Working with Words: Richard Glover

Richard Glover is a columnist, broadcaster and author of more than a dozen books - most recently Flesh Wounds, described as 'a comic romp for anyone whose parents were not what they ordered'. He also presents a comedy show, Thank God It's Friday, on ABC local radio. He told us all about his heroes in the field of comic writing and revealed that he's pretty big in Poland.

What was the first piece of writing you had published? 

School newspaper at age 11 (paper banned, all copies collected by the authorities, the lot burned in front of me by the principal.)

What’s the best part of your job?

The best thing about writing is the feeling you’ve managed to pin the butterfly to the wall, by which I mean, captured a moment or a feeling or a piece of human comedy in all its complexity and colour.

What’s the worst part of your job?

Frustration about my own lack of ability.

What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far?

The publication of [this year's memoir] Flesh Wounds. I hope it has some of the humour of my previous work, but with a deeper undertow.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing?

That writing is a craft for people who find writing hard. In other words, if it comes too easy you probably haven’t dug deeply enough.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself ?

You’d be surprised how even the wildest of confessions will be greeted with a snort of recognition by many thousands of seemingly normal people.

So far I’ve found it impossible to get published in the UK, despite a book that’s largely set there. On the other hand, I’ve been quite a hit in Poland. (Which just proves how the Poles are great judges of writing).

If you weren’t writing, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

I think my compulsion would make me write whatever else I was doing.

There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view?

I certainly think you can train yourself through writing – hopefully with a friend or a teacher or an editor giving feedback. Writers often talk about the sensation of a muse coming to provide guidance at some critical moment, which is really just your writing muscles, having been trained up over years, coming to your aid.

Richard Glover's book, Flesh Wounds

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?

The old Mark Twain advice is pretty good: 'bottom to chair'. Also not to be worried about exploring quite odd things about your own psyche or that of others. You’d be surprised how even the wildest of confessions will be greeted with a snort of recognition by many thousands of seemingly normal people.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

I mainly buy the real thing in a bookshop, but I also enjoy allowing a mania to take hold in which I read an author’s whole backlist in a fever of consumption – for me, most recently, it was the great Michael Frayn binge of March. And, for that, the instant delivery of an ebook is pretty useful.

If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?

I’d like to talk about nature with Levin from Anna Karenina.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

Good comic writing often lulls the reader into thinking the sentence is headed in one direction, before delivering a sudden switch of direction, hopefully tumbling the reader into laughter. I won’t claim to be adept at the trick myself, but I have certainly marinated myself in the work of people who are: PG Wodehouse, Alan Coren, Bill Bryson, Tina Fey and so on.

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