Sunday, 18 April 2010

I wanna tell you a story

One of Lisa’s favourite jokes is that I should adopt the first name ‘Page’, so that I can advertise my latest publication with the line “Buy the new Page Turner now”.

Joking aside, I love being told that one of my book is a ‘real page turner’, because frankly, if you can’t write a story that people want to keep reading so that they can find out what happens to the characters, you’re not doing your job as a novelist.

My perspective on this is rooted in my university days, when I studied French and German literature. This mainly involved reading landmark texts that were seen as having advanced the possibilities of the novel, whether it was the stripped-back brutalism of post-war German authors like Böll and Grass or the impenetrable nouveaux romans of Sarraute and Robbe-Grillet. Some of these authors were stronger on plot than others, but as far as my supervisors were concerned, that was very much secondary to the ground-breaking techniques the author displayed.

As a result, I left college with a rather jaded view of narrative fiction. What saved me was an edition of the literary magazine Granta called ‘Dirty Realism’. It celebrated a new wave of American writers like Raymond Carver, Jayne Anne Phillips and Richard Ford, and the introduction placed a great emphasis on their common talent for telling stories above all.

It seems so obvious now, but this came as a great revelation to me at the time, and a validation – it was saying that if you wrote fiction, you didn’t have to display technical virtuosity or create a new form of literature: it was okay if you just told stories. And when I started writing novels, that was what I set out to do. And if this means that my books will never be studied by future generations, well, I think I can live with that.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Available from all good bookshops?

My interview on Lorna Milton’s BBC Three Counties show yesterday was a qualified success, I think. Those who heard it said I sounded confident and professional, and having reluctantly listened to the MP3 my friend Andy kindly recorded and emailed to me, even I can’t find much fault with it.

I was slightly thrown by a question about what kind of people would enjoy my book (I suppose I should just have said “People from Watford who like the blues”, but that sounds rather limiting, doesn’t it?), and ended up waffling to no great effect for what seemed like some considerable time. But apart from that, I was okay.

It was still only a qualified success, though, for the simple reason that I didn’t get a chance to plug my website. The trouble is that I don’t want to promote myself as a self-published author, for fear of not being taken seriously; I reasoned that if you present yourself professionally, people will assume you’ve been professionally published.

But this ruse can work too well: Lorna gaily assured her listeners that my book was “available in all good bookshops”, and I didn’t get a chance to correct her on air. (I did explain after we’d gone off air, but I don’t know if she mentioned the website, as I asked her to do.)

Anyway, I’ll know better next time, if there is a next time. In the meantime, I’ve had 10 minutes of fame: that leaves me five more, according to Andy Warhol’s dictum - at least, in Beds, Herts and Bucks.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Listen up

As promised, details of how to listen to my interview on BBC Three Counties tomorrow afternoon:

Radio: 90.4, 92.1, 94.7, 95.5, 98.0, 103.8 and 104.5 FM and 630 and 1161 AM (but only if you’re listening in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire or Buckinghamshire, or nearby)

Online: you can listen live by clicking on the ‘Listen live’ button here, or afterwards by clicking the ‘Listen again’ button on the same page (which will take you to iPlayer)

I’m on Lorna Milton’s show, which starts at 2pm – I’m due on at around 3.30pm.

Wish me luck...

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Radio on

A major step forward in my efforts to promote First Time I Met The Blues: I’ve been asked to appear on BBC Three Counties Radio to talk about it. The three counties in question are (of course) Beds, Herts and Bucks, and given that the book is mainly set in Watford, there’s a local angle that obviously appeals to them.

The interview is on April 12th - I’ll be doing it down the phone from a studio in central London. I’ll post full details of how to listen to it nearer the time.