When I write a novel I’m writing about my own life; I’m writing a biography almost, always. And to make it look like a novel I either have a murder or a death at the end.

Beryl Bainbridge
On writing: authors reveal the secrets of their craft
The Guardian, 26th March 2011

It’s not imagination

January 27, 2018

sun and rain

If you go and look at paintings or at master’s portraits, and you look at faces, whoever they are, there’s always something of the painter in the face. They look like the person who painted it. I think with writing, it’s exactly the same. You write the way you are, in a funny sort of way. Whatever imagination you’ve got . . . I don’t really believe in the imagination; I think it’s all a compound of everything that’s happened to you right from birth. It’s conversation, it’s bits of music that you hear, so you remember all these details. I think there’s one in Titanic somewhere, someone finds a little snow on the ground, on the ship or something. I can remember that happening to my father: finding snow along the deck of a sailboat in Liverpool. It’s not imagination; it’s something one remembers. It’s all in the unconscious, and you just dredge it up out of your memory.

Beryl Bainbridge
Interview in Writer’s Digest

work day and night

January 23, 2018

When I start (writing), I usually take about four or five months to start and finish the book, and that’s when I get completely immersed in it. I don’t go out, and I just only see the children, I don’t answer the telephone, I don’t do anything. And I work day and night. I nap during the day, but then I’ll just work around the clock. I don’t understand people who work three hours in the morning, and then the day is up to them. I have to do 12 hours with a few naps, and then 12 hours in the night.

Beryl Bainbridge
Interview in Writer’s Digest

Advice for new writers

January 21, 2018

I don’t think you should ever try to make things up. We all lead such strange lives that there is no need to. Use your own experiences and then twist it a bit. You should read what you have written out loud. I write a paragraph at a time and I walk up and down reading it out loud. It has to go te tum te dum te tum te dum. If it doesn’t, then there’s a word wrong. It hasn’t got rhythm, so I re-write it.

Beryl Bainbridge
Why I write

easier when I was young

January 20, 2018


I wanted to make sense of my childhood. I wanted to write it all down – but I couldn’t write it as it happened. I had to turn it into fiction because I didn’t want my parents to see it.

It was easier when I was young because I had no standards – I would just write. It was wonderful. I wouldn’t bother whether it was any good. It gets worse the more you know – your standards go up and up and you realise you can’t reach them.

Beryl Bainbridge
Why I write

Her discipline as a writer was intense. Each novel emerged from a few months in which she wrote through the nights, smoked a lot, slept and ate little. She constantly read aloud what she had produced, to get “the music of the prose” right, and in an alchemical process of cutting and perfecting, she would distil every dozen or so draft pages into one sheet without a single wasted word.

The books that survived this surgery were short. In case anyone called them slight, she would quote Voltaire’s apology when he wrote a long letter: “I didn’t have time to make it shorter.”

Guardian obituary for Beryl Bainbridge

Cautionary tale…

April 10, 2015


It did however remind me of the cautionary tale of my son’s nursery school teacher, a lady named Miss Smith, referred to as Mith Mith by her lisping charges. It’s a true story, albeit tragic. A group of infants on a Tuesday morning just before Christmas in a house in Ullet Road, Liverpool, were discovered at home-time marching up and down swigging bottles of milk in an abandoned manner while Mith Mith lay slumped across the piano. She had been dead for a quarter of an hour and had apparently passed on in the middle of The Grand Old Duke of York. This shocking incident has remained fresh as a daisy in my memory because I hadn’t got round to paying the fees, whereas the rest of the mothers had stumped up the three guineas a term in advance.

Beryl Bainbridge
Something Happened Yesterday