Replacing "Writer"

by Stella.

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably had a conversation in which a new acquaintance asked you what you did (in the occupational sense), and on hearing the (somewhat awful) truth, either expressed polite surprise or barely disguised skepticism. This usually gets worse when they discover that you don’t have a distinguished list of credits to your name. It gives the impression that you are, to a certain extent, deluded. For some reason, “writer” has an aura of mystique – not only in terms of personality type but achievement as well. There always seems to be a debate going on as to who is entitled to call him or herself a writer.

Honestly, I don’t know. From a strictly grammatical point of view, one who performs the act of writing is a writer, but that argument only leads you to such counterarguments as, “If you cook food, does that make you a chef?” I guess it’s because “writer” is too all-encompassing. We can break down the classification a bit more: novelist, screenwriter, poet, journalist, blogger, and so on. From an unofficial poll that I took (admittedly – I asked a handful of people out of sheer curiosity, so that probably doesn’t even count as a poll, but anyway) novelist sounded the most intelligent, screenwriter the coolest, poet the most artistic, journalist the most political, and blogger... well... the least to be taken seriously. (If they only knew how much work went into it...)

We could always replace the word writer. Some possible replacements:

Wordsmith – my favorite, I think. Has a respectable ring to it.
Liar – we’re dangerous people, you know. We conjure things out of thin air and make them seem real.
Storyteller – a little on the romantic side.
Scribbler – comical, doesn’t take itself seriously. Has potential.
Pretentious Twit Who Would Starve Without a Day Job – brutally honest, and perhaps a tad hostile.
Bard – poetic, probably not applicable in many cases.

Obviously it’s not an easy word to replace, but it’s something to think about. And write about. Oh sorry. Wordsmith about. No, that doesn’t work. Smith? No. Lie about? That’s easily misinterpreted. Storytell? Not really. Scribble? Mm, possibly. Pretentiously Twi- we’ll just forget that one. Bard about? That’s awful. It can’t even be used as a verb.

The strictly grammatical approach will have to do for the moment. Eventually people will stop using pens and I suppose we’ll all be called typists. Or typers. Or maybe even typos, which would be ironic. I leave it to future generations to decide. At any rate, I’m sure people will still regard writing as having that aura of mystique and most aspiring writers as having that touch of delusion. So it doesn’t really matter in the long run what they call us. As long as it’s something nice. I really don’t want to be a typo.

Monday Editorial : Fab5

Who remembers the fifth Beetle?

Well we have our very own fifth beetle now as Naomi joins the "Fab 4" writing crew here at the magazine. We become the Fab 5!

Check out Naomi's profile in the "Crew Here" page and her own web-site here.

Naomi will be our resident artist bringing a brand new monthly cartoon created especially for the magazine. Look out for it here in the body of the magazine and also grouped together in "The View Cartoon" page.

Later this week we have an article from published author, Rosy Thornton, on the problems that happen when people make links between an author and their writing.

And coming in May: A competition to win £50 of Amazon Vouchers (or equivalent in dollars) to coincide with our press releases.

Happy days here at The View From Here.

Do tell us what the view from your perspective is - what you are writing or reading or an experience you've had recently in the writing world.

The Accidental Agent

Orna Ross talks to The View From Here about her book Lovers' Hollow and Font Literary Agency.

Font Literary Agency is based in Dublin and extending our reach as we open a London office in a few months time and an office in San Francisco early next year.

Font is not a typical literary agency; I suppose because I am not a typical literary agent. My representation of writers arises out of my own experience as a writer and teacher of writing.

I have been writing professionally for twenty years, firstly as a features journalist in Dublin and London, and for the past eight years as a novelist.

I always wanted to write fiction but opted to do journalism first because it seemed more manageable, more achievable, than the strange, complex challenge of sitting down and writing a novel. Coming up to my 40th birthday, I knew that if I didn't do it now, I never would. So down I sat.

It took me five years and 668-pages to write Lovers' Hollow, the story of a small Irish village's experience of Civil War, and the complex, angry heroine who fled her own private wars with the place and its people, only to return twenty years later to try to become reconciled to family feuds and secrets.

Writing it was the most gruelling, and most joyful, work I had ever done. Then began the almost equally drawn-out task of finding the right publisher. After a London literary agent failed to win interest, I reluctantly took the task upon myself.

I was very systematic about it - with an A-list and B-list of publishers, which I worked methodically through, refusing to take rejection personally and all the time, rewriting, editing and improving the manuscript in the light of any feedback I got. In the end, after negotiating a very steep learning curve, I managed to win simultaneous interest from four publishers, two in Dublin, two in London.

Publishing has become increasingly competitive and editors have less and less time to devote to writers. I started Font because I seem to be one of very few people who is comfortable in both worlds and because I felt there was a real need for a writer-centred agency.

Our growth has been very organic, slowly building contacts and gaining trust and respect from writers and editors. We are pleased to be opening a UK office in the autumn and have already begun to sign some British authors. And this year, for the first time, we will be travelling to the US for Book Expo, bringing UK and Irish writers to US readers, and US writers to a readership on this side of the pond.

To me, being a writer means being dedicated to writing and that means other people's writing as well as my own. After all, in a short life I can only write so many books. Despite the cult of personality stoked by our media, I know that it is writing, not any one individual writer, that's important and I find it increasingly difficult to separate my work as writer, mentor and agent.

Manhattan Calling...

by Kathleen

Whatever your perspective regarding The View from Here, you couldn’t possibly mistake me for The Clash. I never was nor will be an angry young man you really must listen to, let alone the legendary Clash. No fooling about my NYC address, however.

All told, from my downtown apartment overlooking a boisterous 24-hour Dunkin Donuts, I fit all too well the person Mike French was warned against becoming: I am an isolated writer.

As a young mother, I wrote fiction while my children napped. I had always wanted to write fiction, but fought it, not wanting to fail, until they were born whereupon: no kidding and no escape—my adult self was a chronic fiction writer.

My children grew into their own lives and I kept writing. Some short stories were published. A few collections won honorable mentions. One novel, like those of so very many writers, almost made it into print.

Before long, then, I reached a plateau where I was rewriting more than writing. Before, I might spend a month on thirty pages and after the story drew to its conclusion, I’d rewrite the whole thing two or three times. After a few of these efforts, unfortunately, I began spending months on the same ten to twenty pages. My remedy for this illness turned out to be the confines of a blog.

To keep myself from rewriting everything to death, I resolved to post online fiction Monday through Friday. I wrote it and of course rewrote it, until just before falling asleep, I’d post it. I still do, imagining my fiction posts as a performance: I do my best and put it up. These episodes have developed, as if organically, into serial stories. When I rewrite them, off line, they equal one hundred manuscript pages, more or less.

Don’t know about elsewhere, but here in the states, novellas are pitifully unpopular. One agent I tried had never heard the term: Did I mean a lite-novel or a long short story?

Nonetheless, I’m proud of my blog novellas and have found a special freedom within a blog’s limits.

Since my few attempts blogging non-fiction have always embarrassed me, Mike has generously agreed to let me try my hand at short stand-alone fiction posts. I’m not sure what to expect. The idea looms like yet another daredevil stunt. But that's the way I work. Even when I burn and crash, I’m happier than when I must struggle with real life.

Please, comment if you don’t like or understand what I do, or if you do. Honestly, I’m as eager to learn as to perform. Next time you read a post by me, however, remember it’s fiction. That first person or third is never me. Fiction exists separately.

Spaces available on Cornerstones Workshop for Advanced Writers

Due to cancellations Cornerstones have three spaces left on their workshop for Advanced Writers on May19th - 21st.

The tutors are Lee Weatherly and Nicola Perry - both masters at crafting fiction - and Helen Corner who's known for her talent spotting for agents and publishing expertise. Caroline Wood from Felicity Bryan Literary Agency will also be joining them to talk about what she's currently looking for. This is for authors who are on the verge of making it as a published writer.

If you are tempted to find out if you'd qualify email or ring Kathryn at Cornerstones asap. As their workshops are bespoke to the authors who attend, they will need material in by Wednesday 30th April.


Tel: 020 8968 0777

email : kathryn at

Photo: Caroline Wood

Monday Editorial : April 21

by Mike

This will be the first of a weekly editorial that I will bring each Monday to give an overview of what's happening and what's in the pipeline.

Last week things moved very fast with Paul, Stella, Kathleen & myself forming the new writing team for The View From Here. We are building the magazine around a blogging platform to encourage dialogue and community via the comments rather than just delivering a monologue to you.

The magazine will run so that you can drop in weekly for a browse over a coffee or daily if you prefer to get in amongst it and join in the discussions in the comments. We're going for quality rather than quantity so expect a high standard from us. Shout at us if we don't deliver!

And a line in the sand now at the start ...

A few years ago I was advised to keep my finger on the pulse of the writing world so I didn't become isolated as a writer. At that time I subscribed to a monthly magazine. Which was great. Apart from the bombardment of adverts in there for self-publishing. Now I have nothing against self-publishing: it can be very successful. But I think it needs careful consideration before embarking on and I felt a little uneasy at the balance of self-publishing adverts that were targeting often vulnerable writers desperate to give life to their work outside of their pc.

So here at The View From Here we will have no self-publishing adverts. Sorry guys, but sometimes to make a point you have to shift to one side of the spectrum. Instead we invite you into a safe environment where you can be entertained, informed and with Cornerstones helped to shine. Recently I asked award winning author, Julian Barnes, about new writers. This was his response:

I am in favour of young writers writing the best books they are capable of. And being protected against disappointment.

Okay so if you're my side of the line, you'll want to know what you can you expect from the magazine ...

Well I'll be bringing you book reviews and interviews with award winning authors.
Check out the previous post to get an idea of the flavour Paul will bring, as all his years of hard work pay off with his debut novel about to hit the shelves.
Stella will be adding articles on creative goals, inspiration and what it means to be a writer and Kathleen will be bringing her short original fiction to the magazine each week.

Add some competitions and our unique working relationship with Cornerstones into the mix and hopefully we'll end up with a distinctive friendly voice in the world of literary magazines.

So have a browse around, subscribe to the magazine for free to make sure you don't miss the buzz and let us know what you'd like to see here and how we can improve.

In praise of appraisals

by Paul

We all experience turning points. Those epiphanies that change the way we look at the world, at other people, at ourselves. Afterwards, nothing is ever quite the same again. It can’t be.

Of course, epiphanies can become addictive. There’s little to compare with that moment of blinding light and heightened awareness and the new sense of direction they provide, but sometimes they can leave us feeling as if we’ve been ground into the dust, and it can take a while to stand up, brush ourselves down and start crawling forward again. So it’s with a blend of embarrassment, humiliation and gratitude that I recall one of the most illuminating epiphanies I’ve had since deciding to write fiction.

Maybe I’d had my eyes closed previously, but, eight years ago, around the turn of the millennium, it seemed as though editorial and manuscript appraisal services sprang into vogue. Overnight, they were advertising everywhere. Or it may be that I began noticing them then because, after receiving too many rejection slips from agents and publishers, I knew something about my writing had to change ... even if I wasn’t sure what that something was.

All the same, having selected a business to entrust my manuscript with, I was still half-hoping to get the quickest response from them:

Your novel is fantastic, it’s as polished as can be, and we hope you don’t mind but we’ve forwarded it to one of our contacts in a publishing house who’d like you to phone them please.

Instead, I took an absolute hammering. The report I paid for was fourteen pages long and pulled no punches. It examined every aspect of the way I’d written my novel and highlighted every flaw. Under a series of headings and sub-headings (Style/Approach, Structure and Plot, Setting, Themes, Character, Grammar and punctuation, etc) it identified what I was doing wrong, with ample examples, and the approaches I needed to consider taking instead. Reading this appraisal was like taking one king hit after another. Fourteen rounds. I was gutted. And I was resistant to some of its truths at first. However, eight years later, I can’t fault the honesty, accuracy and fairness of this report. It was one of the best services I’ve ever bought with my hard-earned cash.

For eighteen months, I didn’t think about approaching publishers or agents, but worked at changing the way I wrote until I felt I’d addressed the criticisms. The report became my guide. After completing two different manuscripts since then, I've approached appraisal services both times before proceeding towards agents and publishers, and both these new appraisals have proved the value of learning from that first response.

Appraisals aren’t cheap, and that’s probably not a bad thing: there’s less chance we’ll ignore quality advice if we’ve paid good dosh for it. There can be no blinding light if our eyes remain screwed shut.

Fab Four Form Writing Team for The View from Here

The View From Here now has an international writing team!

Mike, Stella, Paul & Kathleen

So get your dancing shoes on and celebrate!

Check out their profiles and links to their blogs here. Or just click on the The Crew Here tab at the top of the page.

All four will be contributing regularly and will shape the feel and look of the magazine.

Look out for an increase in a sense of community and interaction here as we prepare to bring the magazine to a wider audience with a wave of press releases.

Helen Corner, founder and Director of Cornerstones said of the magazine:

The View from Here is a fantastic opportunity for writers and book lovers to be informed and entertained in a personal, friendly atmosphere. Our job is to shape and launch writers to agents with a view to getting published, of which we’ve had considerable success. But not every writer is at that stage, so this is the perfect place for writers to learn from other writers and swap tips.

So do welcome the team on board!


Postcard from James Meek

Got this postcard yesterday from author James Meek of a horseshoe crab on Assateague Beach. Which was his fun way of replying to my letter asking him for an interview! He said yes and kindly is arranging for his latest book, We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, to be sent to The View from Here from his publishers Canongate.

Biog on James Meek:

His last book, The People's Act of Love won the 2006 Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award, the 2006 Ondaatje Prize and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. James has worked as a journalist since 1985 and his reporting from Iraq and about Guantánamo Bay won a number of British and international awards. In 2001 he reported for the Guardian Newspaper on the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and the liberation of Kabul.

Praise for People's Act of Love:

"This is a brilliantly constructed contemporary novel, written with considerable style and illuminated with wit and intelligence on almost every page."
Mail on Sunday.

"James Meek has shown ... that he can out-report more or less anyone from the trenches ... and now he has gathered together the guilty secrets of the grit'n'satphone set for an intensely flavoured excavation of our times, and made it look easy. ... The detail is wholly original. The fluency and inventiveness of the prose ranges from merely satisfying to astonishing."
The Times

I'm looking forward to reading the book and will bring you the interview soon. Should be an interesting one with James' background and experiences.


Books: Those little Red Pills

I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it. Morpheus from The Matrix

Take the red pill and you enter a whole new world. Pick up a book and you do the same thing.

There used to be a kids TV programme when I was a kid called, Why Don't You Just Switch Off your Television Set and go and do something Less Boring Instead , which I thought was an interesting concept because if you followed their advice you couldn't watch the programme.

Anyway, kind of the same message -

why don't you just shut down your computer for now and go and read a book?

and yes, yes I know that e-books are getting pushed by Pan Macmillan and Penguin at the moment but they're tasters - marketing tools to allow you to sample before you go for the real thing - few people will read a whole book on their screens.

So shut down the PC - grab that book, free your mind and enter a whole new world.

Just come back another day okay? Say Friday - News coming at The View From Here Friday.


The View From Here: DNA Changes

You might have noticed that The View From Here has had a bit of a refit recently.

Improved graphics & navigation and a larger layout give a sheen to two major changes at the heart of the site.

The first DNA change is that the "blog" is officially now what it was moving towards anyway and is branded as a literary on-line magazine. So you'll notice there is now a news section in the tabs at the top - do check it out!

Note the address is now : although all addresses will redirect to the new address.

The second DNA change, and the one I'm most excited about, is The View From Here is now officially affiliated with UK based, Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Run by Helen Corner, who was interviewed last year on The View From Here, Cornerstones are a prestige consultancy and are highly respected in the publishing industry.

Recent success for Cornerstones has been Sarwat Chadda, who has just landed a major six figure deal in the US/UK for his debut novel, The Devil's Kiss.

So this will mean that the site will, in addition to its regular features, be bringing you CORNERSTONE NEWS. You'll notice Cornerstones in the banner above for The View From Here and a link to them at the top of the side-bar on the right. Do check them out!

I finalised the agreement over a cappuccino with Helen and Managing Editor, Kathryn Robinson, in London yesterday and I'm confident that this will take The View From Here to a wider audience and enable it to enter its second year ( the site will be a year old next month!) with a new sense of excitement as it finds its niche in the writing world.

So happy days! Enjoy the new look - good things ahead!


Mike Interviews: Julian Barnes Part 3 of 3

The View From Here Interview: Julian Barnes
Reader Logo
by Mike

Julian Barnes is the award winning author of over 10 novels. Two of which have picked up Booker nominations and his latest novel Arthur & George was Booker shortlisted in 2005. In the past he has been, amongst other things, the deputy literary editor for The Sunday Times, the London Correspondent for the New Yorker magazine and has appeared on Desert Island Discs . He currently lives in London.

He latest book is Nothing to be Frightened of.

Part 1 of the interview can be read here.
Part 2 of the interview here.

What does the novel do in today’s culture and do you think it has changed from Renard's day?
It does what it always does: it tells a story which tells the truth. Forms change, social reality changes, but the point and meaning of narrative have changed very little - as has the human animal.

What advice would you give new writers?
Don't do it unless you really want to; don't do it expecting to earn a living from it; don't do it expecting praise, or to solve the problems of your life; don't do it in the belief that you live in a country which is broadly welcoming to culture; don't do it unless you love language and narrative and form. And don't listen too much to advice-giving writers clutching their bus passes. Find your own way.

What do you think about the state of the publishing industry today and has it changed since you started?
It's changed enormously. I spent seven or eight years writing my first novel, hesitantly delivered the manuscript, got £750 (I think) for it, did a single interview to publicise it, watched the book just about scramble into paperback, savoured the moment and the whole process, loved 'being a writer', but still never imagined I would make a living from writing books. Publishers didn't expect to make money from a 'literary novelist', as they were quaintly called, for three, four, five books - a literary career was, characteristically, something that was slowly built. Nowadays a novel may be bought from a first-time writer on the basis of a synopsis, 50 pages, a c.v. and a glamorous photo - and lots of money may be paid. And then the marketing of the book kicks in, and if the book takes off, the young star is suddenly in a world of photographers and multi-city tours. The commercial pressures are much, much greater - the publisher wants their money back, the pressure on a young writer to write that 'break-through' book is more severe. I'm not against young writers making money - on the contrary. But I am in favour of young writers writing the best books they are capable of. And being protected against disappointment. Though maybe disappointment will make them better writers, who knows?

What book are you currently working on?
I'm taking a break, and doing a few (literary) odd jobs that have built up while I was writing 'Nothing' - an edition of the Irish short-story writer Frank O'Connor, a long piece about Penelope Fitzgerald, an introduction to Clough's 'Amours de Voyage', stuff like that. I've just finished a short story, but am still deciding what to write next that will be of any extent.
Thankyou Julian, it has been great chatting with you.

For this interview in the printed magazine of TVFH click here.

For the Julian Barnes website click here.

Julian Barnes on Sky Arts

Mariella Frostrup interviews Julian Barnes on The Book Show on Sky Arts about his previous book Arthur & George, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2005.

Whilst we are in visual mode, quick mention of two films adapted from Julian's books.

French film : Love etc from 1996 staring Yvan Attal, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Charles Berling.

Metroland from 1997 staring Christian Bale and Emily Watts.

Later today: The final part of my interview with Julian.

Mike Interviews: Julian Barnes Part 2 of 3

The View From Here Interview: Julian Barnes
Reader Logo
by Mike

Julian Barnes is the award winning author of over 10 novels. Two of which have picked up Booker nominations and his latest novel Arthur & George was Booker shortlisted in 2005. In the past he has been, amongst other things, the deputy literary editor for The Sunday Times, the London Correspondent for the New Yorker magazine and has appeared on Desert Island Discs . He currently lives in London.

He latest book is Nothing to be Frightened of.

Part 1 of the interview can be read here.

Jane Shilling from The Times says the blurb on the back cover of your book, "makes the book sound like a selection box of sweeties in which the hovering hand of the reader might eschew the unattractive hazelnut cluster of God and Death and light instead upon the strawberry creme of family memoir, artistic celebration or literary reverie." Were you happy with the way the blurb seems to play down that the book is your musings on death and how did your publisher react to the book's topic?

I don't really understand her remark: a book isn't a box of chocolates, and in any case the short blurb seems to me straight and to the point, otherwise I wouldn't have approved it.

My publisher (and other people in the publishing house who read it) reacted as I hoped - as individuals, rather than corporate employees. It seems to be a book on a subject people don't talk much about, even if they privately think about it. 'Now you've given me something new to worry about when I wake up in the middle of the night,' one friend said. My 30-year-old goddaughter told me she'd never thought about being afraid of dying till she read 'Nothing'. Such responses please me, of course. I do think that for many reasons we avoid thinking about death more now than at any other time in our human history. So let's address it.

What was your families reaction to you writing the book?

Well, I have a very restricted family, and most of the people I write about in the book (parents, grandparents) have been dead for quite a while. My brother, who is the main living character, has read it twice and tells me he admires it (he's a philosopher, so always tells the truth); and my nieces are enjoying it. It hasn't cause any ructions, if that's what you're asking.

You say in the book "We begin with a silence, a mystery, an absence, a contradiction," was that the starting point for your previous novel, Arthur & George?

Yes, it was a story which was a newspaper sensation in its day, but then went away for a hundred years. I was intrigued both by why it had gone away, and also by what really happened in the first place. And it had to be a novel because very little had survived about the 'George' character - and nothing of his interior life.

Out of the books you have written, which has been your favorite and why?

It varies. The first because it was the first, the second because it proved I wasn't a one-book author, the third because it was the first to be translated, and so on. If someone mentions a book of mine and says they really didn't like it (not that this happens very often), I instantly think it's the best of all. Writers are a contrary breed.

Tomorrow: Final part in which Julian gives advice to new writers and talks about how the publishing industry has changed since he started writing.

For the Julian Barnes website click here.

For part 3 click here.

For this interview in the printed magazine of TVFH click here.

Mike Recommends: Nothing to be Frightened of

Nothing to be Frightened of

by Julian Barnes

"I may be dead by the time you are reading this sentence."

Julian Barnes gets all his thoughts on death down on paper before his doctor gets to him in the future to deliver the, Mr Barnes - I'm afraid it's not good news.

So the book is like a will drawn up in preparation for his inevitable death, by whatever form it takes. Although by all accounts Barnes is in good health and has many more years before him, he's written this book now as insurance against a rushed job as his draws his final breath.

So instead of a thinned narrative of a dying man, we get the literary genius of Barnes saying in full health ...

"Let's get this death thing straight."

And for us this is good news.
The book is thought provoking and demonstrates the ability of Barnes to intelligently consider a taboo subject. And far from being macabre, you feel like you are being invited to chat with Julian over an after dinner cigar. It's all very english:

"My fear of death is low-level, reasonable, practical."

Some would run around screaming, "We are all going to die!" in the face of death. Julian in effect says, calm down stop running around like a headless chicken, or worse still sticking your head in the sand like an ostrich and let's talk about it calmly over port and cheese.
He brings death out into the light, where it is less frightening.
Leaving it in the dark, is never a good idea - it's far scary. Julian flicks the light on for us and attempts to dispel the lurking beast from under the bed.

Julian also brings a good dose of humour in to wash down the bitter pill.

"Sometimes (I) find life an overrated way of passing the time."

Into the mix then are thrown God, Barnes' brother, French writer Jules Renard and some Barnes family memoir ( although he says "this is not my autobiography." )
So, for example, we get Barnes giving account as to how he let go of a possibility of religion as an adolescent,

"hunched over some book or magazine in the family bathroom, I used to tell myself that God couldn't possibly exist because the notion that He might be watching me while I masturbated was absurd."


"I don't believe in God, but I miss him."

Hmm - so God was there in the bathroom, until Julian couldn't bear the thought and banished him?!

Barnes' stance now? An agnostic -

"How can we be sure that we know enough to know?"

One of Barnes' recent books was called The lemon Table - a collection of short stories - The lemon being the Chinese symbol for death.
What Barnes does in Nothing to be Frightened of, is invite us in around his own lemon table and opens the discussion.

It feels like he really hopes he won't have the last word.

Later today: Part 2 of my interview with Julian.

For the Julian Barnes website click here.


Mike Interviews: Julian Barnes Part 1 of 3

The View From Here Interview: Julian Barnes
Reader Logo
by Mike

Julian Barnes is the award winning author of over 10 novels. Two of which have picked up Booker nominations and his latest novel Arthur & George was Booker shortlisted in 2005 . In the past he has been, amongst other things, the deputy literary editor for The Sunday Times, the London Correspondent for the New Yorker magazine and has appeared on Desert Island Discs . He currently lives in London.

His latest book is Nothing to be Frightened of.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

Six foot two,

Eyes of blue -

Will that do?

Faulkner said a writer's obituary should consists of the line: 'He wrote books, then he died.' Not a bad anonymity to aim at, but nowadays impossible. So: born in Leicester, studied modern languages at school and university, became a lexicographer (so not afraid of words) then read for the bar (so not afraid of lawyers) then became a journalist and novelist. Supports Leicester City (so not afraid of defeat)

What's your ideal night out/in?

I think the ideal night, whether out or in, depends on having been preceded by an ideal day. One ideal would be a day of satisfying work, followed by cooking dinner for friends. Another would be a day spent walking through the French or Italian countryside, and ending up in a small town where there were no other tourists, the heat of the day holding long enough so that you could eat out at a small bistrot or trattoria and sit there, drink in hand, watching the world go by.

What is your favorite book?

It varies from Shakespeare to the Oxford English Dictionary to the Michelin Guide to France to Flaubert's Letters to Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book.

How did you get your first publishing deal with your debut novel, Metroland?

I went in for a ghost story competition organised by The Times in about 1974. The winners had to agree to offer their first work of fiction to the publishers Jonathan Cape. This wasn't a hardship, as Cape were the leading fiction imprint in the country. Five years later I handed in the novel. They asked for lots of changes, but published the book. I've been with them ever since.

In Nothing to be Frightened of, you say that if you were to live your life again then you "could discover quite new sorts of disappointment." Are there things that you would still like to try and do you think they will deliver or, as you say, lead to further disappointment?

Yes, I think I said: discover new pleasures and interests as well - some of which will probably end in disappointment. That's the nature of life. Given an eternal lifespan we like to imagine we could succeed at most things. But let's be realistic: given the time left, I reckon that if I took up, say, the tango it'd probably end in disappointment. I think what I want to discover from now on are new places and new people rather than new skills.

I know you like France, are there any other particular places you would like to visit?

At the start of the year, I went to Chile and Argentina for the first time. I'd love to know Latin America better. And go back to Russia (where I haven't been since 1965). And hike around New Zealand. Libya. Norway & Finland. And so on and on...

As you say that this book in not your autobiography, can you give us an anecdote you would include if you were ever to write your life story.

I'm going to duck this, for the simple reason that I might need that anecdote: if not for my 'autobiography' (which I doubt I'll write), then for fiction.

Fair enough! What are your views on author and celebrity autobiographies and why do you doubt you'll write one?

Well I shan't write a 'celebrity autobiography' because I'm not a celebrity. I doubt I'll write an 'author autobiography' for various reasons: a) my life (away from what happens in my head) wouldn't be of much interest to readers; b) even if it were, there are privacy questions - not just your own: you can't write an autobiography without touching the lives of others; c) I'd rather people read my books than considered what sort of person I am; d) the form of the autobiography often governs its content, and I find its form conventional; so e) I was only ever going to write a partial, bit-of-me, slice-through-this-part-of-the-head type of book - which I guess is what 'Nothing' is.

Part 2 of the interview on Monday, where Julian talks about reaction to the Nothing to be Frightened of main theme: Musing on death.

Plus a review of the book and then on Tuesday Part 3 of the interview and a clip of Julian on YouTube.

For the Julian Barnes website click here.

For part 2 of the interview click here.

For this interview in the printed magazine of TVFH click here.

Behind the Scenes: Part 3 of 3

A Behind The Scenes feature of with Edward Smith.

For part 1 click here.
For part 2 click here.

How has the site developed over time?

We have a lot more literary professionals involved now, including editors from Orion and Bloomsbury who provide free Arts Council funded critiques for the five highest rated writers each month. We also have a lot more leading affiliated literary agents. From the start of April The Random House Group will become involved with and read our Top Ten Chart stories at the start of each month for a six month period.

Arh this is the Publishing Service Area . I see that you recently started a joint venture with Legend Books. How did that come about?

We were looking to provide a top quality publishing service to help writers who wished to publish. We were delighted when Legend Press agreed to be involved, they're a great publisher and have achieved a lot of success including having one of their books, Salt and Pepper by Candi Miller, listed in this year's Top Ten Books to Talk About for World Book Day. We want to give all writers the opportunity to publish, but also consider that presently in the marketplace there is a mid-list book crisis, mid-list being writers that may not have been out and out bestselling writers but who sold and developed well over time. It's accepted that these writers don't get the opportunities to get published like they did 20 years ago. We want writers to consider their site feedback in making the decision to publish, and have realistic expectations of success and give them guidance to help best achieve this.

How do you feel about the publishing industry at the moment and how would you like to see it change?

As always there are great writers being discovered and great stories being published. Publishers will sell what's popular, so it's up to individuals personal preference how, for example, they view celeb books and the like. I think what's agreed is that diversity of choice has gone down for readers. This, I think, is partly due to all the other multimedia products competing for browsers hard earned bucks.

I would like to see more diversity, choice, and opportunity for new writers, and what I hope for the industry is that it will look into more multimedia ways to promote a variety of writing talent. My analogy is that walking into a library, unless you have an idea of a favoured author, sometimes presents too much overwhelming choice, particularly for a younger YouTube generation who are used to texts and videos in brief little hits. This is why when you walk into stores the Charts are at the front, it's a filtering system, like with the YouWriteOn charts, to make the choice less overwhelming and more bite-sized.

I think the industry needs to take this basic premise and use more multimedia and innovative approaches to help entice browsers and cater for bestselling and diverse tastes. A lot of this will happen online, I believe, and we have a number of ideas that we think will help. I believe we'll see publishers take these up much in the same way that big publishers have started sites like since we began. Then again, we may receive our ideas back like a rejected manuscript, but, like with writers we won't know our chances of success until we try. On that note I'd advise all new writers to join!

Thanks Edward, it's been great looking around! I'll see myself out.

Just to highlight what Edward mentioned above: Random House is to read and consider for publication all top-rated stories for 6 months at The publisher announced the move, as part of its "commitment to new writing talent." So get in there authors!

If you want to join click here.


Friday : Part 1 of my interview with Julian Barnes

BLOG idol : The Winners

BLOG idol has just finished over at GO! Smell the Flowers. This is the video I made for Flowers to announce the winners.

Well done Dubai Guy, Rufus, Empress Nightshade & Simple Zack !

I look forward to posting alongside you as a fellow founder at Flowers!