Author interviews

The whole business of being published is the literary equivalent of the bends. Submerged for four years during the researching and writing, you are propelled, gasping and choking, to the surface. From having existed, as it were, as a solitary fish – living a life of “problems and drudgery” in Halldor Laxness’s phrase about writing – you are suddenly expected to be a performing poodle, articulate and entertaining. The official launch day of a book is traditionally a Thursday. In 1993, to avoid pre-publication nerves, I went to Essaouira during the week of The High Flyer‘s publication. This time I have submitted to an interview with the Telegraph’s books editor Gaby Wood. It’s the first time I have done this in the UK, largely because, having interviewed many writers, I’m aware of the dangers. Not only the peril of the interviewer who has not read the book (this happened to me once, when at the last minute I had to stand in for Caroline Moorehead, slotted by the Times to interview Robert Hughes about The Fatal Shore). There’s also the panicky search for a revealing motif that the book is suspected of having failed to disclose – ie the way the writer dresses in white socks or, unknown to his wife, smokes a cigarette, or speaks, as I made Hughes do, like a woodcock batting out of a thicket. But my deepest reservation is about how the interview a) becomes an extremely pale stand-in for the work, and gives permission to lazy readers to gut and fillet in five minutes what you have spent years working on; and b) an excuse for people automatically to despise the author for their perceived vanity/self-obsession. The late German critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki wrote that he had never met a writer of any worth who was not vain and egotistical. This fear of vanity is the reason Graham Greene gave when asked why he didn’t appear on television: “Because I think it’s not my business. I can think of too many writers who’ve become actors, even stars, on TV to the detriment of their work as writers. A writer depends a great deal on not being recognized.”

Temperamentally, I side with Laxness – “I enjoy being by myself and prefer to let no-one know about me” – and even with Brett Easton Ellis: “The problem is that you write the novel because you want to write the novel. I don’t want to talk about the novel. I just want to write the novel. I don’t really care what people’s reactions are to the book. I just want them to like my books and leave me alone.”

That said, anyone interested in my new book might like to read:

Nicholas Shakespeare: ‘My aunt the collaborator?’

Telegraph.co.uk ‎- 4 days ago

Nicholas Shakespeare on how he pieced together the compelling wartime story

 

‘It’s never mentioned’: Nicholas Shakespeare on the British women Telegraph.co.uk-28 Oct 2013

 

Sleeping with the enemy: My aunt’s wartime secret

The Guardian-2 Nov 2013

Nicholas Shakespeare was always intrigued by his aunt Priscilla, who had a glamorous if mysterious presence in his childhood. After her death 

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