BBC Radio always comes up with the goods, doesn it? I wrote The Parliament of Spies to the sound of their Mozart fest in 2011, now it’s a baroque spring – joy!
The other night Tim Marlow the art historican presented a fascinating programme on the soundscapes artists work with. Do you work in silence or to music? Until the Mozart fest I always worked in silence or, sometimes, to the repetitive grind of garage or house so it was interesting to hear Tracey Emin say she played the same tune over and over again throughout the day to get into that creative trance state we all need. Rachel Whiteread mentioned medieval polyphony and it suggests we need something to take off that superficial layer of attention to get down to deeper and creative source. Some pople say they can only work if there’s the roar of traffic in the background, or the constant sound of the sea, or the rabble of a busy cafe. Each to his own. Can the neuroscientists explain it?
I was having a drink with a few writer friends at the weekend and the conversation got around to publicity or, rather, the lack of it. The general feeling was that publishers choose one author to put all their resources behind and leave the rest of us to go to hell. ‘What’s worse,’ somebody said, ‘is the fact that they have to pay bookshops for putting their author on the table and in the window. But it’s catch 22. If they put them in the window they’ll sell but they’ll only put them there if they do sell.’ ‘That’s not all,’ somebody else said, ‘they do it on websites now as well so that everytime you click on a site you get somebody else’s book on the masthead.’ ‘Galling,’ we agreed. ‘How much do they pay?’ somebody else asked. Nobody was sure. Then prizes were mentioned. ‘Do you realise publishers are expected to pay to get their favourite authors on the lists?’ ‘Surely prizes are set up to honour the best work at the time?’ ‘It’s just like the politicians and the bankers. Anything goes if it makes money.’ ‘Aren’t we all being naive here? We’re crime writers. What else did we expect? Corruption doesn’t just exist in the pages of a book.’ ‘Maybe a journalist might investigate. Who pays what to whom. It would give readers something to think about .’ Somebody wondered why we bothered. ‘I like writing,’ I said, ‘it’s the best thing. I’m miserable when I’m not working on a book.’ Everybody agreed with that. Well, we would, wouldn’t we?
Before we broke up the conversation veered onto the things we hate about publicists, how the lazy ones use other well-known writers to publicise their own wannabe authors by saying If you like X you’ll like Y. ‘It’s cannibalising somebody else’s reputation and cashing in on their fame,’ was one view. I pointed out that a top trade magazine had reviewed one of my novels by comparing it very favourably to a best-selling author (whom I happen to love) and my publisher understandably put the quotation on the cover. I was reassured that this was OK as it was an unsolicited and unpaid for review and therefore genuine. We still all agreed, though, that if you like Bloggins you don’t necessarily like Noggins.
It was a good evening all round. Much Guienne was sampled. Thanks folks! Good writing!