In their own words: Interviews with giants of Twentieth century English literature…

I am addicted to interviews with writers. Those who follow my 150 ‘rules’ for writing fiction will know I seek interviews out, skin, fillet, and debone them, slicing away the choicest quotations and sharing them here on this blog. It is a compulsion, a relatively harmless habit I like to think, a leisure activity as well as being part of my professional development. I love thinking about process and hearing about what other writers, of all forms, do.  When those writers are some of the pillars of twentieth century English literature, I know I need to pay attention, but I’m in for a phenomenal time.

Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, Rebecca West, Christopher Isherwood, EM Forster, Muriel Spark, Aldous Huxley, Daphne du Maurier…

It is a roll call of the great – and  not only in their own words, but their own voices, too. I have stumbled across an archive of BBC interviews, a treasure trove of experience and anecdote, and in spoken word. This resource has been readily available and for some time on the net – but assuming you too have overlooked the archive, I urge you to seek it out.

Here is eleven minutes with Elizabeth Bowen from October 1956, discussing the importance of character to the novel – her voice regal and of another age. Or twenty four minutes and forty two seconds with Iris Murdoch from May 1965, debating the artistic conflict between philosophy and novel-writing, freedom and form….

There are more recent names, too: Toni Morrison, Alan Bennett, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Berger, Angela Carter, Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel…. It is a wonderful resource and well worth exploring. You’ll find it at:

2 responses to “In their own words: Interviews with giants of Twentieth century English literature…

  1. This is a brilliant resource, Kaite – not only for what the authors say, but for how they say it. It reminds us of how use of the spoken English language has changed in 50 years, quite apart from all the nuggets and joys the authors wave in our direction. Thank you!


    • So pleased you feel rather as I do about this wonderful resource, Sean…. It is rather like a time machine for the reason you so perceptively point out. For example, I’m very familiar with the writing and biography of Elizabeth Bowen, but it was still a shock to hear quite how ‘Anglo’ she was, when I expected a little more Irish… There is also a lesson to be learned from how these writers present themselves, and the seriousness with which they regard their craft, and literature and the humanities as a whole.

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