Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Why interview a novelist if I'm advising non-fiction authors?

Yes I'll hold my hand up and say there was a certain amount of self indulgence in my choice of R J Ellory.

He's a thriller writer and I'm a long time fan. But there was a more altruistic reason too.

You can learn from him.  Why? Because he's a master story teller.

Confession time now - yes he knew I hadn't read any of his books before I met him last year. When I did read, A Quiet Vendetta, I wouldn't say it was the happiest choice for me. Full of blood and guts, yes lots of them and a great deal of other kinds of nastiness.

However, what it had that kept me reading was the parallel stories of two men whose lives collided, accidentally once and deliberately once.

Think about it. Your favourite novel. Maybe one you reread. What is it about the story that takes you back to the book, especially when you already know what happens.

Now think about the non-fiction book you want to write. What's the story in it that will keep people reading?

I tried something the night before I talked to Roger Ellory. I opened the book at random and began to read to see what would happen.

Bang! I was straight back into it. In this particular instance, making my way through a swamp on my way to commit a crime.

If you've watched people look at non-fiction in bookshops, what's their behaviour? Yes they'll look at the front cover, read the back, maybe the contents page. But often they'll dive in at random. Not read logically.

That's one of the tests your book needs to pass with flying colours. Hold the reader's interest no matter where they enter.

Hm. Maybe needs a good story?

To listen to the interview with Roger, go to Click on the Conversations about Writing page.

To find out more about him, go to  On both occasions he was charming, encouraging and interesting about writing and the writer's life.

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