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Comment from the book world in December 2020

December 2020

‘No one reads your book as closely as a translator does'

28 December 2020

‘No one reads your book as closely as a translator does, which is something you learn very quickly. I'm in such awe of them. They also read beneath it and around it. They make me consider things I thought I knew the meaning of because I use those words in everyday dialect and that's how the characters express themselves. It's made me go back and research the origins of some of the words...

Sometimes, it's explaining not even language but what a door looks like or what kind of fire was in the mantle because the book is also so specific about a class and a place and a time that it might not translate well. It's fascinating how their minds work...

I've had an extraordinary year which has been probably not the experience of most debut novelists. It's also been extraordinary because it's been my only experience and has all happened through a screen. I've had one event where I met with actual readers and managed to connect with people in the flesh and press the flesh and talk about the book.

That globalism has allowed books to reach people who have felt excluded from festivals or literary events or readings. I think it's going to be a thing we should uphold and maintain as we go forward even when we can see each other. There's an open-door feeling to it that's really powerful.'

Douglas Stuart, winner of the 2020 Booker Prize with Suggie Bain, in Publishing Perspectives


'When a child doesn't like something they let you know'

16 December 2020

‘Just because you can write a full-length grownup novel there's no guarantee that you can transpose that ability to a children's book. In the end it was a collaborative performance both with (illustrator) Daniela Terrazzini and my children: I would read parts of the story to them and they gave instant and very direct feedback. They were very honest and sometimes pretty brutal. When a child doesn't like something they let you know - often by getting up and walking away...

Writing is a process. Obviously prizes are lovely to get, that knowledge that somebody, a reader or a panel or a child in a library, has responded to your work. But I think after that you just had to forget them. You have to keep doing good work.'

Maggie O'Farrell on her first children's book, Where Snow Angels Go. She is also the author of Hamnet, After You'd Gone, The Hand That first Held Mine, The Distance Between Us and four other novels, as well as a memoir, I am, I am, I am, in the Observer.


'The ability to create life with words is essentially a gift'

7 December 2020

‘I still suspect that most people start out with some kind of ability to tell a story but that it gets lost along the way. Of course, the ability to create life with words is essentially a gift. If you have it in the first place, you can develop it; if you don't have it, you might as well forget it.

But I have found that people who don't have it are frequently the ones hell-bent on writing stories. I'm sure anyway that they are the ones who write the books and the magazine articles on how-to-write-short-stories. I have a friend who is taking a correspondence course in this subject, and she has passed a few of the chapter headings on to me-such as, "The Story Formula for Writers," "How to Create Characters," "Let's Plot!" This form of corruption is costing her twenty-seven dollars.'

Flannery O'Connor, author of two novels, Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away, three short story collections, including Complete Stories and 32 short stories in all