121 with John Simmons and Jamie Jauncey

Ahead of tonight’s 26 book launch with Room 121 authors, John and Jamie, we asked them about their writing life.

What is the starting point for everything you write?

Jamie: Hearing the voice in which I’m going to write it, usually a phrase that resonates in a particular way.

John: I start with a single word. Not the same word, it’s different every time. Sometimes the word becomes a phrase. The word or the phrase gets me started. I try to make sure it’s not the expected word. If I’m writing about ‘pensions’ the word pension won’t be the best starting point because I’m looking for different angle, a different approach that will get me as a writer into that subject – and bring the reader with me. So to write about pensions, let’s start with, for example, ‘tomatoes’….

What one thing could we all do to improve our business writing?

Jamie: Think harder about what we really mean.

John: Banish any thought that you are writing for a business – either that you are writing on behalf of a business or writing to be read by a business. Ban the phrase ‘business to business’ writing along with that thought. I’m making a simple point: a business does not write to another business. A person writes to another person. Don’t ever think that you’re writing for an amorphous mass, a faceless organisation made up of groups. A business is made up of individuals – you are an individual too. Reach out through your words, make a human connection. It’s what Room 121 means.

What is your favourite word?

Jamie: This morning it’s ‘ineluctable’ – great mouthfeel.

John: ‘Blimey.’ I’m stuck with it as I put it in one of my books a decade ago. Even though I always say, when I ask this question in workshops, “don’t worry, you can change your mind after the workshop” I feel I have to be loyal to my original choice. I also wrote “Words are your children”. You have to stick by them, they need to be looked after. So ‘Blimey’ still makes me smile whenever I hear it. – that’s a good effect for a word to have.

What is your favourite poem?

Jamie: This year it’s Christopher Logue’s “Come To The Edge” with its soaring sense of possibility.

John: I wish people would read more poetry. But they get intimidated by not completely understanding a poem, not being able to translate it into a straightforward description. If they could, it wouldn’t be a poem. So I’m going to choose “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins which I quoted in The Invisible Grail. It’s a brilliant poem that’s about the validity of finding your own meaning in any poem, saying that there never is only one ‘authorised’ meaning. So I find it a liberating poem.

Tell us a secret.

Jamie: I’m writing this in a corporate training compound in Hyderabad, India.

John: I have a lovechild called Julia Buendia Allone. She’s actually an angel so I know I’m an unlikely father, but she’s alive and living in Spain. This secret was subject to a super-injunction I brought against the News of the World but now the paper has gone, I feel the truth can be told and not be sensationalised. So you can read about her here. www.darkangelspress.com

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