The other day, I gave you my thoughts on the shortlist for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2018 (see here).
Today, I am delighted to host a guest post in the form of a Q&A the prize’s publicists did with the shortlisted authors (see more here). I lobbied to get Richard Beard as a) I loved his book and b) he is a local author. Richard is shortlisted for his powerful memoir for ‘The Day That Went Missing’. The winner will be announced on 8th May, and I will be rooting for him.
The Rathbones Folio Prize Author Questionnaire with Richard Beard
1. At what age did you know you wanted to become a writer?
When I realised I had to stop being a student. I thought (wrongly) it might be a way of keeping the lifestyle going.
2. Was your first book published or is it still lurking in a drawer somewhere?
My first novel, which wasn’t published, is in The British Archive for Contemporary Writing (at the University of East Anglia). I wouldn’t say it’s terrible, but readers do need to make an appointment before they’re allowed to look at it.
3. What was your favourite childhood book?
Once I made it to books without pictures I loved adventure stories, the Hornblower series and Bulldog Drummond, neither of which are widely read now, I think. To my own children, when they were very young, nothing gave me greater pleasure than soulful renditions of Not Now, Bernard by David McKee. A stone-dead classic.
4. What is your ‘ if you don’t like this, you can’t be my friend’ book?
I’m not going to make enemies over books, because that would be missing the point. Having said that, Gillespie and I by Jane Harris has an emotional warmth and intellectual dexterity that makes me feel well-disposed towards everyone else who likes it.
5. Do you find the process of writing agony or ecstasy?
The process is often difficult, but if I didn’t feel occasional moments of elation I’m not sure I’d want to go on with it.
6. Who, in your opinion is the most under-read author?
The novelist Catherine Fox. Her first novel Angels and Men has a devoted but too small following, while her recent Lindchester Chronicles trilogy has fairly been described as Trollope for the twenty-first century. Her novels are about good things happening to good people (eventually) and their sense of grace and good faith is deeply moving.
7. Who or what have been your most important influences?
I’ve been deeply influenced by my own stubborn nature. At different times I’ve stubbornly wanted to be influenced by Mervyn Peake, Georges Perec and by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (the authors of the Martin Beck novels and pioneers of all things Scandi noir). In non-fiction I’d love to write as kinetically as Jon Hotten on bodybuilding and boxing.
8. If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
If all had gone well, maybe a barrister. I like to talk the talk, and get up to speed quickly with new information. And I’d enjoy the money. Or a conservatory salesman, for the same reason.
9. How long did it take you to write the book that is shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize?
Not long to write, about four months or so, but three times that long to re-write. And without knowing it I’d been wanting to get at this material for nearly forty years, so maybe that time should be added in too.
10. What’s your favourite
a) film: I used to say Brazil, but then I watched it for the first time in years and the special effects have stopped being very special. The bits in Brazil which are not Jonathan Pryce flying around in armour. Or Groundhog Day. Can watch that again and again.
b) album: Since Spotify I’m not very aware of albums – even the old ones break up into tracks, so these days it’s all playlists. I have one I like called Monkeys, in which every song has to have a line reminding us we’re primates. An observation that isn’t uncommon in contemporary music.
c) artist: Art for me depends on mood. Recently I loved the Rachel Whiteread exhibition at the Tate, and her intense seeing of usually neglected space. This week I’m a fan of Ernst Kirchner, an Expressionist who ended up painting the high Swiss Alps and then killed himself. I expect a new mood and a new favourite artist to come along soon.
Richard Beard is shortlisted for the 2018 Rathbones Folio Prize for ‘The Day That Went Missing’ (Harvill Secker). The winner will be announced on 8th May.