Do successful authors have doubts about their talents too?

I guess I imagine that once you’ve got a few successful novels under your belt, and your work is adored by readers and feted by critics, that you’d feel confident about your talents. However, there is all the pressure that goes with that – and can the fourth and fifth novels be just as good as the first and second?

This seems to be the case with Zadie Smith, who is extremely modest about her abilities. In a brief article in the Evening Standard, Accolades fail to ease Smith’s nerves, she is quoted as saying: “You have to struggle with each page. It’s very hard to listen to yourself for that long and feel that — even if you have had a career of some kind — someone wants to hear or read it.”

Her last book to be published was On Beauty in 2005. Her new novel NW is due out in September and is billed as a “dazzling portrait of modern London”.

I can only empathise with the very real pressure she must be under – from herself as well as external factors like publishers and reviewers – and I’m sure her new novel will be as brilliantly original and unputdownable as her others.

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How to make reading a treat, not a chore, for children

Allowing children to read ‘cool’ books rather than stiff old tomes the authorities think they should be ploughing through is the key to stimulating a creative love of reading. That’s according to a wonderful little article in the Evening Standard, Forget Austen, there are no explosions, which quotes Steven Moffat, the writer behind successful TV series Doctor Who and Sherlock.

Give a child a ‘cool’ book and she’ll devour it. Boring books get left on the shelf. (Pic: istockphoto.com)

He says: “We should give [children] really cool books that they think are exciting. It doesn’t matter if they are good books as long as they read. Reading makes you better at English. Reading a lot makes you want to read better books.”

He’s so right. I’m a professional writer now who can’t bear to flirt with badly written fiction. Life is far too short for that, and my bookshelves are stuffed with books I’d much rather commit to. However, as a 10-year-old child, I devoured just about every Continue reading

are authors really having their last (w)rites?

I had a few minutes to spare on Sunday, and wandered into WHSmith where I lost myself in reading the blurb on the back of many of the paperbacks in the bestseller chart. It’s a while since I checked out what kind of literature is captivating the public, and it does bring out some competitiveness in me.

However, I may be rather too late to win the race to the bookshelves, if I’m to believe the bleak vision of the future of publishing painted by Ewan Morrison in his Guardian article Are books dead, and can authors survive? He gloomily predicts that “writing, as a profession, will cease to exist”, because writers will offer their work for free in a digital environment that increasingly provides free content. He argues that in the future writers “will labour under the delusion that Continue reading

Kindle author achieves publishing dream by landing major book deal

I LOVE to hear about writers making it big by being persistent and brave, and not taking no for an answer.

So I was delighted to read in the Evening Standard about an author who self-published her novel digitally, and sold it for 95p on Kindle. Louise Voss proceeeded to promote her novel, Catch Your Death, relentlessly via social networking, propelling it to the top of the Kindle charts. Her success caught the attention of HarperFiction, which gave her and her writing partner Mark Edwards a six-figure deal.

What an inspiring story. This has turned traditional publishing on its head, and shows that a well-written, compelling book with an author driven, focused and prepared to promote it CAN achieve starry success.

why shouldn’t writers and novelists get paid?

On Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, I heard Monica Ali, author of The Untold Story, having to defend the fact she has written a commercially viable novel.

OK, so the ‘what if’ plot focuses on the imaginary scenario of Princess Diana having faked her death to escape media attention. And, from a marketing point of view, this is perfectly timed – what with the royal wedding of William and Kate a months away. Some of the commentators were shocked that the author of literary, character-driven novel Brick Lane could descend to such depths as writing popular fiction, and that it would “be hard to take the literary hard ground after a book like this”.

Monica responded in the Today interview by saying Continue reading

The beauty of book club

It’s taken me years to find a Book Club: through lack of time or opportunity, I’d always listened wistfully to friends who were reading a book specifically to discuss with their avid-reader friends. For me, it’s a total pleasure to read a book for fun, and discuss it with gusto, rather than have to analyse its narrative arc, the effectiveness of the dialogue, or the nuances of tone, structure or symbolic architecture.

While I do enjoy the detailed and technical analysis of a novel (I’m studying for a creative writing MA, after all), there’s a freedom, purity and bliss in just discussing what I liked and didn’t like about a book. Looking too closely at a book can show the seams, whereas tonight I’ll be enjoying the entire garment.

Hurrah for World Book Night

I love the idea of World Book Night – a new initiative to give away a million books (40,000 copies each of 25 titles) in libraries and book shops across the UK, as well as in homeless centres, pubs and hospitals.

It’s such a feel-good initiative that could revive the beauty of reading among so many people – as well as bringing books to people who probably can’t afford the luxury of buying them.

With the likes of literary greats such as Margaret Atwood taking part, I’m tingling with joy and excitement.