Friday 18 November 2011

Mariella Frostrup Plays the Mischievous Minx

It all started with the Book Show from Sky Arts turning up at the house to film me waffling about ghostwriting. Pleasant sunny day, guard down, camera running, my questioner enquired if I wouldn't prefer to write "in my own voice", or something similar.
What I wanted to convey was the idea that I wasn't particularly interested in hearing anything I had to say, but I was interested in hearing from other people with more interesting backgrounds. What actually happened was I proferred the opinion that the world had heard enough over the last five hundred years of people like me, ("middleclass, middleaged, middlebrow, male and english speaking"), pontificating and that it was time to give the rest of the world a bit of hearing.
The filmed interviews ended, (Hunter Davies and Kirsty Crawford had also appeared and been very charming), and the viewers were returned to the studio where, to my horror, distinguished novelists Robert Harris and Peter James sat listening to me pontificating, as if deliberately illustrating my own point, (if only I could lay claim to such subtle powers of irony). Mariella Frostrup, armed with her most disarming of smiles, then suggested to them that they were the under attack as "middleaged, middleclass, male and english speaking pontificators", (mercifully she let them off the "middlebrow" accusation).
Eek. These two were most defintely not who I had in mind. Most of Peter James's books of crime and policework are very much not set in the world of the middleclass etc etc, and Robert Harris tells tales on the very rich and very powerful, who are just as colourful and interesting as the underdogs of society. To make it worse, I know them both. Peter is a chum of long standing and Robert very sweetly quoted my "Ghostwriting" book at the start of every chapter of his novel, "The Ghost".
Both of them, mercifully, did not rise to the bait that the Mischievous One was dangling and doled out only the mildest of reprimands before saying very forgiving things. I felt a little like I had been hauled into the common room and told off by two much admired teachers for some piece of smart-alecry which I had meant for other staff members. Yet another illustration of why it is infinitely preferable to stay behind the scenes as a ghost and let other people do the media pontificating.

Friday 11 November 2011

Posh-Publishing Embraces Self-Publishing

Faber and Faber, poshest of the posh old guard publishers, (T.S. Eliot, Peter Carey, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Sylvia Plath - you get the picture), run a thing called The Faber Academy - - and are launching a three-day course on self-publishing in February 2012 entitled "Bring Your Book to Market". The tutors are Ben Johncock and Catherine Ryan Howard .

I met Mr Johncock, who runs a thing called The Twitter Consultancy, in a BBC radio studio in Oxford a year or two ago. I was still somewhat in a funk about social media at the time, but already uneasily aware that the things this extraordinarily bouncy young man was talking about were probably the future and sooner or later I was going to have to get my head round them. (The programme was being mediated by the fabulous Sue Cook - - who was also proselytising on the joys of social media, making me even more aware that I might be cowering a little further from the cutting edge than was wise).

Catherine Ryan Howard I have not met, but she is a successful self published author and comes across on her website/blog etc as being very jolly, truthful, self-aware and endearing.

Not only are Faber and Faber an extremely bright bunch of people, (their editors re-wrote "Lord of the Flies" for William Golding for heaven's sake), they are also not afraid of things cutting edge - a point proven by their recent adoption of Jarvis Cocker as Editor-at-Large, which followed a similar appointment for Peter Townshend some time ago, when the old boy was still pretty cutting edge himself. If they are embracing the idea of self-publishing and the need for us to learn how to use social media properly, then I think we can safely assume that there is now no going back.

I find this is all enormously encouraging having just launched an ebook of my own, "The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer", ( and opened a Twitter account.

Thursday 10 November 2011

A Triumph for Fine Ghostwriting

The announcement from New York that Keith Richards has won the Mailer Prize for Distinguished Biography is a wonderful endorsement for the writing skills of Mr Richards' ghost/collaborator/whatever-you-like-to-call-him, James Fox.
The whole project illustrates perfectly the joys, (and doubtless frustrations), that the process of ghostwriting for an interesting subject can provide. Mr Richards has led the most interesting and entertaining of lives. Spending time with him and then speaking in his voice must have been fun. To then be awarded a "distinguished" prize would be a very jolly cherry on top of the cake.
Mr Fox is, of course, a highly established writer, (and author of the very famous "White Mischief"), so I am sure he has no problem with Mr Richards picking up the prize and the attendant publicity which will help to keep the royalties flowing.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Are Blogs the Perfect Writers' Medium?

Amidst the razzle dazzle of Twitter, Facebook and the rest, it is easy to overlook the wonders of the humble blog. For writers they must be the greatest form of communication that the producers of the electronic media have yet presented to us. Now we can be editors and star contributors of our own magazines, writing and publishing the articles that we would normally be trying to persuade others to publish, able to pursue our hobby horses at full gallop and shamelessly plug the work of those we admire.
I have been particularly converted by Morgen Bailey's Writing Blog, (and here it would only be seemly to admit that I have been both interviewed by Morgen and have also written a guest piece ).
Regardless of the obvious vested interests at work here, I would still like to sing the praises of blogs such as these. There are companies now who offer to organise "virtual book tours" which, if I have undestood correctly, largely involve people being interviewed or writing about their latest book on other people's blogs in much the same way they would in old fashioned media like television "sofa shows" and the features pages of the old "grey-prints".
Each blog may have no more than a few hundred or a few thousand followers, but then many of the best literary magazines had similarly modest but extremely devoted readerships.