetry is described as heightened speech, as "the perfect word in the perfect place in the perfect time"; the poet Linton Kwesi Johnson says it is "the distillation of human experience through language". It is all these things, but it is also prose that wants to sign, text that operates in the realm of music, where the sound of what is penned entertains as much as its contents.

I write for myself first and foremost, but as I write, I imagine I am speaking to a friend who has just walked in, to whom I'm recounting a story already known, but for whom I am trying to make it worthwhile to listen again. Sometimes the "friend" here is one I have never met, but who I am confident will be cool with me. I write with that assumed familiarity. Sometimes I write song lyrics, sometimes lyric poems, always they are lyrical; and sometimes I write plays.'

Inua Ellams, poet, playwright, author of six poetry pamphlets, including Candy Coated All Stars and Thirteen Fairy Negro Fairy Tales, and seventeen plays, in the Sunday Times Culture http://www.inuaellams.com/

Write from the Inside

15 July 2019

'The best books come from someplace deep inside. You don't write because you want to, but because you have to. Become emotionally involved. If you don't care about your characters, your readers won't either.

Those of us who write do it because there are stories inside us burning to get out. Writing is essential to our well-being. If you're that kind of writer, never give up! If you start a story and it isn't going well, put it aside... You can start as many as you like because you're writing for yourself. With each story you'll learn more. One day it will all come together for you, as it did for me with Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I'd published two books and several short stories before Margaret, but I hadn't found my voice yet. I hadn't written from deep inside. With Margaret I found my voice and my audience...'

Judy Blume, author of Are You there, God? It's Me, Margaret, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Forever, Wifey and 25 other books, which have sold over 85 million copies worldwide, but often been banned. From her column On Writing

'Different voices'

1 July 2019

‘There's been a great democratisation of the world of poetry, In the past, it was seen as only certain kinds of people wrote poems, but now there isn't that same divide. There's all sorts of different forms: spoken-word poetry, Instagram poetry... Poets like Hollie McNish have taken off and are selling lots. But the average poet is not selling lots, that's a bit of a press distortion; poetry is only selling more for these internet sensations. The average poet sells fewer than 200 books. But it is exciting that these different voices are coming into the world of poetry and making it more varied, more various.'


Jackie Kay, Scottish Makar (Poet Laureate) and author of nine books of poetry, including Fiere and The Empathetic Store, as well as fiction and memoirs, in the Observer

The first draft

24 June 2019

The toughest part of the whole process is going from the outline to the first draft.

When you are writing the outline you can do anything from changing the gender of a character to reseting the whole thing in Egypt. You are all-powerful. After you have made those decisions, you come to the stage where each sentence in our outline has to be turned into four or five pages of prose. This is where the real imaginative work comes in. You have to take your ideas and you have to walk people in and out of the room, you have to describe the room and the clothes they are wearing and you have to make the reader share their anxieties, hopes, triumphs and their romantic feelings.

Ken Follett, author of The Kingsbridge Series and The Century Trilogy from the Masterclass on his website.