Without a doubt Terry Pratchett was my favourite author , although I couldn’t possibly pick out a favourite book from his enormous library of works.
Do you have a treasured book from your childhood? If yes, what is it?
It's probably my signed copy of Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures. The whole experience of meeting the author and listening to him give a talk beforehand is one I still remember 15 years later. I was so impressed by it that it formed the basis of a presentation I delivered to my English class at school the following week.
What is your happiest reading memory?
Probably discovering and reading The Princess Bride. It was a book I'd picked up as a random tip from a friend on the internet. It was a fantastic story and made me genuinely laugh out loud so many times while I was reading it. It’s probably also one of the books I read in the shortest time – the curse of a good book…
What was the first book you remember reading independently and really enjoying?
Michael Crichton’s The Lost World. I had recently seen the film of Jurassic Park in the cinema and I wanted to know what happened next!
How important is reading in your life now?
It’s still quite important to me. I mostly like to pick out unusual authors that I’ve not read before, but I wish I had more time to read. Having a kindle to sneakily hide on your desk at work is certainly a blessing in those dull moments, though.
Is there a fictional world you would love to visit or live in?
Any fantasy world dominated by wizards and warlocks who govern by strength of mind and will alone. If I'm honest, I always feel short-changed that the world doesn’t operate in such black and white terms in reality! I am however really impressed by the world in the Witcher short stories, written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, for the way it subverted some of the common fantasy stereotypes and relished a darker approach to the world of magic
Do you think the young of today read enough, and if not, how might you try to encourage them to read more?
Absolutely not. I think the main problem is the lack of variety in what is being read (if anything) by young people today, but at the same time there’s no way to ‘make’ people read; they either have to want to broaden their horizons or not. Perhaps if the heroes of modern life didn’t make such a big deal out of not being academic or studying (the likes of sports ‘stars’ and so on) it might be easier to convince young people to engage in more intellectual pursuits (although merely suggesting that reading is in the domain of the intellectual is depressing to me!)
Do you have a favourite book or author as an adult? If so, who/why and have you read it more than once?
Neal Stephenson is definitely one of my favourite authors as an adult, now that I’ve read everything in Terry Pratchett’s back catalogue. I can’t say I’ve ever read any book twice, though – there’s always too many more novels to read! What I love about Neal Stephenson is his elaborate, slower style of prose that reminds me of older writing. I enjoy more literary, flowing prose that has more in common with poetry than the modern style of writing that's intent on imparting information as soon as possible.
What are you currently reading and in what format (hardback, paperback, e-book)?
Book 2 of the Mongoliad, which is an historical fiction e-book written by 7 different authors. The aim is to tell the story of the fall of the Mongol empire in Europe from a split perspective of various Mongol courtiers and European Christian knights.
Do you think e-books will ever totally replace printed books?
To be honest, no. There will always be people who want to collect books almost as works of art in themselves, and I think the likes of graphic novels, manuals and technical textbooks will often be more convenient in book format than on devices like kindles. For the consumer market though, I think it’s likely that e-books will only continue to grow as a market… for as long as people still read, that is.
Do you think books transfer to films well? What is your favourite/worst book-to-film transfer?
Not really. There are a few books that really work as films – The Princess Bride is one such example – but having someone else do the thinking for you really reduces the enjoyment I can get out of a film if I’ve already read the associated novel.
Do you think there is anything new and exciting in modern fiction, or has it "all been said before"?
There are definitely new works in fiction but they are becoming increasingly esoteric in their approach. My favourite example is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski which layers 3 different narrative levels together into one cohesive piece. At its basic it’s easily dismissed as a haunted house/horror story, but the way that story is told is original and intensely clever. On the other hand, I don’t think written fiction will push boundaries very easily as long as it is so mainstream. Comicbooks and graphic novels are on the fringe of the medium (and largely dismissed by the mainstream) which allows them to be very ‘modern’ and cutting edge. Since the vast majority of authors don’t enjoy the luxury of brand loyalty they tend to stray away from being overly quirky or unusual in case prospective readers are put off.
Thanks Alex for making time in your busy schedule to answer my questions about your reading likes and dislikes and providing such thought-provoking answers.
If you're an avid reader and would like to feature in my Readers Writes spot, I'd love to hear from you. Just drop me an email and I'll send you my list of questions - how many and which ones you choose to answer is entirely up to you!