Possibly my proudest moment yet as a columnist for Words with Jam magazine is this month’s interview with crime novelist, PD James.
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We asked Baroness James about her experience in seeing her writing developed into other formats and her thoughts on the future of publishing.
You have been lucky to see your books adapted not only for television (The Inspector Dalgliesh Mysteries) but also into box-office successes as films (Children of Men). What was your involvement with the adaptations, and as a writer, which format – film or television – gave you the most enjoyment?
It is always an advantage for a writer to have her work filmed or televised as it brings people to the book, but few of us are really satisfied with the result. However, I have been more fortunate than many writers and now look forward to the TV adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley. Television gives me the most involvement as I am often invited to visit the set during filming, and was indeed at Chatsworth recently with my PA to watch a scene being filmed. This has not so far happened with a feature film and I have to wait until it is released to see the final result.
You’ve been quoted as saying you enjoyed the film version of Children of Men but that the actor, Roy Marsden was not ‘your idea’ of Inspector Dalgliesh. What are the hardest things, as a writer, about relinquishing your rights and letting someone else take control of your work?
I accept that, with a film or TV adaptation I have to relinquish certain of my rights and let people regarded as experts in a different medium take control of my work to a large extent. The hardest thing is when the dialogue, which I have taken considerable trouble over writing, is expunged and the adaptor’s dialogue substituted.
You must have learnt a great deal about writing and publishing over your career. What words of wisdom would you impart to the next generation of writers?
If asked for advice I generally give the following: A prospective writer should read widely, not in order to slavishly copy, but to see how established writers exercise their craft. It is also important to increase one’s vocabulary since words are the building blocks of a writer’s talent.
And finally, can I ask how you see the future of publishing? In such a rapidly changing market and technological world, do you believe ‘real books’ will survive or that e-books are the future?
I think it is difficult for anyone, including publishers, to see with any clarity the future of publishing, but I acknowledge that e-books are immensely convenient for long journeys, stays in hospital or holidays when so many books can be transported so easily. And e-books also have a use for reading in bed and for people with poor eyesight. However I believe, and greatly hope, that what you rightly describe as ‘real books’ will survive.
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