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Celebrity Interviews

Celebrity Interviews

Q&A with Angus Jackson – Director of King Lear

By Admin

Here at World of Books, we love both the written and spoken word in equal measure. This is why we were delighted to get involved with the Chichester Festival Theatre and sponsor the upcoming production of King Lear.

With the first performance just a week away, we talked to director Angus Jackson about his work at the Theatre and the pressures of working on a Shakespearean classic.

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us today. We’re proud to be sponsoring King Lear and are very much looking forward to seeing it at the Minerva Theatre. But let’s get started…

Sure thing

Is it daunting taking on a Shakespeare production, particularly one as well-loved as King Lear?

Yes certainly, but you just have to tell the story. That can involve all sorts of things – updating or not, cutting the text and certainly a thousand decisions about casting, design and tone but as long as you keep in mind once upon a time there was an old king…. then you can climb the mountain.

Are you in favour of modern re-tellings or do you prefer to stick to the original script and directions?

Shakespeare famously wrote very few directions so you have to mine the text for clues, and you are very rarely in the position of defying an instruction. I like a modern Shakespeare myself if it all adds up, but the rules of the world have to be the rules of the world of the play for me. I’m not doing this one contemporary but there have recently been modern Lears.

For you, what is it that makes Shakespeare’s plays so special and why do they endure when many others do not?

Plot, character, stakes, economy and beauty of thought, I could go on forever. But Lear is a rollercoaster ride with profound insights into human life along the way.

You’ve got a great script (of course) and a stellar cast, including multi-award-winning actor Frank Langella as the eponymous lead, so as a director does this add pressure or make it all the more enjoyable?

Having great actors is a huge pleasure in the rehearsal room, it gives you opportunities as well as responsibilities. But it does set you on a very visible playing field.

Is there one play, Shakespeare or otherwise, that you would love to direct (or direct again)?

Coriolanus. I like plays about leadership and I like high stakes plays. The play I’d like to direct again is The Father by Strindberg, it’s funny and then hugely exciting.

The theatre is well known for being full of superstitions, do you have any of your own?

I am familiar with lots of them, whistling backstage and the scottish play and all that. The one I like to observe is not rehearsing the curtain call before the dress rehearsal.

This summer you directed the political comedy ‘If Only’, as well as ‘Neville’s Island’ and will be taking on ‘King Lear’ in October; how challenging is it to do multiple productions, in different genres with new scripts and actors in such a short period of time?

Very challenging. If Only was rewritten several times a week, Neville’s was huge and ran straight into Lear. It’s fun though. But really getting in to more than one show in the same day, if maybe you have a design meeting for Lear on a rehearsal day for Neville is very hard, like turning a huge ship around.

What makes working at the Chichester Festival Theatre so special?

The thrust spaces mean the relationship to the audience is remarkable. They can’t hide and neither can you. In this regime, Jonathan and Alan, the team is of an extraordinarily high standard and very good humoured. And it’s a nice place to work if you are a parent.

Are you looking forward to working in the newly renovated theatre next year and how has the Theatre in the Park (venue for Neville’s Island) been as an alternative this summer?

Yes, it’s going to be luxurious and a big event. Well, the Theatre in the Park was a gorgeous thing, we flooded the place and put in huge trees. Event theatre.

You have directed a number of plays based on books and adapted for theatre, including the hugely successful Goodnight Mister Tom (adapted by David Wood), how does it compare to a script that was written specifically for the stage – and do audiences react differently?

The structure is different. In a novel someone might go of course the previous year he had been at home and so on, but in the theatre you don’t jump around you try to build a scene that the audience can get into. David Wood is the master of the adaptation. Do the audiences react differently? No I don’t think so, though you often get more theatrical opportunities in Goodnight Mr Tom (puppet dog, ensemble dream scenes) because the writer wasn’t thinking “how are they going to do that?”

Is there a book that you would love to see adapted for the stage that hasn’t already been done?

Well probably everything has been done in one way or another. Ok yes, “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers. But it would be very very, very difficult.

Finally, if you could only recommend one book, which would it be and why?

23 tales by Tolstoy because I injured myself when I was travelling years ago and wasn’t allowed to move for a month. I stayed in the middle east and it was the only book I could find to read. It has all the profound thought of Tolstoy and character detail but in short stories.
Thank you again for taking time to talk to us and best of luck with the production of King Lear.

my pleasure. xA

King Lear starts on October 31st at the Minerva Theatre. Visit the Chichester Festival Theatre website for more information and booking details.

Come back and see us soon for details on a new Shakespearean promotion and competition.

Author Interviews, Celebrity Interviews

So you think you can cook? Mary Berry talks to World of Books about her newest cookbook, her cake advice, and being a judge on ‘The Great British Bake-off’

By Admin

Mary Berry is a British cookery writer, TV cook and Aga expert. From an early age Mary knew she wanted to pursue a career in food having learnt the art of baking from her mother. At the young age of 18 she trained at the Bath College of Home Economics, followed by a Paris Cordon Bleu course, and finally qualified as a teacher. In the 1960’s Mary became Cookery Editor of the magazine Housewife and later she wrote for Ideal Home Magazine. Mary’s first cookery book was released in 1966 – The Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook. 46 years after this first book, Mary has published over 70 more cookery books, selling over five million copies around the world. In January 2004, Mary was voted Top 3 by BBC Good Food for the category “Most Reliable Celebrity Cook Books”, alongside Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith. Throughout the years, Mary has established her style as “family food”, with practical healthy recipes containing lots of fresh ingredients. Appearing on numerous TV and Radio programmes, she has shared her culinary secrets with the nation, initially appearing on Judith Chalmers’ Afternoon Plus show in the 1970s. Since then Mary has become a household name, hosting seven cookery series for Thames Television as well as several series for the BBC including Mary Berry at Home and Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cakes. Today Mary continues to be a contributor for Radio and TV programmes. Mary’s latest book, Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook, was released on 1st February 2012.

Mary Berry

Mary Berry

Hi Mary,

Thank you for letting us interview you Mary, you’re definitely the Queen of cooking, so we’re thrilled!

Q: What do you regard as your guilty comfort food?

Toast and marmalade at times when it is not breakfast !

Q: What’s the average day in the life of Mary Berry?

– Well it can vary but when I am at home and not filming I get up early and have breakfast with my husband. I go and feed our ducks who are waiting for their breakfast and Paul takes our black Labrador Millie for a walk. Lucy Young my assistant arrives and we sit and go through emails and the plan for the day. We have recipes to test for books or TV and we set too and methodically test them. We discuss new ideas and the plan of the diary and carefully reply to emails from publishers, companies, charities and the public. When I am filming I am up at 5am and home about 7pm so this is different again.

Q: As we’ve already mentioned, your newest cookery book, ‘Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook’, was released on 1st February this year. This book is actually a revised version of ‘The Complete Cookbook but has been modernised and updated with 30 new recipes from large family meals to intimate dinner parties. The idea of the book is to “give you inspiration every time”. With the dozens of cookery books you’ve now written Mary, how easy do you find it coming up with new and fresh ideas?

– Luckily we get new ingredients all the time and they become popular and fashionable, fennel, red chard, new salad leaves. I am now revisiting classic recipes from the 70’s. My assistants Lucy and Lucinda are young and give me new ideas like bowl food, risottos, wraps etc.

Q: We’ve found out that your personal favourite cake to make is a ginger treacle tray bake (sounds delicious we must say). Is this your favourite cake to make due to it’s simplicity when making it, or due to the finished cake itself? What has been the hardest cake you’ve made?

Battenburg - Can be a challenge!

Battenburg – Can be a challenge!

– To be honest I love eating it, but it is simple to make too which means it can be made in a flash if family or friends arrive. Battenburg cake is a challenge but we have worked hard to make it easy to make without using a special tin.

Q: Now a lot of World of Books customers have come across your first cookery book, The Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook which was published in 1966. Since then you’ve written loads more cook books ranging from quick and easy recipes for people on the go in ‘Real Food Fast’ (2007), to cakes and baking in ‘My Kitchen Table: 100 Cakes and Bakes’. With over 60 years experience in cooking, how would you say it has changed and evolved over the years?

– I think it’s the ingredients – they are more readily available and basic ingredients are more prepared. In the 1960s chicken breasts did not exist – you had to buy a chicken, cut it in 4 and use the breasts, legs, wings and drumsticks. We use less fat nowadays too, less sugar and non stick pans. The choice of dairy has changed too, with crème fraiche, mascarpone, and lots of different creams available, which means icings for cakes do not always need to be the same.

Q: In 1994 you and your daughter Annabel launched your Original Family Recipe Salad Dressing enterprise. Although the products were originally sold at your Aga Workshop cookery school, they proved such a success that you both set about selling “top quality dressings and sauces, using the very best ingredients” nationwide. The products are GM free, contain free-range eggs, have no artificial flavourings or preservatives, and all dressings (except the Caesar Dressing) are 100% vegetarian (sounds good to us!) Now the product range is the UK’s leading provider of gourmet salad dressings and sauces, and is also sold in Ireland and Germany. What was yours and your daughter’s inspiration for these dressings? And have you been surprised at their success?

The salad dressing was a family recipe which everyone thought was special whenever I made it at home. Annabel suggested one day that we bottle and sell it and this is where it all started. I used to make a Mustard dressing at home too, and this soon was bottled followed by our other flavours and we now have dressings, sauces and chutneys.

Q: If you could go back and give your 16-year old self any words of advice, what would they be?

– Choose a vocation that you enjoy and put your all into it. Get all the experience you can and work hard – you will feel good about yourself and the rewards will come.

Q: For the past two years you have been a judge on BBC2’s ‘The Great British Bake Off’. How much fun is this to be a part of?

– I just love it ! The bakers are all amateur and do it for love of baking, and the filming is great fun. I have learnt new things from them and with the internet ingredients are available to everyone.

The Great British Bake Off

The Great British Bake Off

Q: So, we’ll admit, some of the cakes made by us here at World of Books have often been disasters, with soggy sponges and crumbly messes to tell the tale! What are your top three bits of advice for any aspiring (or just trying!) bakers out there?

– Follow a good recipe, weigh accurately and keep it simple if you are new to baking. Remember all ovens vary, and most of all enjoy it.

Q: And finally, World of Books is dedicated to providing good-quality second-hand books to the public. In a world with an ever-growing digital media base, and increasing environmental concerns, do you believe in the importance of giving each physical book the chance of a new home?

Oh yes, I love the touch of a book and the passing through the family generations and, as you say, recycling them. Hopefully there is a place for both books and ebooks in the future.

Thank you for a lovely interview Mary! And to our World of Books customers, if this has got your taste-buds tingling then make sure you grab a copy of Mary’s newest cookbook ‘Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook‘, it comes thoroughly recommended by us. And interested in trying out some of Mary’s old recipes? Why not visit the World of Books site today and see what we have available?

Author Interviews, Celebrity Interviews

World of Books talks to Stewart Lee about his life, his career, and his new stand up tour

Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee

By Admin

Born in Wellington, Shropshire, Stewart Lee began stand-up at the age of 20 in 1988, winning the Hackney Empire new act of the year award in 1990. In the 90’s he contributed to various BBC Radio comedy shows, including Fist of Fun and On The Hour, with Steve Coogan and Chris Morris, performed as a stand-up almost nightly on the London circuit, and co-created four series for BBC2 with Richard Herring. Stewart directed the Mighty Boosh’s breakthrough Edinburgh show, Arctic Boosh (1999), Simon Munnery’s Golden Rose Of Montreux nominated BBC2 show, Attention Scum, (2000), and a revival of Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio (Underbelly 2007). Stewart’s subsequent three stand-up shows, 2004’s Stand-Up Comedian, 2005’s 90’s Comedian and 2007’s 41st Best Stand-Up Ever, gradually built his live audience and contributed to BBC2’s decision to commission his 2009 series, Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. This was followed by a new stand-up show, If Your Prefer A Milder Comedian Please Ask For One (2009), and a new series of Comedy Vehicle hit our screens last year. Stewart is also the author of a novel, The Perfect Fool, the stand-up treatise How I Escaped My Certain Fate, and the theatre pieces Pea Green Boat, What Would Judas Do?Johnson and Boswell, Late But Live, and Interiors. Stewart is a patron of the arts radio station Resonance 104.4 FM, and has written on music for The Sunday Times, The Wire, Bucketful Of Brains, and Mojo.

Hi Stewart,

Thank you for agreeing to talk to us today, as huge fans of yours here at World of Books, it’s a real treat.

Q: So, a nice easy one to start off with! Who have been the biggest influences on your career?

– Ted Chippington, The Fall – free jazz types. But also people I know – Simon Munnery, Richard Herring, Richard Thomas.

Q: In the 90s you performed with Richard Herring on Fist of Fun and This Morning With Richard Not Judy. Have you ever considered reforming the partnership?

– We have done 3 10 min sets live since 1998. That was the last time we properly performed live or for charity gigs, but I don’t want to do it again at any length until I am very old.

Q: Your stand up has become renowned for vitriolic tirades against fellow comedians. Has this ever led to awkward situations?

 There was an awkwardness backstage at a charity show I did with Russell Howard, but he had only heard about the bit I do about him, not seen it. If he’d seen it I am sure he’d have got it. I don’t meet many of the comics I do jokes about as they are from the panel show/roadshow circuit so I never see them.

Q: What is a typical day in the life of Stewart Lee?

– Get up 6.30. Take kids to school. Try and write and deal with work such as this. Leave for gig. Do gig. Get home after midnight.

Q: Now, this has got to be asked, did you laugh when Richard Herring changed your name to Stewart Wee in the phone book when he worked for BT in the late 80s?

 I laughed after hanging up on an orthopaedic bed salesman who rang up for a Mr. Wee – I told him I couldn’t have one of his beds because I was incontinent.

Q: Has becoming a father changed your stand up approach in any way?

 You have to have a more optimistic approach to life and the future because kids make you a stakeholder in the world, so yes.

Carpet Remnant World

Carpet Remnant World

Q: During your ‘Carpet Remnant World’ show you read out a series of hateful messages that have been written on forums about you and your stand up. Is it weird for you to read such personal and offensive criticism?

 I’ve got used to it. I’ve done it a hundred times now.

Q: If you could give any advice to aspiring comedians, what would it be?

 Do something else. Withdrawal of arts funding, increasing conservatism of the comedy scene and TV, prohobitive expense of Edinburgh fringe – all these mean that if you’ve got creative ideas and a voice you probably need to find some other medium to do them in. It’s a closed shop and a dead end now.

Thanks for the honesty Stewart! Catch Stewart on his Carpet Remnant World tour (click link for more info), then make sure you take a look at the World of Books site to find some more hilarious reads today.

Author Interviews, Celebrity Interviews

“I quite fancy being a marine iguana”- Presenter turned author Penny Smith chats to World of Books about her pet peeves, her funniest anecdotes, and her novels

By Admin

Penelope Smith, television presenter and personality, newsreader and writer, was born 21st September 1958 in Eastwood. In her early years, Penny attended Uppingham Primary School in Uppingham and the Rutland High School for Girls in Oakham. After beginning her career as a reporter and feature writer on the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, Penny then left to backpack through Central and South America and South East Asia, where she reported and presented on a current affairs programme for Radio Television Hong Kong. In l984 she joined Radio Trent as a reporter/presenter, then worked for Central Television as press officer for documentaries and drama.

After that she co-presented the local evening news for Border Television and after a year she co-presented Thames News. Penny then moved to Sky News before becoming presenter of GMTV`s ‘News Hour’ in April 1993. Since then Penny has presented many shows, including one on Classic FM and co-presenting GMTV until June 2010 when she left to concentrate on being an author. On top of all that, she’s even found the time to make three yoga videos! Finally, in terms of her writing, Penny has also written for a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as writing her three books, Coming Up Next (2008), After the Break (2009), and Summer Holiday (2011).

Penny Smith

Penny Smith

Hi Penny,

We’ve grown up seeing you on our TV screens at some point or another, so it’s brilliant to be able to chat to you today, especially as you’re a fellow book lover!

Q:We’ll just go straight in there with something we’re dying to ask! As big fans of It’ll be Alright on the Night, World of Books would love to hear any funny stories you have from your years of presenting?!

Well I suppose the one which has been shown most often, was when I was doing a holiday film from Mykonos for GMTV. The producer, cameraman, sound-woman and I ended up on a deserted beach, where I was going to do a piece to camera about this being the island where Shirley Valentine went to find herself in that wonderful film with Tom Conti. We had been up for hours, I hadn’t eaten my lunch because it was too greasy, and we couldn’t find any water. So I had a bottle of retsina on a small table, as a prop. I took a slurp from my glass, delivered my speech, put the glass down. But things kept going wrong. A helicopter went over and made a noise. The camera focus wasn’t what the producer wanted. The shot needed to be changed. Etcetera. And each time, I was slurping from the glass. The obvious happened. I forgot what I was supposed to say, and the more I slurped, the messier it got. Eventually, it was done, and I shrieked with joy before virtually falling off my perch.

Q: So on top of being a successful but incredibly busy TV presenter, your other passions lie with opera, tennis and hiking. And if that wasn’t enough, you’ve even released three yoga videos (with Christmas pudding still weighing us down, World of Books may have a look at them!) How often do you get a chance to relax with a good book? And what would be your book of choice?

– Interesting books which are well written. I recently hosted the Costa Book Awards and read most of the five books which had won the individual categories – thoroughly enjoyable. I secretly wanted the children’s book to win, because it’s rare that the category gets the big prize. Blood Red Road is a stonking good tale set in an apocalyptic future. There are cage fighting girls, rugged boys, and a young heroine who is trying to save her twin brother. I think it’s already been optioned as a film.

Q: As a presenter of Market Kitchen on the Good Food Channel, what has been your favourite dish you’ve seen be made? Cookery books are in one of the best-selling genres here at World of Books, but do you think there is still room for even more cookery guides in the future?

– Maria Elia was one of the chefs on the show. I loved her food – very clean and lots of vegetables. She has a book out called The Modern Vegetarianwhich has the most scrumptious recipes ever. And all the ones I’ve tried have worked like a dream. Watermelon curry. Ginger beer battered mushroom stuffed tofu. Yum yum yum. I’m not vegetarian, but I do adore a vegetable.

Don't Litter!

Don’t Litter!

Q:What are your top three pet peeves?


Leaky earpieces on personal stereos.

People eating smelly food on public transport.

Q: Now, some of the ladies among us will have read your beauty column for Femail in the Daily Mail. You’ve also written articles in Good Housekeeping and Woman and Home. Do you get given topics to write about? And how easy is it coming up with consistently fresh material?

– Generally, I get asked to write something by magazines or newspapers – an opinion on a topic, for example. Or I offer to write for them on something I feel strongly about. As for fresh material…. who was it who said there was nothing new under the sun? But new people are reading your stuff, so its new to them!

Penny's Ideal Day

Penny’s Ideal Day

Q: If you could be anyone or anything for the day, who or what would you be?

– I quite fancy being a marine iguana, sunning itself on a rock, hanging out with friends and occasionally swimming off for a nosh on some algae. But they do whiff a bit.

Q: When your first book, Coming up Next, was released in 2009, it was described by one critic as a “comic roller-coaster”. The Daily Record even commented, “she might want to give up her day job”. You did actually give up your job as a presenter in 2010. How difficult has it been to practise discipline as a writer? And do you ever regret your decision?

– Hmmm. I’m still busy doing radio and television here and there, and I have yet to get down to book number 4. Waking up at 9 o’clock in the morning instead of 4, is still an utter joy. Delicious.

Q: Your most recent novel, Summer Holiday, was released in June 2011. It tells the story of Miranda Blake who is 45 and divorced, and beginning to get ideas such as botox, a toy-boy or even just a new job to spark up her life. The only obstacle in her way is her “pompous” 23-year old daughter, Lucy. After a string of disastrous dates set up by her friends, Miranda decides to randomly help clean out a local canal, in a bid to become an ‘eco-warrier’ (of sorts), immediately falling for Alex- a passionate, dread-locked young man. After Lucy successfully sabotages the relationship, Miranda goes on holiday to Spain, only to get into even more adventures whilst there!

In this novel we were happy to come across the character from your previous two books, Katie Fisher. Was it strange having Katie as a secondary character in this book, rather than as the main protagonist in your previous two?

– I wanted to have a connection to the first two books, and Katie is a little smudge in the story of Miranda Blake. Having lived with her through two books, she almost wrote her part herself…

Q: If you could give any advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

It’s never been easier to publish – albeit online. Keep with it. If nothing else, it’s a wonderful heirloom for your family.

Q: Here at World of Books we are dedicated to providing good-quality second-hand books to the public. In a world with an ever-growing digital media base, and increasing environmental concerns, do you believe in the importance of giving each physical book the chance of a new home?

I don’t keep many books, I recycle them to friends or charity shops. Set them free to live again….

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today Penny! Make sure you check out Penny’s novels on the World of Books site, or browse for other great used books!

Author Interviews, Celebrity Interviews

“We are all fascinated by the idea of being able to know what life was like so many thousands of years ago – how humanity has changed and how it hasn’t” Dr Michael Scott talks to World of Books about Indiana Jones, running the original marathon, and the film 300

By Admin

Dr Michael Scott’s passion of the ancient world led him to read Classics at Christ’s College, Cambridge where he gained a 1st class degree and masters while studying in Italy, France, Germany, Greece and the UK (so he’s rather clever World of Books suggests!). Michael took his love of the ancient history and archaeology to the next level embarking on a PhD at Cambridge where he split his time between Cambridge and Athens studying the three subjects never to be mentioned – ancient Greek sex, politics and religion! In 2007, aged only 26, Michael became Dr Michael, as well as the Moses and Mary Finley Research Fellow in ancient history at Darwin College, Cambridge, and is now a research associate and affiliated lecturer in Classics, History and Art History. He divides his time between researching and teaching in Cambridge and Athens, giving lectures across Europe and working with schools across the UK to promote the study of the ancient world. Michael often lectures around the world and he also brings his passion and knowledge to our television screens as the presenter of programmes including programmes such as, Guilty Pleasures: Luxury in Ancient Greece – BBC4 (2011), Guilty Pleasures: Luxury in the Middle Ages – BBC4 (2011), and Delphi: Bellybutton of the Ancient World – BBC4 (2010). As author of popular history books, Michael’s first book From Democrats to Kings hit the shelves in 2009, closely followed by his second book The ancient sanctuaries of Delphi and Olympia. Taking time out from research in the library, Michael has also embarked on several extreme endurance charity fund raising events: hiking, biking, rafting and kayaking across Costa Rica, dragon boat racing around the Venetian lagoon and re-creating the ancient world by running the route of the first ever Marathon in Athens- one busy man!

Ancient Historian and Archaeologist - Dr. Michael Scott

Ancient Historian and Archaeologist – Dr. Michael Scott

Hi Michael,

Well, we’ll be honest, World of Books is a little intimidated by your resume to say the least- it’s very impressive! You must be incredibly busy, so thank you for taking the time out for chatting to us today.

Q: OK, so a straight-forward one to start, what first attracted you to the ancient world? And what has inspired you to study it in such depth over the years?

– It was a combination of factors. I was lucky enough to have really good teachers at school for Latin and Greek – a great teacher makes all the difference – something I try to remember every time I walk into a classroom. A school trip to Greece when I was 17 (I celebrated my 17th birthday in an unforgettable nightclub in Tolo called the ‘Gorilla Club’!), seeing the ancient sites, walking in the footsteps of the ancients, convinced me to read Classics at University. I fell in love with the subject during that time and when, during my Masters, I got to spend 3 months working at the British School at Athens (, visiting all the major sites and working closely with people at the cutting edge of archaeology, I was hooked. There was no turning back from there, and I never regretted it for a moment.

Q: How to do approach writing your books in terms of time-scale and research?

– Every research project is different, and the key thing is to let the project dictate how you work on it. Some projects require a lot more library research time, some more field time, others require more collaborative work with colleagues in related fields. Sometimes, you can see exactly how to answer a particular research question and there is a huge thrill and satisfaction in solving the ‘problem’. Other projects require time to mull, discuss and think over. With these often-times the ‘eureka’ moment will come when you are least expecting it: an unexpected piece of evidence suddenly comes to light; an article in a dusty journal provides the lightening-rod for the approach you have been trying to formulate for; a visit to a museum or archaeological site finally gives you the clear picture you have been searching for. When it comes to writing up – again the method is dictated by the project. Some research questions are best answered in short journal articles. Others require a book, and for me, the best way to write is, once the research is done, to plan what you want to say for a week then write for a week, then plan the next section and so on. I like to get into a writing rhythm of – if all goes well – about 2000 words a day. But some days you do just stare at the computer screen, which is a good sign that you are not ready to write yet because you don’t know what exactly you want to say. I also like to change the location I write in every so often: certain rooms/libraries/spaces just ‘feel right’ when writing certain things, and its really important to listen to that feeling, because the experience (and I think the end product) is so much better if you do. That might be a Starbucks, the Classics library, my office, home, the research schools in Greece, or on location at an archaeological site.

Q: What is it about ancient Greece that is still so fascinating to modern audiences?

– I think there are 2 main things that captivate audiences about ancient Greece. We are all, to some extent, fascinated by the idea of being able to know what life was like so many thousands of years ago – how humanity has changed and how it hasn’t – just look at the continuing number of successful Hollywood movies about the ancient world. But the culture of ancient Greece and Rome holds another fascination because these two have had – and continue to have – a deep impact on our modern culture, language, lifestyle, ideas and ideals. To understand ourselves, in part means understanding them. I was recently teaching in Brazil about ancient Greek democracy, where even I was amazed to find people really felt it crucial for their modern lives to know about ancient Greece. And the week I arrived, the language of ancient Greece appeared in the Brazilian papers. Thanks to the success of the film 300, the term ‘Spartan’ had become a term of approval used for the Rio police force!

Q: What do you find more useful, the literary sources of ancient writers or the physical evidence of modern archaeology?

During the 20th Century, there was a strict divide between the kinds of evidence scholars of the ancient world specialised in. You were either a literary expert OR an epigraphist (working with inscriptions) OR an archaeologist (with material culture). The key revolution in ancient world study over the last 20 years has been the recognition that, to really understand the ancient world, you have to consider the full range of ancient evidence available. Literature, inscriptions and material culture were all inter-mixed in the ancient world – the ancients experienced them all as a connected whole. As a result, its hard for me to understand how we can possibly comprehend their world unless we approach it in the same way. That means a tougher job for researchers: you need to

From Democrats to Kings

From Democrats to Kings

become skilled in using very different sets of evidence, but I think its worth it.

Q: In your Book, “From Democrats to Kings” you talk in depth about Thebes, and your TV show “Delphi: Bellybutton of the Ancient World – BBC4 (2010)” discusses that great city state – why is that when people think of ancient Greece often they think only of Athens and Sparta? What happened to the other City states to make them fade from popular consciousness?

– Athens and Sparta come to the fore because – for a large amount of time in the ancient world – they were the dominant city-states. As a result, Athens in particular has been a long term focus of historical investigation and so we just have more stuff which has been discovered there, which in turn tends to make Athens, and places like it, more high-profile in modern study. But its absolutely true that lots of evidence does survive from other places all over the ancient world: the trick is getting to it, and then there being enough of it to understand it properly. But we can only play with the hand we have been dealt, and there are some topics and places which – sadly – will forever be tantalisingly out of our reach. But that should not stop us from doing our best to understand the ancient Greek world as much more than simply the story of Athens and Sparta.

One Day by David Nicholls

One Day by David Nicholls

Q: What is the current book on your night-stand?

I actually just finished David Nicholls One Day– a great read. But was also recommended and about to start Muriel Barbery The Elegance of the Hedgehog. And, more work related, have recently been reading D.Constantine – In the footsteps of the Gods: travelers to Greece and the quest for the Hellenic ideal.

Q: It makes us tired just thinking about it, so congratulations for participating in the “Original” marathon! How difficult did you find it? And how did it feel to retrace that historic journey?

– I signed up for this race with a group of friends without really thinking through the consequences. I trained in Cambridge – a place with no hills to speak of – and was petrified to find out that the Athens marathon is one of the hilliest in the world! The bus picked you up at the end point and drove you to the start – my heart sank into my shoes as the bus climbed up and down each of the hills I knew I had to run back across! But the experience was fantastic. You started at the battle site of Marathon, running around the famous burial site of the 192 Athenians who died that day in 490 BC defending Greece from the Persian invasion, before setting out for Athens. The route traces as best we can the route the plucky runner Pheidippides took to return to Athens to relay the good news. You pass a statue of him on the way. I won’t lie – the last 10km were the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But the ending was fantastic: you run into the Panathenaic stadium – rebuilt to celebrate the first modern Olympics in 1896. There was a man running beside me who did the whole thing in the kit of an ancient Greek hoplite soldier – including the leather sandals rather than cushioned trainers. I will never know how he managed to survive!

Q: You’ve already dealt with Sex, Religion and Politics in Ancient Greece – are there any other areas or time periods you want to study?

Of course! The wonderful thing about the ancient world is that there is – and always will be – a never ending list of fascinating topics to study. Sometimes that’s because your own interests change, and new research questions come to the fore often prompted by issues affecting our own modern world: right now people are really interested in identity and ethnicity for example. But sometimes it’s also because new things are discovered: archaeological sites or particular finds which completely change our understanding of a particular place, issue or period. At the moment, I’m fascinated by the Oxyrhynchus project. In the first half of the 20th century, buried in the deserts of Egypt, an ancient rubbish dump was discovered. Because of the dry desert conditions, thousands of scraps of ancient papyrus had survived. These were excavated, preserved and now sit waiting to be read. There are so many of them that it will take decades to read them all: the project team have just launched a new website with tools to help anyone – no matter how little Greek you know – help decipher them ( Who knows what we may discover in these texts? Already pieces of new plays, philosophical writings, fragments of an unknown gospel alongside a myriad of other kinds of texts have been found.

Q: What did you want to be when you were younger?

I always loved the Indiana Jones movies, but I never thought I would end up studying the ancient world. I knew I loved languages

Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones

and learning about other cultures and societies, but it wasn’t until I was studying Classics at University that it clicked. I often tell people who ask what Classics is that it is sociology, but on societies that existed thousands of years ago. I love working out what made them tick, and along the way, learning about the modern societies that now occupy those same places.

Q: And lastly, here at World of Books we are dedicated to providing good-quality second-hand books to the public. By sourcing a large amount of our books from charities, we are also able to support their cause. Any book we can’t sell, we recycle; last year alone we saved 12,500 metric tonnes of waste from going to landfill sites. In a world with an ever-growing digital media base, and increasing environmental concerns, do you believe in the importance of giving each physical book the chance of a new home?

Absolutely. The book world is right now in the middle of a revolution between print and digital media. But whatever direction we take, I believe there will always be an important market for print books, and within that, for giving every book the chance of a long life – and second life, not to mention third, fourth, fifth. I’m always fascinated by those book piles you see in some cafés and hotels: people drop books off they have read and pick up others to take with them to some new part of the world. Sometimes people write their names and locations in the front covers: I love learning about previous book owners: it makes the book even more special.

Has this interview rendered your imagination gripped by the Greeks? Why not have a look at Dr Michael’s website by clicking here or following him on twitter @drmichaelcscott. Or if you would like to find cheap books, try World of

Author Interviews, Celebrity Interviews

“In the end we’re all human and we all have our faults. That’s what’s nice about books – you can create perfect heroes”. An interview with author and comedian Charlie Higson

By Admin

Charles Murray Higson, English author, actor, and comedian, was born 3rd July 1958. He attended Sevenoaks School, and later went on to the University of East Anglia, where he formed a band called The Higsons (alongside David Cummings and Terry Edwards), of which he was lead singer for 6 years. After a brief stint as a decorator, Charlie went into partnership with Paul Whitehouse and also began to write for Harry Enfield. Coming to attention as one of the main writers and actors of the comedy sketch show, The Fast Show (1994-200), Charlie’s television success includes Saturday Night Live, The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, The Harry Enfield Television Programme, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), and Swiss Toni. Charlie also worked with Paul on a radio comedy show called Down the Line. Although he wrote several novels in the 1990s (if you fancy checking these out, they’re King of the Ants released in 1992, Happy Now in 1993, Full Whack in 1995, and Getting Rid of Mr Kitchen, which was released in 1996), it was not until 2004 that Charlie penned SilverFin, the first instalment in a series of James Bond novels, aimed at younger readers, that depict the life of this iconic character’s school-days at Eton. This highly successful series, made up of five novels, has sold over a million copies in the UK alone. As well as this series, Charlie has also used his enjoyment of horror films and books to write The Enemy, the first book in a series of zombie adventures. The second and third books are called The Dead and The Fear. The Sacrifice will be published in September 2012. Charlie has 3 sons, and lives in North London.

Hi Charlie!

Thank you for letting us interview you, your Young Bond series never stay at World of Books for long as they’re so popular- so it’s great that our customers can read a little about you!

Q: Ok, so we’ll start easy- what is the average day in the life of Charlie Higson?

Up at dawn for a five-mile run, followed by breakfast of raw eggs snake meat, then target practice on the rifle range for three hours. I usually have time to fit in some martial arts training before lunch, and then… I can see I’m not fooling you. The reality of being a writer is rather different. We sit in small rooms making it all up. I have an office at home, and once the kids have gone off to school I settle down at my computer for a full day’s writing. Although I do break it up with a few sessions playing Call of Duty online, which is the closest I came to any action and adventure.

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

To expand time. Twice as many hours in a day, twice as many days in a year. I could write twice as many books and have twice as much fun.

Q: As we’ve mentioned above, you’ve also written four adult books, all of which can be said to be somewhat gritty and to different extents, dark. Do you find it very different writing adult fiction compared to young adult? Which do you prefer?

It’s no different writing for adults as it is writing for kids. A book is a book, and whoever it’s aimed at it needs to do the same things. You need a good story and interesting characters, you need to grab your readers and not let them go and you have to write some memorable passages that will stick in their minds. In a way it’s harder writing for kids. They are easily bored and you can’t be at all self-indulgent (like many ‘literary’ authors). I like to write books in which lots of stuff happens, I like action and horror, and I suppose all of my books have been quite dark. There are some differences between the adult ones and the ones for younger readers. There is less swearing in my teen books, and no sex, otherwise they’re pretty much the same. At the moment I am writing exclusively for kids as I’m enjoying it, and the kids seem to be enjoying it too. I’m sure one day (maybe when my kids have grown up) I’ll return to writing books for older readers – although of course many adults really enjoy The Enemy series.

Q: And a random one- who is your hero?

It’s hard to find any real life heroes. In the end we’re all human and we all have our faults. That’s what’s nice about books – you can create perfect heroes. I do like people who can make me laugh, though, so I’ll say Tommy Cooper and Vic Reeves, Steve Coogan, Woody Allen and of course my writing partner Paul Whitehouse.

Q: If you could go back in time and give your 16 year old self some advice, what would it be?

Don’t wear that awful pale blue nylon turtle neck shirt. Otherwise just enjoy yourself, you’ll be an old man before you know it.

Q: What made you want to write the Young Bond Series? How many times have you had to watch the films as ‘research’?

I was asked if I wanted to write the books by the Ian Fleming estate (Ian Fleming created James Bond, and his family still own the character). It was their idea and they approached me rather than the other way round. As a lifelong James Bond fan it was the perfect job offer. The idea was that I would try to fit in with the original books rather than the films, although I obviously wanted my books to have all the fun and excitement of the films. So I went back and reread the books and picked out anything I thought might be useful – any clues to the early life of Bond. I also wanted to get inside Ian Fleming’s mind and see how he went about writing his books. He was a great teacher. Often when I was writing the books and I wanted to get into the right mood, I would play some of John Barry’s old Bond film music very loud. That was fun and always worked.

Q: What is the current book on your nightstand?

I am working my way through Bernard Cornwell’s series of Sharpe novels, about a British soldier fighting in the Peninsula War against Napoleon’s armies in Spain. I am about two thirds of the way through and really enjoying them. Cornwell writes really well about action and battles, something I am trying to learn about for my new zombie war series. Cornwell also reminds me a lot of Ian Fleming. You can see Sharpe as a James Bond figure, fighting for his country, with the Duke of Wellington as M.

Q: World of Books have actually been lucky enough to interview Mr Cornwell in the past, so we are just as avid fans!

So, on with the questions! The most recent instalment of your zombie adventure series, The Fear, was released back in September. The book carries on the tale of a world where adults over the age of 14 have contracted a mysterious illness which has killed mostly everyone, and made the survivors zombie flesh-eaters. This particular episode tells the tale of DogNut, who attempts to find his friends across the streets of London. Can we expect another in this series? And what characters across the three have you particularly bonded with and enjoyed writing about?

– I am planning to write at least seven instalments of the series. I have created lots of characters all with their own parallel but intertwining stories, so I need the space to fit them all in. My favourite characters so far are Small Sam and The Kid, two young boys who have wild adventures. The next book– The Sacrifice – which I am writing at the moment (or at least I would be if I didn’t have to answer all these pesky questions!) is all about them.

Q: Sorry Charlie! We’re looking forward to the next instalment, so won’t keep you much longer! Do your sons give you constructive feedback? Or are they your best critics?

The Enemy

The Enemy

When I first started writing for kids I had no idea if I could do it, if my style would work, if I could actually write in a way that kids would enjoy. So I used to test everything on my own kids. As I finished each chapter of my Bond books I read them out as bedtime stories to my boys, which is why the books are so violent. My boys demanded more and more killings, blood and mayhem. They were very polite but I could tell from their body language if they were bored – for instance, if they fell asleep I knew I would have to put in another gory death. It was the same with my horror series. I used my youngest son, Sidney, as a guinea pig. I read The Enemy to him at night and if he had nightmares I knew I was doing something right!

Q: And finally, here at World of Books we are dedicated to providing good-quality second-hand books to the public. In a world with an ever-growing digital media base, and increasing environmental concerns, do you believe in the importance of giving each physical book the chance of a new home?

– I love books – physical paper ones. My house is full of them. There will always be a place for real books in the world, though eBooks will save a lot of paper. I hate to ever throw a book away, so I think what you are doing is wonderful. I spend a huge amount of time in 2nd hand bookshops, books have always been recycled in this way. Get the books out there and share them and keep them alive. Keep up the good work.

Fancy checking out any of Charlie’s books? Why not see what Bond was like before he earned his license to kill and pick up a book from our site today? You can find out more about Charlie at his own website over at You can also find him on Twitter as @Monstroso