Writer Beware

cartoon-writer beware

 

Most UK authors’ annual incomes are well below the minimum wage.

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Slush Pile Blues

cartoon-slush pile blues

Singing the Slush Pile Blues – with apologies to the late, great Robert Johnson.

 

My Life as a Bench – ‘A strange, beautiful, sad book … you won’t have read anything like it before’ A Bookish Musician 

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What I Learned from Famous Writers at London Book Fair

IMG_4276 (1)London Book Fair always buzzes with big names and LBF16 was no exception. Meg Rosoff, Deborah Levy and Judith Kerr were all interviewed at the English PEN Literary Salon (a designated area away from the publishers’ stands). Sadly, I missed all of the above but I did manage to catch appearances from other successful writers: Jeffrey, Peter and Jeanette. But can you learn anything useful by listening to a half-hour slot from an established name?

First up, I happened to be sitting in the PEN Literary Salon area (meeting a friend) when who should show up behind a wall of press photographers than Jeffrey Archer in a novelty tie (it may have had books on it, but I wasn’t close enough to see).

Archer is brash (often dismissive of press and underlings) and irrepressible. He talked about book promotion rather than writing, and declared himself a “storyteller” rather than a writer. He produces about 14 drafts of each novel.

Peter James is the antithesis of Archer. Where Archer is loud, larger than life with an ego that fills the room (Olympia), Peter James is quieter, considered and calm. Whether or not this is due to the amount of time he spends with dead bodies I don’t know, but this unassuming man certainly sees the darker side of life firsthand as he often accompanies police on various raids and has lost count of how many autopsies he has attended.

James offered sound advice, saying character is key, followed by research (to ensure accuracy) and finally plot. ‘You’ve got to surprise yourself as a writer or you won’t surprise the reader.’

Jeanette Winterson was both formidable and passionate as she regaled the audience with her Version 3thoughts on Shakespeare, theatre, and the London he knew – a young city where everything was urgent and people lived life to the full.

Winterson’s latest novel, The Gap of Time, is a reimagining of The Winter’s Tale. ‘I am a foundling,’ Winterson said, ‘it has an abandoned baby at its centre and I used to read it looking for clues.’

She went on to say that there are three available endings: revenge, tragedy and forgiveness, and that as she gets older she is more interested in forgiveness.

Impassioned and inspiring, Winterson followed her dynamic reading by sharing her view that creativity is at the centre of everything. ‘Creativity is a birthright. Never doubt that what you’re doing is at the centre of life. Money is not the heart of life, it’s creativity.’

 

An Average Day at Jaq Hazell Author HQ

IMG_2890Up early: wake kids, wake kids again, wake eldest once again (probably shouting), walk dog (unless it’s raining – he doesn’t do rain), make massive coffee and check Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook. Write diary and plan day.

Write, rewrite, edit or blog until lunchtime. Brief break for lunch with other half (he also works at home). Watch the news – risking boredom, depression or incredulity depending on severity of news items.

Back to work: check Amazon Author Central, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook and respond to messages and emails. Write, rewrite, edit or possibly format depending on where I’m at with a project, and keep going until there’s a need to shop for food (always out of something). Walk the dog again.

The teenagers return. Cup of tea (I am British), and more of the same until it’s time to cook, IMG_3044read or watch TV (choosing either low-brow or high-brow, but nothing in between), whilst checking Amazon (cue excitement if I have any book sales) and Goodreads (again, happy to gain any reviews). Take the dog out in the garden (I have to accompany him because he is so small and there are foxes that might eat him), read and bed where, in my sleep, I solve all plot issues and devise brilliant promotional campaigns (if only), and wake ready to start again.