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WoW – James Manlow

The Words of Wisdom Interview – a series of interviews with writers and artists, to discover their methods, dreams and inspiration.

No.2 – James Manlow

James studied English Literature and Experience of Writing at the University of Derby. He then went on to do an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he was tutored by Andrew Motion. He has had poetry published in the Independent, and magazines such as Poetry Review, The North, The Shop (Ireland) and St Ann’s Review (US): his poem The Lazy Maid won second place in the UK National Poetry Competition. His novel Attraction was published in the UK by John Murray Publishers (Hodder Headline). He is currently working on his second novel.

How did you become interested in writing?

My primary school teacher Mr Beach (Class 6) enthused me with a love of poetry when I was 8 years old, though interestingly I was a ‘late’ reader. Apparently it was hard to get me to read anything until I was in my early teens, and then I was coaxed into it by those solve-it-yourself mystery books, where you have to help a character solve a puzzle before you are allowed to turn the page. I got hooked.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Write for yourself. Write everyday. Read – first as a reader, then as a writer. Ask yourself how writers you admire achieve their effects, then have a go: learn by emulating others. Don’t worry about being published. Do worry about money. Get a job that doesn’t interfere with your writing time. Your writing time doesn’t have to be a lot – thirty minutes can do it — but it should be regular, ideally daily. Guard your writing time against everything. Draft and redraft, edit, rewrite; keep going at it until it becomes something other than you. Listen to all criticism with an open mind, act on what makes sense to you, and ignore the rest. Don’t listen to negativity. Keep going. Don’t give up. Smile. Laugh. Do something else for a while. Now get back to it.

How important is the process of proofreading and editing?

Very. Until recently my favourite part of the writing process was redrafting and editing, as opposed to the blank page, which I used to dread. I’ve got over that a bit now, and increasingly enjoy the initial splurge onto the page. I still feel more comfortable when I’ve already got something to work with though. I like rewriting and reshaping a piece until it’s as perfect as I can get it. Once you’re at the very end, proof-reading of course is an essential.

Do you have a preference for writing fiction or non-fiction?

Fiction. I love it. It’s what I’ve always done. However, recently I’ve been thinking about having a go at a non-fiction book. What’s stopping me at the moment is not really knowing how to go about it / where to start. That’s what I’m using as my excuse anyway. I’m sure it’s something I’ll do eventually.

How do you see the future of publishing?

The immediate future — more online, ebooks, experimental formats, with the mainstream publishers concentrating more and more on their big names alongside new first-timers they hope to turn into overnight successes. It’s sad, but understandable, as I suppose they can just see where the money is coming from, or might come from, that way. At the end of the day, accountants have the say now, not editors; it’s been like that for some time, but I can’t see it shifting back in the current climate. I like new technologies though, and think that writers will now find different ways of expressing themselves / getting their work to their readers. Also, eventually, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a swing back to printed formats again, once we’ve gone too far down the e-book route, because — well, that’s just human nature: we always overcompensate then find the middle ground. It’s early days yet though, and that kind of thing feels like a long way off. As for the writing, I still believe you should write for yourself first, and that if your work is ‘good’ enough it will get picked up. Some people might say that is naive these days, but it’s how I feel. 

I think people will always like…

Stories (and books), no matter in what format. 

Who is your favourite author?

Impossible to name one. Without thinking too much about it — Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Graham Greene, Daphne Du Maurier (an embarrassingly recent discovery), Rose Tremain, Graham Swift, Margaret Atwood.

Poets – the list is endless – especially Keats, Tennyson, Elizabeth Bishop, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Kathleen Jamie, Louise Gluck, Billy Collins, but I could just go on and on…

Which book has influenced you the most?

When writing my first novel – ‘Waterland’ by Graham Swift

Books or Kindle?


Can you summarise your basic philosophy in life? 

a)    The answer to everything is love.

b)   When you think the answer is something else, see a)

Published inWords of Wisdom Interviews

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