Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Lionel is a lady

Lionel Shriver is this year's winner of the Orange prize: it was awarded for her novel We Need to Talk About Kevin. And winning the prize is how she came to be interviewed in Saturday last's Financial Times.

Unfortunately, the interview doesn't seem to be available online, so I can't give you a link to it. I've noticed this phenomenon once or twice, with other newspaper articles. What it suggests to me is that, even in this age of bullying media magnates, some writers (or interviewers) are still managing to reserve digital rights to themselves. On the other hand, it may just be that I am not very good at finding stuff.

Lionel was born in the US, moved around a bit, and settled in the UK in 1991. She was born Margaret Ann but changed her name at the age of fifteen.

Lionel says that Kevin is her seventh novel -- the eighth if you include one which never got into print. Her previous novels collected good reviews but minimal sales. In the book industry, she says, this process is like acquiring a criminal record.

As for Kevin, nobody liked it much to begin with. In the US, Lionel parted company with one agent over it, and was turned down by 15 or 20 others before she finally got the book into print. In the UK it was rejected by 30 publishers before finally being accepted by Serpent's Tail, one of the smaller London houses.

All in all, Lionel comes across as an eminently sensible woman, with her feet very much on the ground. She says, for example, that the whole literary scene makes her queasy.

I am almost tempted to read her book. But as it is so clearly literary in nature, and as I am not short of other stuff at present, I think I'll pass.

Even if you can't find the FT interview, there is another one available on the Orange prize site. And you can also read her acceptance speech -- but only if you scroll right down to the end of the page.


Rachel said...

You can find the FT article at this address: http://news.ft.com/cms/s/50213442-d7ba-11d9-9f43-00000e2511c8.html , but you have to subscribe to get the whole interview...

Jenny Davidson said...

Well, you have no reason to trust me on this, but I do want to say (as someone who reads vastly more 'genre' fiction than 'literary', and has little patience for most of what's published as literary fiction) that WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN is a spectacularly good read! If you think of it as a very well-written crime thriller, along the lines of something like Richard Price's FREEDOMLAND, you will be on the mark. I highly, highly recommend it.

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Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote We Are the World together.
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