Name Julian Bell
Where are you from
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I studied English Literature at Cambridge University and have worked as a teacher in secondary schools for nearly 30 years. I live in London with my wife and 11 year old daughter whom we adopted from China.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My latest news is that I have just published my first novel, Whatever You Say, Say Nothing! Available from Amazon
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started after taking an Arvon course in 1990. For a long time I only wrote poetry, with some success. Then in 2007 I abruptly switched to prose – it seemed like the right time.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think when I began the discipline of writing every day, which was about 15 years ago.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Dublin! It is a wonderful, fascinating city, with a wonderful, fascinating history. I’ve taken school trips there for many years and have got to know it well.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I try to make it pacy, to keep the pages turning, while still making the writing of good quality. I can’t read bad writing, no matter how strong the plot – it’s like being made to eat rotten food.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It’s originally advice to IRA volunteers if captured and interrogated, but it also captures a particularly Irish sense of not speaking about difficult subjects; everyone knows what’s going on, but no one admits it.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
As Sam Goldwyn said, ‘If you want to send a message, call Western Union.’ I prefer Tolstoy: ‘The job of the artist is not to provide the right answers but to ask the right questions.’
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
I’ve worked very hard on the research to make it as authentic as possible, though I wasn’t in Dublin in 1920 so I can only hope I’ve got it right!
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not directly. I suppose growing up in London in the 1970s with the IRA bombing campaign going on out the Irish experience in my mind, though it’s only since researching the background that I’ve realised that there are two sides to that conflict. That is something I would like people to take away from the book. The third part of the trilogy, which I’m working on at the moment, is set in 1974 and does have quite a lot of autobiography.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Writers I admire include John Le Carre and William Boyd. As a mentor, I suppose my father, who was the original working class scholarship boy and taught me to value education for its own sake, something that has stayed with me. I’m sad he hasn’t lived to see me publish my first novel.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Charles Moore’s biography of Margaret Thatcher. I’m slightly addicted to political biographies. Though I have strong political opinions (very different from Margaret Thatcher’s!) I have no wish to be involved in politics; however, I find the twists and turns of political intrigue, and the human motivations behind it, endlessly fascinating.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Sarah Sparx (The House on the Rue Obscure) and Tessa Arlen (Death of a Dishonourable Gentleman) are two to watch.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Working on the third in the trilogy, set in 1974. Revisiting my childhood – sometimes fascinating, sometimes traumatic!
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Godolphin and Latymer, the school I work at.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not till it reliably pays me as much as teaching!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. But my readers may disagree.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My father (see above)
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
You can find the first chapter at my Facebook page. www.facebook.com/WhateverYouSaySayNothingNovel
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I’m quite a fluent writer usually, so I have to work hard at making myself edit.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
John Le Carre – he combines page turning thrills with really acute psychological insight.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not yet – but who knows!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My very talented niece Hafsa Bell
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Rewriting. But this is also the most important part.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That the Irish conflict was much more complicated than it is usually presented.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
I’ll quote Ernest Hemingway: ‘The art of writing is the application of the writer’s bottom to the chair.’ Also Jodi Picoult: ‘You can edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.’
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
If you like my book, tell other people (and post a review). If you don’t like it, tell me, so I can make the next one better.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
First book I read in one day was Animal Farm
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh: I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue on BBC Radio 4.
Cry: It’s a Wonderful Life – we watch it every Christmas
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Michael Collins – he’s an important character in my book, and he would have been great fun down the pub.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Loving, loved, missed.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Cycling helps clear the head and keep the body parts moving. I’m learning to kayak and am very bad at it, which is very good for me.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I tend to think of TV as time taken away from reading. But I enjoy The West Wing and the cricket highlights.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Bach’s Mass in B Minor
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
What I do now, which is teaching. Fortunately I love my day job.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Also find me on Twitter @jbellauthor