I’d never have believed, when we recorded this episode in October 2015, that its subject would seem like a relic of a bygone age. It certainly felt bygone in the depths of lockdown winter. Now, as the sky brightens in the second week of March 2021, we might at some point be able to hold events where authors meet readers. Though they will be adapted for our new times, some principles we discuss in this episode still hold – attracting readers, boosting the work of the authors who participate, and giving everyone a good time. So as the UK Government presents its roadmap back to normal, I present to you a roadmap to a small, much-missed aspect of author and bookselling life. If you’re moved to comment on how this makes you feel, do drop a note in the box below.
As always, my co-host is (retired) independent bookseller Peter Snell.
The difficult second novel. Why might it be difficult? Does it have to be? Are there ways you could make it, well, easier? Indeed, we contend there are ways in which your second novel will be much easier to write than the first.
We are, of course, Peter Snell, a bookseller, and me!
What do we mean when we talk about writing talent? What are the magic touches in a piece of prose – or a whole book – that might make us describe a writer as talented? Do we mean the qualities that can’t be taught? And if so, what are they and why do they seem that way? Do ‘talented’ people have it easier, or have they simply discovered how to work and make the best of themselves? Is ‘talent’ actually within everyone’s grasp?
My guest this week has written a novel with a dual timeline and an intriguing title that has more than a hint of fairytale – The Boy Who Drew The Future. She flitted past me on Twitter one day and I set off in pursuit, waving an example of The Undercover Soundtrack and hoping she’d find it appealing. Thankfully she did, and her piece describes the music that drew her into the hearts of her characters. One particularly memorable line is the phrase she used to describe Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings – a private and fragile piece, a place for learning secrets. The Boy Who Drew The Future is her fifth novel and she’s held a string of distinguished writing posts including a WoMentoring mentor, a Patron of Reading and National Trust Writer In Residence. She is Rhian Ivory and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
I just discovered that Mixcloud, where Surrey Hills Radio archive the show I present with bookseller Peter Snell, has a function to share episodes on WordPress. Now you might be thinking I’ve posted a lot of audio and video recently, so let me reassure you I haven’t abandoned text. That would be somewhat absurd for a blog by a writer anyway, as prose is our instrument. Prose posts will be resumed, fear not.
But Mixcloud has these twinkling buttons, so here goes. The episode I’ve chosen is the special we recorded at Easter, where we ran through highlights of previous shows with the music we played at the time. For lo, one of the joys of working with a radio station is that they are licensed to broadcast music. (So you get the bliss of my music collection, for better or worse.)
We usually stick to two carefully chosen tracks that illustrate the topic under discussion, more or less. All right, sometimes it’s tenuous when I want an excuse to play something. Think of it as a ‘back to mine’ evening, with writing talk. But this episode we collected a few of our favourites together, so you get Symphony of Science, Grace Jones, Christopher Cross, The Eagles, Avalanches, Paul Weller, Nick Cave and a few other surprises which we’ll keep for you to discover. Hope you enjoy the trip.