Continuing BookBlast’s series of interviews with the founders of independent presses, we catch up with Justin David, the publisher at www.inkandescent.co.uk and author of The Pharmacist and Kissing the Lizard ; and Nathan Evans, the editor at www.inkandescent.co.uk and author of Threads and CNUT. His forthcoming novella, One Last Song, is due for imminent release.
Are (were) your parents great readers? What were the books that made you fall in love with reading?
JUSTIN: Both of my parents are avid readers. As a child, I always saw my whole family with books in their hands. I wouldn’t say they exactly read widely but the act of reading was popular. Dad was always a fan the Douglas Reeman novels about Richard Bolitho and mum was much more of a Catherine Cookson and Mills and Boon type so I wasn’t exactly inspired to go and read the Canon as it were. Though both of them now read my own work.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy reading, so it’s difficult to say when and which book made me fall in love with the act of reading. What I can say is that I became more excited about reading was when I was allowed to choose my own books at the library and then when I got to secondary school we were made to read an awful lot of apocalyptic dystopian novels like John Wyndham — The Triffids, The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos. And then later on I got into horror and science-fiction which meant Stephen King and J.G. Ballard, back then. I don’t think I realised there was such a thing as queer literature though it would’ve been helpful in those days to have been introduced writers like Jeanette Winterson and Patrick White. Truth be told, it was when I was at art school that I started reading the children’s fiction of Philip Ridley and his adult plays like The Fastest Clock in the Universe and the Pitchfork Disney. The college library was full of this stuff and I just swallowed it all up. That’s when I realised that there was so much more to be explored. Continue reading Interview | Justin David and Nathan Evans, Directors, Inkandescent | Indie Publisher of the Week
Alastair Niven is the author of four books and numerous scholarly articles on aspects of Commonwealth and post-colonial literature. A judge of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1994 and of the Man Booker Prize in 2014, he was also for twenty years Chairman of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. He was director of literature at the Arts Council and at the British Council and is a former president of English PEN. His memoirs In Glad or Sorry Hours are published by Starhaven Press.
Where were you born and brought up? Were you a happy child?
I was born in a nursing home in Edinburgh. It is now a Hilton hotel, where the judging of the Stakis Prize for Scottish Writer of the Year took place in 1998. I found myself deliberating with my fellow judges in the room in which I first saw the light of day. I had come full circle. As for a happy childhood – by and large, except when my father was on his daily rant about a misplaced towel or some crumbs on the carpet. Continue reading Interview | Alastair Niven OBE LVO | Writer, lecturer & arts administrator
Why write an autobiography? Setting aside the ‘celebrity’ memoir, it is generally undertaken in a person’s later years, usually to give insights into how experiences have shaped them as a person . . . to preserve their life story for future generations . . . to shed light on an important moment in time . . . or to set the record straight.
Alastair Niven starts his engaging memoir, In Glad or Sorry Hours, in his early childhood, ending in the present, spanning a period of social and cultural innovation. He played an influential role, contributing to shaping the evolution of culture in England for over three decades: at the Africa Centre, the Arts Council, the British Council, as President of English PEN and at Cumberland Lodge. For twenty years he was Chairman of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Discerning and generous in using his power, he clearly deeply cares about the value and wellbeing that literature and culture bring to individuals and to society. Continue reading Review | In Glad or Sorry Hours – a memoir, Alastair Niven | Starhaven Press
Michael Rosen will be kicking off this year’s bookshow on Friday 22 September, 10.30am & 1.30pm, Theatre Royal, Newcastle NE1 6BR.
Here he is presenting Jean-Francois Dumont’s book The Geese March in Step in 2015.
Continue reading Get a flavour of The Children’s Bookshow LIVE!
Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself.
Absolutely, both of them. My parents hoarded books, and they read to us every night as kids. My mother is a voracious reader of novels (although she never allows herself enough time to read them). My dad came from that great working-class tradition of self-betterment, investing in his own education throughout his life. He stock-piled political and historical texts, was a huge fan of EP Thomson and Eric Hobsbawm in particular, and loved Strachey’s Eminent Victorians so much he named one of my brothers ‘Lytton’. He left behind a library of books about Nasser and Middle East history that none of really know what to do with. Dad was more of a history and non-fiction reader, Mum more fiction. There were some writers they both agreed on though: Lawrence, Hardy, Orwell.
Also, I have to say, in the context of our new release Protest, that this book is effectively my ‘thank you’ to my parents for the extraordinary political education I got from them. I was privileged to grow up in the eye of a whole cluster of political storms. As kids we stood on pickets lines outside coalfields in North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, took day trips to Greenham, were greatly involved in the 1984 Chesterfield by-election that returned Tony Benn to parliament, marched with the country-long anti-Apartheid march that culminated in the two Free South Africa concerts; and saw a newly freed Mandela address the world at second of these. We were beyond lucky.
As well as being a thank you to them, this book is also a potted journey of protests that Mum, Dad and two grandfathers I never knew were involved in, as well as much earlier ones that I heard mentioned in hushed reverence. Mum and Dad got to know each other on an Aldermaston march; both were linked with the Hornsey sit-in, both were at the anti-Vietnam demo in Grosvenor Square, 1968 – where Dad was wrongly arrested and defended himself in court. My grandfather also marched with Jarrow marchers as they entered London in 1936, and fought against the blackshirts on Cable Street the same year. That’s the thing about this book, it’s not just me, scratch the surface and everybody has a connection to not one, but multitudes of these stories – because it’s our history, not theirs. To quote my friend, Dinesh Allirajah: “It’s political, but it’s always been personal.”
Continue reading Interview | Ra Page, Comma Press | Indie Publisher of the Week