Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Author Interview With Stephen Maitland-Lewis Author of Botticelli's Bastard

How did you do research for your book?

The internet is my primary source for research, but one has to be very disciplined so as not to go off in tangents in reading material with is irrelevant to the topic in hand. For that reason, visits to local libraries are ideal, although more time consuming. With regard to Botticelli’s Bastard, the research covered many different periods of European history, which made the project enjoyable and it did not at any time feel onerous.

If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?

Unquestionably, Giovanni Fabrizzi, the art restorer. He was burdened with sadness and later on was faced with the dilemma of Satan on one shoulder and the good angel on the other in determining his course of action. But there is a moral tale for all of us and I found myself inspired by his ultimate decision.

What is the last great book you’ve read?

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron. This novel is superb on every level – character, plot, language, and overall style. I first read the book many years ago, at a time when I was not writing professionally, so I didn’t appreciate the subtlety and brilliance of Mr. Styron. Reading it again recently, I realized that the author was one of the major world’s literary geniuses. His writing is so fine that I have to resist the temptation of never writing another word.

Do you write every day?

I try to do so. Even if I am not writing a novel, I think it is important to write something on a daily basis, whether it be a journal entry, or a complex social or business letter. The great piano virtuoso Arturo Rubenstein remarked once that “the first day I do not practice, I notice. The second day I miss a practice, the critics notice. The third day – the audience notices.”

What advice would you give budding writers?

Treat the art of writing as a serious professional occupation, and not a recreational activity. Try not to read fiction whilst you are writing fiction, as you could fall into the trap of admiring a particular descriptive passage in something that you have read, and subconsciously repeating it in your own work. Read fiction before or after you have completed your book, not during your exercise.

Any hobbies?

I collect autographed signed letters of major writers, with a leaning towards writers who’ve won the Nobel Prize. I have assembled, over the years, a good collection, and continue to buy whenever I see an interesting opportunity. I am also very much involved in the jazz world, particularly Louis Armstrong, and also make a point of visiting art galleries, especially when I am traveling.

If you were stuck on a desert island, which three books would you want with you?

Collected Stories of W. Somerset Maugham: His books are perhaps dated and out of fashion, but nevertheless I enjoy his style and his ability to combine character and plot within very few pages. And it is easy to revisit his works time and again without being bored.

Collected Stories of Damon Runyon: If stuck on a deserted island, I would like some comic relief, and Runyon’s style and language would never fail to provide this.

Dante’s Divine Comedy: To mitigate boredom, while being stuck on a deserted island, I would welcome the intellectual challenge of tackling one of the world’s classics.

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