Tag Archives: Writer

Richard Adams … Watership Down

Richard Adams … Watership Down

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Richard Adams, aged 94, at home in Hampshire. Photograph: Graham Turner/Guardian

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Richard Adams (1920 – 2016) was an English novelist who is best known as the author of Watership Down, Shardik and The Plague Dogs. He studied modern history at university before serving in the British Army during World War II. Afterwards, he completed his studies, and then joined the British Civil Service. It was during this period that he began writing fiction in his spare time.

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Richard Adams originally began telling the story that would become Watership Down to his two daughters on a car trip. They eventually insisted that he publish it as a book. Extraordinarily, he had never written a word of fiction before. He began writing during the evenings in 1966, taking two years to complete. The story was rejected by six publishers, all concerned that older children would not want to read about rabbits and that its dark themes were too “adult” for younger children. In 1972, when Adams was aged 52, Rex Collings agreed to publish the work. The book gained international acclaim almost immediately for reinvigorating anthropomorphic fiction with naturalism. 

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An Aldo Galli illustration for a new edition of Watership Down

Over the next few years Watership Down sold over a million copies worldwide. Adams won both of the most prestigious British children’s book awards, one of six authors to do so: the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. In 1974, following publication of his second novel, Shardik, he left the Civil Service to become a full-time author. 

“It was rather difficult to start with. I was 52 when I discovered I could write. I wish I’d known a bit earlier. I never thought of myself as a writer until I became one. If I had known earlier how frightfully well I could write, I’d have started earlier”.

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Cover of First Edition

It’s non of their business …

It’s non of their business …

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Deborah Moggach

Deborah Moggach

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Deborah Moggach is an English novelist and screenplay writer. She has written eighteen novels including The Ex-Wives, Tulip Fever, These Foolish Things (made into the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Heartbreak Hotel. Her latest book is called Something to Hide. She currently lives in the Welsh border town of Presteigne and also has a maisonette in Kentish Town, North London.

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In 2016 she was interviewed by the Guardian for their My Writing Day series.

Everyone has their rituals and I have to start the day with a roll-up and a cup of coffee. It gets my brain fizzing – it loosens the connections – and if I’m interrupted, I’m lost. If someone even says “I’ll phone you some time in the morning” it threatens my concentration, which is a feeble organ at the best of times. With screenplays it’s not so bad because it’s a more public process anyway – so many other people are involved – but if I’m writing a novel, I need to shut myself off into my private world. I don’t mind people in the house, as long as they’re not quarrelling and they don’t come in, but I can’t bear music.

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The weird thing is that unexpected interruptions can jolt me when I’m stuck and can actually help, like a computer being switched off and on. But I mustn’t expect them. And if there are too many, the morning is flushed away; I can almost hear it hissing into oblivion, like an airline toilet.

When that happens, it is a day’s work gone, because I can only write in the mornings. A lot of writers I know are the same. In the afternoons I become a normal person doing normal things – shopping, cooking, talking to people. If a novel is going well, however, I perform these tasks in a dream. It’s a wonderful feeling, this, but it doesn’t happen very often. When it does, I find that everything feeds into what I’m writing. The swing of somebody’s hair, the odd remark on the bus – they absorb themselves into the bloodstream of the story in a mysterious way, so my day is pulled into the subterranean flow of the novel.

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At 6.30pm I’ll go back to my desk, have a glass of wine and another roll-up, and work for an hour. That’s the best time of all, and utterly essential. After that I watch TV.

Author website

Write hard …

Write hard …

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All writers have this vague hope …

All writers have this vague hope …

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How simple the writing of literature would be …

How simple the writing of literature would be …

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Kei Miller … ‘I envy the writers who know the hours that are best for them’

Kei Miller

‘I envy the writers who know the hours that are best for them’

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Kei Miller is an award-winning Jamaican poet, fiction writer, essayist and blogger. He was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. 

In 2004, he left for England to study for an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and later completed a PhD in English Literature at the University of Glasgow. In 2006, his first book of poetry Kingdom of Empty Bellies was released. It was shortly followed by a collection of short stories, The Fear of Stones. He has since released several  novels and collections of poetry. He currently divides his time between Jamaica and the United Kingdom.

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Kei Miller – Illustration by Alan Vest

He was interviewed by the Guardian in July 2016 for their series about authors called My Writing Day.

“It seems a simple enough question – what does your writing day look like? And yet, there is a weight behind the question, something that resembles anxiety, large and gnawing. Do I even have writing days? I’m not always sure. The evidence says I must have had. Nine books in 10 years, as well as articles and essays and reviews and blogs and lectures. There is even an unwieldy PhD, something about epistolary practices throughout the Caribbean between 1900 and 2000. Ten years. About 3,652 days. Some of them – in fact, a great many of them – must have been writing days. And yet there is no pattern, no routine, no discernible shape that I can think to describe here what a “typical” writing day looks like.

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By themselves, days are such neat things – divided up in their hours and their minutes like slices of a birthday cake your most fastidious aunt cut with perfect symmetry. There are writers who know the hours that are best for writing – in the quiet, undisturbed mornings, or the afternoons when everything is awake including their thoughts – and the hours that are best reserved for other things, crosswords, taking a walk, picking the children up from school, sleeping. I envy such writers.

Writing periods, when they come to me, do not come neatly. They stretch across days, from 10 at night to five in the morning, me going to sleep only when I see the sky brightening and suddenly in my head is the warning voice of an old Caribbean woman: “Don’t make tomorrow catch you looking into yesterday!” I go to sleep then, but it is a restless sleep, and I wake up just a few hours later to write again – the pattern of this new day different from the day before. I do not even have a writing space. Sometimes it is at home, in my office on the computer, but other times it is in bed on the laptop, and other times still in cafes, or in loud airport lounges.

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When I write, I write furiously, maybe because there are many more days of not writing than there are of writing. There are too many distractions. I succumb to them all. And I would like to tell you that my distractions are noble – rereading the classics, diligent research. But they are not. I am distracted by bad TV shows from the US, by the top stories in the Jamaican newspapers, by Candy Crush (God did I just admit that?), by the entirety of the internet. I am a productive writer, but only the evidence assures me of this: the nine books – the spines that I wake up to count some mornings as if to be sure it wasn’t a dream, as if to remind myself that yes, this is true. This is what you do!

If most days are not filled with writing, they are filled with the thought of writing – the fixing of a sentence I haven’t even written yet, testing it on my tongue, trying to figure out its pauses or its cadence, or else the chasing of some strange idea, the way I imagine Jamaican maroons would have once chased wild hogs through the thicket. And always I want to grab hold of this idea, to wring its neck then flop it down on the table like some mad surgeon, as if to determine how many poems or stories or essays can be removed from its guts. I have a bad knee though, and seem to chase elusive and slippery things. Most days I do not grab hold of anything. Most days they slip away, grunting happily in the undergrowth. I go to bed most nights, disappointed, but I say to the sound in the bushes just beyond me, tomorrow! Tomorrow I will catch you.

I am a productive writer – I’ve said that, I know. What I am not, what I have never been, is a disciplined writer. I am only a writer who lives with a weight behind him – something large and gnawing. It is an anxiety.”