A weekend at the Oxford Literary Festival
On Saturday I went to watch three publishing giants talk on the future of the industry. It was both interesting and inspirational. The three men were Nigel Newton, head of Bloomsbury publishing, who on the advice of his eight year-old daughter bought the rights to J.K .Rowling’s Harry Potter. The second was Tim Waterstone who started Waterstone’s in 1982 with his £6000 redundancy packet from W H Smith, and who not only sold out to Smiths, but finally in 1998 joined forces with HMV Media Group to buy them back.
The third publisher was the remarkable Anthony Cheetham, the founder of Orion and Century, afterwards chairman and chief executive of Random House and co founder of Quercus the publishing house that bought the worldwide rights to the Millennium trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson. Anthony Cheetham has made several fortunes but has now founded his latest publishing house, Head of Zeus. He is my publisher and I happen to be biased, but I truly believe his latest project is not because of financial gain, but because of a genuine passion for publishing and the desire to help new authors find a window for their work. Each speaker gave an impassioned and amusing talk concluding that the book is as strong as ever. It has survived for several thousand years and will continue to amuse, teach and enthral for centuries to come.
On Sunday it was my turn to be interviewed. The charming BBC journalist Gwenan Edwards interviewed me in Festival Room 2, in Christchurch College. The moment the door closed and the microphones were turned on, the adrenalin kicked in, and I can honestly say I enjoyed every moment. The questions were interesting, and I believe I answered them without straying too far from the point. “Mummy you must always answer the question.” The words of my daughter Clemmie rang in my ears. The biggest and happiest surprise was the arrival of various nieces and nephews who were on school half term. Their support was a huge added bonus.
Afterwards I signed lots of books and when an aspiring novelist rang me the following day wanting advice, I was able to give it gladly. In this business a helping hand is a great asset and I have had many. I am so happy to be able to give just a little bit back.