A new episode every two weeks.
Episode 47 | Rebecca Mead
Simon and Eleanor speak with Rebecca Mead, a longtime staff writer at the New Yorker magazine who recently returned to the UK after many years in the United States. Rebecca spoke about her early career as a fact-checker, how she moved into writing her own features, first at New York magazine and later for the New Yorker, and lifted the lid on some of the internal processes at the celebrated magazine, from the process of assigning stories to the practicalities of spending months reporting individual assignments. She also spoke about My Life in Middlemarch, her book length tribute to George Eliot's great nineteenth century novel.
Episode 46 | Mark Haddon
In this episode of the podcast Simon speaks with Mark Haddon, who won the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year award for his bestselling novel A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Haddon also teaches creative writing for the Arvon Foundation and Oxford University. He spoke to Simon about how writing and illustrating children's books provided a stepping stone to writing for adults, and about his very first (unpublished) novel, which could be published as a warning "for young men who think they're rather clever". Haddon also discussed the distance he keeps from Curious Incident, as well as his upcoming novel Porpoise.
Episode 45 | Alexa von Hirschberg
Eleanor speaks with Alexa von Hirschberg, a senior commissioning editor at Bloomsbury Publishing. Alexa began her career in 2007 at Canongate Books. In 2008 she joined Bloomsbury as an editorial assistant, working with authors including Colum McCann, Lawrence Norfolk, Margaret Atwood and William Boyd. Today her list includes Kate Tempest, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Aminatta Forna, Alexei Sayle and Laurie Penny. We spoke about how Alexa found her way through the British publishing landscape, the experience of editing Reni Eddo-Lodge and the demands of writing cover copy for Margaret Atwood.
Episode 44 | Dylan Jones
In this episode of the podcast, Simon and Eleanor speak to Dylan Jones, editor of Condé Nast's British GQ since 1999. Jones spoke about GQ's place in 2018, a year in which masculinity has never been so scrutinised, as well as the challenges he has faced as an editor, including the controversy around GQ's Johnny Depp cover. Jones also spoke about the beginning of his journalism career, starting with the first record review he sent NME and editing ID magazine, to working at the Observer and the Sunday Times.
Episode 43 | Daisy Johnson
In this episode, Simon and Eleanor speak to Daisy Johnson, who, earlier this year and at 27 years old, became the youngest person ever shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize with her novel Everything Under. We spoke to Daisy about her views on the importance of the Man Booker, whether there is rivalry between the shortlisted candidates and how fun the winning ceremony actually is. Daisy also talked about studying creative writing at master's and bachelor's level, and how useful these courses are for novelists.
Episode 42 | Ian Rankin
Simon and Eleanor speak to crime writer Ian Rankin, the multi-million copy bestseller of over thirty novels and creator of detective John Rebus. Ian's books have been translated into thirty-six languages and adapted for radio, the stage and the screen. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards, including the Diamond Dagger, the UK’s most prestigious award for crime fiction. We spoke to Ian about the changing face of crime fiction, his struggles during his early years as a writer, and subsequently the lived experience of enormous literary success.
Episode 41 | Hermione Lee
Simon speaks with Hermione Lee, the renowned biographer, known for her lives of Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather and Penelope Fitzgerald. She has chaired the judges of the Man Booker Prize, is a fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the British Academy, is published in the Guardian and regularly contributes to arts programmes on Radio 4. Until last year, Hermione was President of Wolfson College Oxford. Simon interviewed Hermione about her entry into academia, the process of writing biographies versus journalism, and the surprising misconceptions around biography as a genre.
Episode 40 | Richard Skinner
Simon and Kassia speak with Richard Skinner, director of the fiction programme at the Faber Academy, one of a number of creative writing schools established outside the traditional university context in recent years. Richard created the academy's flagship ''Writing a Novel’ six-month course in 2009 and since then has worked with hundreds of writers. Notable graduates include SJ Watson, whose debut novel Before I Go To Sleep became an international bestseller and Andreas Loizou, whose The Devil's Deal was translated into nine languages. In his own life Richard is a novelist, poet and critic. We spoke about how the Faber Academy course works, and also put to him some of the common criticisms levelled at creative writing programmes.
EPISODE 39 | Cal flyn
Kassia and Simon speak with Cal Flyn, a Scottish author and journalist. Cal worked as an investigative reporter for The Sunday Times and data reporter at the Telegraph before turning to literary non-fiction. Her first book Thicker Than Water, which dealt with colonialism in Australia and intergenerational guilt, was published in 2016 and selected by The Times as one of the best books of the year. Her second book, Islands of Abandonment, is expected in 2021.
EPISODE 38 | rory stewart
Kassia and Simon speak to Rory Stewart, the MP for Penrith and the Border and the author of Occupational Hazards and The Places in Between, a New York Times bestseller. We spoke to him about his influences and how his feelings about walking memoirs and travel literature have evolved. He also spoke in greater depth about how he came to write The Places in Between and how his relationship with his father was pivotal to his most recent book, The Marches.
EPISODE 37 | clare conville
Simon speaks to Clare Conville, the co-founder of literary agency C+W. Listed by the Observer as one of “Our top 50 players in the world of books”, Clare previously worked as an editor at Random House, before co-founding Conville & Walsh in 2000. Between them Clare’s clients have won or been nominated for major literary prizes in the UK, including the Man Booker Prize, the Orwell Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction.
EPISODE 36 | Lionel barber
Kassia and Simon chat to Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times since 2005. We discussed his early career in journalism before his move to the Financial Times. He also spoke about his plans for the newspaper, both when he first took over as editor in 2005 and how these may have changed more recently. We also discussed some recent pieces he's been involved with, including the controversial interview with Steve Bannon.
EPISODE 35 | Joanne harris
Simon and Kassia speak to Joanne Harris, author of the 1999 novel Chocolat, which was filmed a year later starring Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp, as well as numerous other best sellers including Gentleman and Players, Runelight and Peaches For Monsieur le Curé. Joanne talked about her early career as a teacher, dealing with unhelpful advice, the experience of writing a huge best-seller and subsequent movie adaptation, and her prolific, and occasionally acerbic, presence on social media.
EPISODE 34 | Niall Ferguson
Simon and Kassia speak to Niall Ferguson, the conservative historian, columnist and political commentator. Niall is the author of several books, including The Ascent of Money and The Pity of War. He talked about his career, financial pressures, the dynamics of writing as a popular historian in the world of academia and the importance of free speech.
EPISODE 33 | Louisa Joyner
Simon and Kassia speak to Louisa Joyner, editorial director at publisher Faber & Faber. Louisa moved to Faber in 2016 from Canongate, and previously worked at HarperCollins, where she published Costa Book of the Year winner Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall and commissioned Curtis Sittenfeld's re-write of Pride and Prejudice - Eligible. Louisa spoke to us about entering publishing from academia, her approach to the editorial process, where Faber fits in today's market, and where she sees the industry going in future.
EPISODE 32 | Jeremy Gavron
Kassia speaks to Jeremy Gavron, author of The Book of Israel (winner of the Encore award), A Woman on the Edge of time and Felix Culpa, a novel pieced together from lines from over eighty other books. Jeremy spoke honestly about many of the relationships that have informed his work, including those with agents and editors and also with his mother, whose story he tells in A Woman on the Edge of Time.
EPISODE 31 | Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Simon and Kassia speak to Lucy Hughes-Hallett, author of The Pike, a biography of Italian rake Gabriele d'Annunzio, which won all three of the UK's most prestigious prizes for non-fiction for 2013 - The Duff Cooper Prize, the Samuel Johnson Prize, and the Costa Biography of the Year award. Lucy spoke to us about the rhythms of her work, her relationship with agents and publishers, and her literary treatment of heroism.
EPISODE 30 | JONATHAN SHAININ
Kassia and Simon speak to Jonathan Shainin, who runs the Long Read section of the Guardian. He spoke to us about his nomadic career, which took him from New York (and the New Yorker), to Abu Dhabi, India, and back to New York, before coming to London to set up the Long Read in 2014. Jonathan discusses the differences between US and UK editing styles, where the Long Read fits into the wider Guardian ecosystem, and how venturing abroad can fit into the career of an editor as well as a writer.
EPISODE 29 | julia kelly
Kassia and Simon speak to romance novelist Julia Kelly about her portion of the literary universe - romance fiction is a billion-dollar industry. Julia talked to us about how she came to write her first books, the importance of marketing and social media for romance writers, the pros and cons of self-publishing in this genre, and why the happy ending remains non-negotiable. She also discussed the impact of the #metoo movement on the world of romance.
EPISODE 28 | Peter Moffat
Kassia and Simon interview screenwriter and playwright Peter Moffat, whose work includes the series Cambridge Spies, Criminal Justice - later the basis of HBO's The Night of - and Silk, as well as the TV films Hawking and Einstein & Eddington. Peter spoke about moving from his early career as a lawyer into writing, the distinctions between British and American approaches to producing TV drama, and the role of both intensive research and muzak-free coffee shops in his writing routine.
EPISODE 27 | Helen lewis
Kassia and Simon interview Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman. She spoke to us about what her current role entails, the training she received as a sub-editor at the Daily Mail (and what it was like to work there). Helen candidly discussed the importance of networking, feminism, sub-editing and longform journalism. She also revealed a brilliant tip for powering through writers' block and discussed a couple of the pieces written under her own byline.
EPISODE 26 | Max hastings
In this episode, Simon speaks to Max Hastings, the best-selling military historian and erstwhile foreign correspondent and newspaper editor. They discussed Max's early career - how 1960s and 70s Fleet Street really was, without the benefit of rose-tinted spectacles - his experiences in the Falklands in 1982, the development of his book writing, from early ventures to his doorstopper World War Two histories, and the evolution of military history as a genre.
EPISODE 25 | Hannah Westland
Kassia and Simon speak to Hannah Westland, the publisher at Serpent's Tail, an independent imprint that published Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin and Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent. She spoke to us about her early career — she started out as a literary agent — some of the projects she's currently working on and the role of independent firms in the publishing marketplace.
EPISODE 24 | Laura palmer
Simon speaks to Laura Palmer, publishing director for fiction at Head of Zeus, an independent publishing house in London. Laura co-founded Head of Zeus in 2012, having started her career at Quercus Books, and she also worked at Corvus, the commercial fiction imprint of Atlantic Books. We spoke about what 'commercial fiction' precisely means, whether 'women's fiction' is still a useful label, best practice for aspirant writers and editors, and whether the Kindle has boosted public appetite for erotica.
EPISODE 23 | BEN JUDAH
In this episode we interview Ben Judah, journalist and author. His first book, Fragile Empire, is a study of Russia and Vladimir Putin. His second, This Is London, was a Sunday Times Top 50 bestseller and longlisted for the Ballie Gifford Prize. He told us about how he got into writing, the influence on his work of Polish reportage styles and why he's decided to take a little break from Twitter. (We were on Skype, so please excuse the odd rough patch.)
EPISODE 22 | PATRICK KINGSLEY
In this episode Kassia and Simon interview Patrick Kingsley, a New York Times correspondent and former migration and the Middle East correspondent for The Guardian. We spoke about how foreign correspondency works, Patrick's motivation to go abroad, his earlier experiences of student journalism and how he has combined reporting and book writing.
EPISODE 21 | NIKESH SHUKLA
In this episode Kassia interviews Nikesh Shukla, a TV and fiction writer. We spoke about his novels Coconut Unlimited and Meatspace, and how he came to edit The Good Immigrant, the collection of essays about race and immigration and what it means to be a model "good immigrant" in the UK.
EPISODE 20 | ANTONY BEEVOR
Kassia and Simon speak to Antony Beevor, a military historian and author of Stalingrad. We discussed Antony's early move from the army to writing, the experience of an unexpected smash, the techniques he uses to marshal vast quantities of material, and his creative collaboration with his wife Artemis Cooper, who is also a celebrated writer.
EPISODE 19 | SAM KNIGHT
Simon interviews Sam Knight, a British writer who works mainly for the Guardian and the New Yorker and specialises in longform pieces on unusual topics, such as the UK sandwich industry and the psychology of a stalker. They discuss his entry into journalism, his love of classic American nonfiction and how he puts features together.
EPISODE 18 | Joelle owusu
Kassia speaks to Joelle Owusu, an editor at Unbound, the innovative publishing company that aims to use crowd-funding to shake up the way books are produced, paid for and disseminated. Joelle explained how Unbound's business model works, how it compares to traditional publishing, and how they aim to give voice to writers that have traditionally faced a sceptical response from the industry. She also discussed her own career, which has seen her make an unlikely move from petroleum geology to editorial.
EPISODE 17 | Candice carty-williams
Kassia and Simon interview Candice Carty-Williams, senior marketing executive at Vintage Books. She spoke to us about the nuts and bolts of marketing a book and the role data play. She also discussed how she wrote her debut novel "Queenie", which was acquired by Orion earlier this year for a six-figure sum and will be published in 2019.
EPISODE 16 | nick summers
Kassia and Simon speak to Nick Summers, a features editor for Bloomberg Businessweek, who at time of recording was based in London but is now in New York. Nick talked us through his commissioning and editing process and spoke about some fascinating pieces he's worked on recently, including one on an Wall Street informant who double-crossed the FBI and another that looked into exactly what it is that IBM does (and whether it's any good at it).
EPISODE 15 | OLIVER FRANKLIN-WALLIS
Simon interviews Oliver Franklin-Wallis, commissioning editor at British Wired. Oliver is passionate about longform journalism and spends his days editing — and writing — longform features for the magazine. In this episode, he discusses his background and entry to journalism, dos and don'ts of the pitching process and stories about the future of death, the Ebola crisis and the 'Hyperloop.'
EPISODE 14 | Kiran millwood hargrave
Kassia and Simon interview Kiran Millwood Hargrave, a children's novelist, poet and playwright. Her first novel, 'The Girl of Ink and Stars', won the 2017 Waterstones children's book prize; her second, written in two weeks, is 'The Island at the End of Everything'. In this episode, she revealed what motivates her to write, her previous struggles with her mental health, and how she manages her finances.
EPISODE 13 | Tom standage
Kassia and Simon interview Tom Standage, deputy editor of The Economist. They spoke about Tom's long career at the publication, why there is a no-bylines policy and some of The Economist's newer projects, such as a virtual-reality reconstruction of the Mosul Museum in Iraq, containing artefacts destroyed by Islamic State in 2015.
EPISODE 12 | PATRICK WALSH
A Q&A with literary agent Patrick Walsh, who runs PEW Literary in London and formerly co-founded Conville & Walsh. Holed up in his office with his adorable but destructive puppy, they discuss the complexities journalists can face moving into book writing, the art of the nonfiction proposal, the expansion of the Chinese market and the thrill of a negotiating a book deal.
EPISODE 11 | TOM JENNINGS
Simon interviews Tom Jennings, the director of the Logan Nonfiction Programme at the Carey Institute for Global Good in the US. They spoke about Tom's career and the importance for writers of grants and fellowships like the one organised by the Carey Institute.
EPISODE 10 | AlICE FISHBURN
A Q&A with the editor of the FT Weekend Magazine. Before joining the Financial Times in 2010, she worked for The Times on the comment desk, in the newsroom and on the late, lamented Eureka magazine. She started her career at Newsweek.
EPISODE 9 | sara baume
Before writing her first novel Sara studied fine art and longed to be a sculptor. On the publication of her second book, 'A Line Made By Walking', Sara spoke to us candidly about switching careers, what makes her write, how she got her first book deal and the financial realities of being a full-time novelist.
EPISODE 8 | stig abell
A live Q&A with the editor of the TLS and former managing editor of The Sun. Stig has also reviewed books for The Spectator and ran the Press Complaints Commission. We discussed his career, his plans for the TLS, the impact of Facebook on print media and why he remains optimistic about its future.
EPISODE 7 | SHARMAINE LOVEGROVE
Sharmaine Lovegrove has worked across the publishing industry: as a bookseller in Berlin, as the literary editor of Elle magazine and as a scout for the film and TV industry. We spoke to her just before she began the next chapter, this time as the publisher for a new, inclusive imprint from Little, Brown called Dialogue Books.
EPISODE 6 | nicola solomon
As the chief executive of the Society of Authors, Nicola specialises in protecting authors' interests in negotiations and disputes with agents and publishers. She spoke to Always Take Notes about how the publishing industry has changed, freedom of expression and how to get a fair book contract.
EPISODE 5 | PETER FRANKOPAN
Peter Frankopan is a historian at Oxford University and director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research. His latest book 'The Silk Roads : A New History of the World' has been a No 1 bestseller all over the world, topping the non fiction charts in India, Pakistan, China and the UK where it remained in the Top 10 for 10 months.
EPISODE 4 | giles wilson
Giles Wilson is creative director of digital content studio Harpoon Productions and organiser of Well Told, the UK's first conference in narrative and longform journalism, taking place in London at the end of May. He was the founding editor of the BBC News Magazine and as features editor for the BBC led its move into immersive longform storytelling.
EPISODE 3 | LAURA BARBER
Our live Q&A with Laura Barber, publishing director at Portobello Books and editorial director at Granta. We discussed the similarities and distinctions between the two imprints she works on, how books are bought and commissioned, and the kinds of authors and books that she finds exciting.
EPISODE 2 | Imogen pelham
After spending five years with Aitken Alexander, Imogen Pelham is now a literary agent at Marjacq where she represents both literary fiction and non-fiction. We spoke to her about her career, the role of literary agents in the publishing industry and the relationship between agents and the authors they represent.
In the first episode of Always Take Notes, Simon and Kassia interview Jonathan Beckman, the deputy editor of 1843, in front of a live audience in London. Jonathan spoke to us about the publication of his award-winning book, 'How to Ruin a Queen', and explained the commissioning and editing process at 1843, the lifestyle and culture magazine from The Economist. We also discuss his work at the Literary Review, where he ran the Bad Sex Awards – indeed that's how Kassia first met him…