Sunday 25 October 2009

Ghosts and celebrities

I read today that ghostwritten books by 'celebrities' are on the increase. Apparently, all of last Christmas's top ten bestsellers were ghostwritten celebrity autobiographies, and it is likely that the top ten fiction list this Christmas will be ghostwritten novels, again by celebrity 'authors'. This is depressing for people like us: serious writers, published on our own merits, and seeking to find a wider readership. And yet perhaps we should be grateful, for these books bring in hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue for the publishers, and therefore presumably there is more money available for those publishers to take a risk with previously unknown writers.

If this is the case, why does the whole things make me so cross? After all, I would hate someone else to write my books for me, and I have no desire to be a celebrity. Surely it can't be the money? Or the whirlwind book-signing tours? Or the interviews in that posh suite at the top of the Dorchester with the lovely views? Perish the thought.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Sex again

I don't think this deserves to appear in the MNW blog, but I simply had to report this as a follow-up to my post on writing about sex. How about this (from the same writer as the one I quoted before?): "he nibbled his way up her torso, until he reached her mouth." Don't you just love it?

Thursday 15 October 2009

Dead Ernest not so dead?

There's a glimmer of hope on the Dead Ernest screenplay front. The project has been dogged by recession-related problems (very few new programmes or films are being made at the moment, apparently), but a well-known actress (all I'm allowed to say, but she'd be ideal) has been shown the book, "adores" it and would like to see a script. This has led to a new independent film company showing interest. All very early days, and it may come to nothing, but it would be lovely if it worked out.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Great v good books

it is the season of literary prizes; more specifically, the Nobel and the Booker. The Times has also published this week the titles of the first batch of its ' 60 best books of the past 60 years' survey. Among the top 20 are Harry Potter, Doctor Zhivago and The Time Traveller's Wife, and this set me thinking: what is the difference between a great book and a good book? There are books which have kept me riveted (Sandra Brown's thrillers spring to mind) but which I know are not great, and books which I recognise as being great literature (eg some Trollope (Anthony), much of Iris Murdoch), but which may not have been quite so un-put-downable. There is certainly room for both - in fact, both kinds are essential - and yet I find it hard to explain what it is that makes me feel that a book is great rather than just good. What does anyone else think? And what are, say, your top five books (published in the last 60 years) for whatever reason? Mine, for what it's worth, would be Brothers (Bernice Rubens), A Fine Balance (Rohanton Mistry), The Secret history (Donna Tartt), The Diary of Jane Somers (Doris Lessing) and The Tin Can Tree (Anne Tyler). The Tin Can Tree is a compromise as I couldn't quite make up my mind, but the delicacy of the writing in this quite slight novel, which describes beautifully a family's reactions to the death of a little girl, and takes place over just a few days, shows a mastery which I find quite breathtaking.

Monday 5 October 2009

Crime and P D James

There was an interesting interview with P D James on the radio this morning, in the course of which she said that she created her setting and characters some time before deciding on her plot. I found this very heartening, as while I shall never be a P D James (shame, that) I have done the same in my current (crime) novel, even to the point of not deciding 'who dunnit' until a third of the way through. Hitherto, I thought that maybe this wasn't the way to go about things - ie that crime novels should be plot rather than character-driven - but maybe I haven't got it all wrong after all. A nice beginning to the week.