So, it’s Friday and at some point I’ll be abandoning all screens to read a paperback.
Perhaps writing a novel is as simple as this:
An attempt to distil 25+ years of effort and experience into a simple diagram.
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 thoughts 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.’
Stickers (or more likely pretend stickers) are all the rage on book covers. Those little bright circles used to contain important additional information, such as a shortlisting for a literary prize, but now it can be almost anything including frequent claims that the latest release is the new Gone Girl or for fans of The Girl on the Train or Stieg Larsson.
Anyway, I can hardly complain since I have joined in with my own circular cry for attention, but why stop at one? Perhaps I could coat my entire book cover in circles filled with the best and most exciting quotes?
Ooh look, my novel is featured below Stephen King’s Joyland on Book Gorilla. He’s great of course, but why not give a new writer a try?
It’s on offer for Kindle download all this week. Find it via Book Gorilla.