Prior to the Guardian Hay Festival, we’ve interviewed The Guardian’s Literary Editor, Claire Armitstead. Claire was previously Arts Editor and has worked as a Theatre Critic for the Ham & High, the Financial Times and the Guardian. She also makes regular appearances on radio and television as a cultural commentator on literature and the arts.
Cision: Who are you looking forward to interviewing at this year’s Guardian Hay Festival and why?
CA: I’m particularly excited about interviewing the historian Antony Beevor and the novelists Andrea Levy and Barbara Trapido. But the fun of Hay is the people you’re not expecting to meet, who often turn out to have the most fascinating tales of all to tell.
Cision: What is the last book you read for pleasure and would recommend?
CA: I’ve been doing a lot of reading up for Hay. I loved Andrea Levy’s The Long Song, which is narrated by a sassy Jamaican slave girl, and is very different from her Orange prize-winning Small Island. And, having just been to South Africa, I was very taken with Barbara Trapido’s Sex and Stravinsky, which anatomises the eternally fascinating relationship between the English and the South Africans through the story of two interconnecting families.
Cision: For you, who is the upcoming author to watch out for? And in your opinion, who is the most influential author of the decade?
CA: I’m going to keeping a very close eye on Tishani Doshi, a published poet whose first novel is just out. She’s multitalented and think she’s going to be huge. The author of the decade so far has to be Hilary Mantel, not only for her extraordinary feat of making the international bestseller charts with a quite uncompromising novel of Tudor history, Wolf Hall, but for the evil genius of her previous novel of clairvoyants in the home counties, Beyond Black.
Cision: A collective of bloggers, the “Brit Lit bloggers” claim in the US the literary blogosphere “has caught the attention of publishers and, more importantly, writers and readers”. Do you feel that social media has had an impact on the way you source material as a journalist and discover new authors?
CA: I certainly try to keep up with some of the best literary bloggers, because their enthusiasm takes them to places that my working day often doesn’t allow me to reach. Blogs are particularly useful for genre areas such as science fiction, which are more specialised than I can afford to be in my reading. I also pick up the odd tip from Twitter. Nobody can ignore the impact of social media, but it’s developing so fast that it’s hard to predict who the movers and shakers will be by this time next year, or even next week!
Cision: Do you have any advice for PR professionals wishing to send a pitch to you?
CA: Never undervalue good old fashioned clarity. Such as – what is it? When is it published? When will I be able to get my hands on a copy. Is it hardback or paperback? The simpler the blurb, the more likely I am to take it in. Bear in mind that our lead-in times are quite long (and please, please don’t slap impossible embargoes on books unless you absolutely have to. Remember that I have to account to my newspaper bosses, and in newspapers timing is all).