Posted on Apr 3, 2017 in Editorial.
I have been making a living from writing for over 50 years, Indeed thinking about it, the
importance of the written word to me goes back nearly 70 years as I am a product of Urdd Gobaith Cymru – the Welsh League of Hope – and I have a group picture including me, aged 5, having won some poetry prize – and I am not the youngest in the group!
At first (after three years in the Parachute Regiment, just form filling then) I was in marketing communications and then, as an advertising agency copywriter, I wrote on a range of subjects from breakfast cereals to technology via cars, banking and travel. I also did a stint as a freelance journalist (‘Hornblower’ of the London Evening Standard, etc) before coming to book publishing, relatively late, in 1996. As Editorial Director of The Old Museum Press and half a dozen other imprints I have produced a few hundred titles and so my name appears in the front papers of some tens of thousands of books out there (we’re not talking Harry Potter here.)
Most of these books have been biography of some sort – most are personal recollections of interesting lives, some have been about companies and I have also written about the origins of golf in Sussex. I am currently working on a social history of Brighton, a book on Victorian Oxford and (as editor) a book on the Napoleonic Wars in the West Indies.
I was introduced to LifeBook through the Daily Telegraph and was immediately attracted to the concept – having trialled a similar venture (Heritage Books Limited) some years earlier. The LifeBook model is just right in my view and I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to a range of fascinating stories told by interesting folk. To my mind all people of a certain age have a story to tell and it is my privilege to be able to set that story down on paper.
My life as an advertising copywriter has informed my approach to biography. Products might have a USP and people also have it and it is the role of the biographer to capture it and to express, what I call, the Author’s “tone of voice”. This is what I bring to each LifeBook project – no two are alike.