Friday, May 04, 2007

Joe Blog's Interview #112 Grumpy Old Book Man

Name : Michael Allen
Age : 68 on 4 May 2007
Location : Wiltshire, England
Vocation : Writing
Philosophy : I try not to worry about things I can do nothing about.

Sum up what your blog is about.
It's about books, the technique of writing fiction, and the changing business of publishing (and printing) in the digital age.

Why are you doing your blog?
It keeps me out of the pub (bar) and (I tell my wife) it keeps my mind off other women. It certainly isn't for the money. Also, and perhaps most important, it enables me to put in front of the (mostly uninterested) world my views on book-related matters. For years it irritated me that I was thinking all these thoughts and had no means of making them public. Blogs give you a platform.

What's the funniest entry on your site?
Any humour is probably inadvertent.

What is your writing style?
I hope it is clear, but it's certainly old-fashioned and English.

What do people commonly say about your site?
Those who read it regularly seem to like it. If I had to guess why, it's because (a) I introduce them to unusual books, (b) I preach that popular fiction is just as good as literary fiction (and often better).

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your blog?
Possibly some more walking in the Wiltshire countryside, and taking photographs of same.

Why should someone visit your site?
If you are interested in writing fiction, the three years of the Grumpy Old Bookman supply a considerable amount of advice on narrative technique. If you like reading, just for the fun of it, you might find some books that you've never heard of before which may prove worthwhile.

What did you learn from your first love?
What first love? My first love affair? If so, I learnt that love is not always reciprocated. Dammit.

Are there any blogs, you enjoy reading?
I regularly read the following, in alphabetical order:
Buzz, balls & hype
Creative Commons

Literary Saloon
Madame Arcati
Maud Newton

If you could invite anyone to a dinner party who would it be and why?
Er... Pass.

What is the greatest literary work of all time?
There is no such thing as a 'great book' as generally understood in the world of literary criticism. For details of why I say that, read chapter 5 of my book 'The Truth about Writing' -- it's available free online. Here's the link:

Having said that, I do of course have a list of favourite authors. Here it is :
Margery Allingham, Richard Condon, Ian Fleming, James Joyce, Terry Pratchett, Neal Stephenson, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Thomas H. Uzzell, Kurt Vonnegut, Colin Watson.

Do you count yourself among the adults who read Harry Potter?
No. I read the first one and thought it was pretty good, but I haven't been tempted by the others.

Tell us about a good deed you have done recently.
I do get quite a lot of correspondence from people who seek my help and advice on publishing matters. If I can, I provide that help. But some people you just can't help. One man called me a c**t and a t**t because I wouldn't read his book.

Tell us a random funny story that comes to mind.
I am very bad at remembering jokes, but one that I remember from 50 years ago goes as follows. A Church of England Bishop found himself late for a train, so he ran along the platform, jumped into a carriage, and slumped into a seat, just as the train started to move. When he had settled himself, the Bishop suddenly realised that the only other occupant of the compartment (it was an old English train) was a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. The CofE man apologised for his intrusion. 'I am so sorry,' he said. 'If I hadn't been in such a rush I would have chosen another compartment, and left you to meditate in peace.' 'Oh, please don't apologise,' said the Cardinal. 'After all, we both worship the same God. You in your way, and I in His.'

What advice would you have given yourself 5 years ago?
Don't work so hard.

Any interesting travel stories?
Only the one about the Bishop.

Do you have any strong opinions you would like to debate with me?
Hell no. I am not good at debates. I say my piece, on the blog, and others can kick my shins if they wish, and I never censor the comments. But I don't do debates.

Joe Blogs : I Win!

What's the most incredible thing that ever happened to you?
Getting married.

Now it's your turn! Ask me one question, anything you like.

Any ideas as to how to make any money out of this blogging business?

Joe Blogs : Blogging business is maybe a contradition in terms. Google AdSense might be good. Check out this guy I interviewed, he traded up from a paperclip to a house!
One Red Paperclip

Your Site Address : Grumpy Old Book Man