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Posted by Natalia

January 3rd 2013

Dear Mr. Nicholson! This is not a question. I’m a reader struggling to be a translator so, I’ve just read your new novel “Motherland” for publishers and I have to say that I have not been satisfied with reading to such an extent for a long time. You are excellent! From the very first lines of your story the “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy had come to my mind not because of “war” and “peace” but because of your talent for narrations, fullness and different interpretations of the characters in your book. I got engrossed in reading at once. And when later on in your novel you indeed referred to Tolstoy I was almost happy – yes, I got it right! I fell in love with each of the characters (especially impressed by women portraits - how do you know everything?) and I’m extremely thankful for the great book. If only publishing in Russia depended on my opinion! But who knows, we are still discussing the book . Best regards.

William Nicholson responded:

You are one of the very first readers of my new novel Motherland, which hasn't even been published yet. You can imagine how much pleasure you give me with your kind words. My daughter is currently studying Russian at University, and reading Anna Karenina in the original. There is no writer I admire more than Tolstoy. I'm so proud that you can even mention me in the same paragraph. Good luck with your young career as a translator–I'm sure someone of such sound judgement is sure to succeed.

Posted by Kate Thackery

December 30th 2012

This is not a question. Rather I would like to thank you for your remarkably cautious and considerate response to a very stupid question I send you some seven years ago. I suppose we had best blame the education system, as is customary in such situations. I was a pretty stupid twelve year old, thank you for not treating me like one. Congratulations on your success with Les Miserables.

William Nicholson responded:

I don't remember your question or my response, but you can't have been all that stupid as a twelve-year-old since you took the trouble to ask me a question. The stupid people are the ones who never look beyond themselves.

Posted by arthur koch

December 28th 2012

Why have you gone along with the current fad for writing in the present tense, which reduces novels into TV scripts? I can understand a hack being desparate to try any gimmick, but not a writer of your calibre.

William Nicholson responded:

I do realise that writing in the present tense can be used purely as a gimmick, but I think you're wrong to dismiss it as a fad. I also think you're wrong in thinking that it reduces novels to TV scripts. Have you read Hillary Mantel's magisterial novels Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies? Both written in the present tense, both superb. In my own case I use the present tense very deliberately: it creates an atmosphere in which the reader is present with the writer as events unfold. Use of the past tense, also extremely potent of course, is better suited to works where the author stands above the action. But if I may make a broader point: all tricks of style become gimmicks in the hands of writers who have nothing of value to say, but all are valuable tools in the armoury of writers who are masters of their craft. I aspire to be in the latter category. If I keep working one day I may make it.

Posted by Jose Manuel

December 28th 2012

Dear William, first of all, I'm a great fan. Thanks for the splendid work. You are an inspiration. My question is about the life of a novice writer, i.e., a writer who still has a day job and is not yet able to dedicate himself to writing full-time. Earlier in your career, you had an interesting job (at the BBC) and you still found the discipline to write two hours daily. How did you find balance between work, writing and a social life? Would you feel guilty spending time doing other things other than writing when you still hadn't made it as a writer? Did you find time to read much? What sacrifices did you make? Did you have ambitions for your career at the BBC (or in filmmaking) or were you solely focused on your writing? Looking forward to your answer -- it will be very helpful for me to learn from your experience. Thanks for your time, Jose

William Nicholson responded:

You are right, I worked at the BBC for seventeen years before making my living as a full-time writer. I got up early each morning and did two hours writing before starting the day job. The price I paid for this was that I had to go to bed early each evening, by ten at the latest. I'm not sure now that I look back that I made the right choice–very little of the writing that I did in those early mornings has had any further life. On the other hand I got a lot of practice, and I developed a lifetime habit of discipline which has stood me in good stead. I did read, a great deal; and I did have ambitions for my BBC career, particularly at those times when I was feeling pessimistic about my future as a writer. But I think the truth is that I was not wholehearted about my television work, because I so loved writing. I'm not sure what moral you can take from any of this. When I look back I realise that my life in the BBC has been of enormous value to me as a writer. One can't be for ever writing, one must live in order to have something to write about. The real challenge is enduring the years of failure long enough to become good at what you do. I was thirty-five years old before I had any assurance that I could call myself a writer. I hope it happens more quickly for you.

Posted by Alex Gomer

December 27th 2012

William, I loved reading the Wind on Fire Trilogy, and I would love to read them again, however, the only place that seems to sell the Kindle editions seem to be Amazon UK. I live in the United States, and Amazon seems to be picky and doesn't want to let me buy these amazing ebooks to have for a long time. Is there any way that I could find these ebooks elsewhere?

William Nicholson responded:

I don't really understand the problem, isn't it possible to buy the e-books through Amazon UK? All the books in the trilogy exist in e-book versions, but this is very new to me and I don't know where one goes to buy e-books other than Amazon. Sorry to be no more help.

Posted by Robin Fryday

December 26th 2012

Dear William, First of all, I'd like to congratulate you and thank you for Les Miserables...I was moved beyond words. I can only imagine how busy you are, but whenever you get a moment I'd like to ask for your advice. I made a short documentary "The Barber of Birmingham" which is about the Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. The story is told through the eyes of Mr. Armstrong, an "unsung hero" of the Movement, who dedicated his life to fighting injustices in this country. This was my first documentary and I received the great honor of a 2012 Academy Award Nomination. The story of this man and his barbershop (which was more of a living history museum), along with the events in BIrmingham, Alabama in the 1960's and the music which played such a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement, leads me to believe this would make a very powerful musical stageplay. Prior to this film, my work was as a still photographer. I used this skill as a way to raise funds and awareness for children's non-profit organizations. Because this is my first film, and hopefully will become my first musical...I was wondering if you could offer any advice as to how to go about bringing this to the stage. I would be deeply grateful for any advice or suggestions. Congratulations again on your success and best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year! Robin Fryday www.barberofbirmingham.com www.robinfryday.com 415-225-6911

William Nicholson responded:

I agree with you that your story looks as if it would make a great stage musical, but I'm afraid I'm not in any position to help you. You need the skills and contacts of a stage producer, and to attract their help you need to have some form of early script. Maybe you have one already. And of course you need a great composer. All this is rather out of my league–I came on to Les Miserables purely as a screenwriter. I wish you all the best with the project.