Writing – it’s a solitary business. It’s often difficult to stay connected with the wider industry and fellow writers when you’re cooped up with just your keyboard for company. But as author Mary Hargreaves has discovered, one of the best ways of feeling part of the writing community is through the power of podcasts.
Mary, whose debut novel, This Is Not a Love Story, publishes next summer with Trapeze, works full-time alongside her writing and is a big advocate of podcasts being an easy way to keep her passion for writing and reading alive whilst on her commute to work. Here she shares her favourites…
As an author, whatever stage you’re at in your writing career, you will probably fall into one of three camps:
- Full-time, living-the-dream, oh-my-god-people-are-paying-me-to-just-write
- Part-time author, part-time money-maker in something bookish/writer-y e.g. journalist or publishing professional.
- Part-time author, part-time side hustle in something so far removed from the world of books that you almost feel like Spiderman, living a double life and frantically changing your clothes in the staff loos so nobody catches you with the wrong hat on.
Whichever camp you fall into, I think it’s safe to say that you probably love books. The sheer dedication and perseverance it takes to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) over and over again until a novel pops out indicates that if you didn’t, you’d have probably chucked the towel in a long time ago.
Personally, I fall into camp three. My day job is wonderful, but it’s about as creative as a boiled egg. With my writing time consigned to the evenings and weekends, it’s sometimes difficult to keep the fire alive as I’m trundling along the rain-soaked streets on a double-decker bus every morning, my head spinning with thoughts of meetings and overdue signatures and my daily ham sandwich vs. superfood salad lunch debate.
Unfortunately, I barf at the thought of reading in a moving vehicle, so I had to find another way to stay connected to the world of words. I am not an audiobook person (they’re great, just not for me) but eventually, with the help of Twitter, I discovered podcasts.
My commute was instantly transformed from a stressful wasted hour to a timeless, thrilling adventure into the minds and lives of incredible authors and their tales of struggle and success, joy and heartbreak and – most importantly of all – favourite reads. I felt connected, like my writing was more than just me and a microwave lasagne at a makeshift desk every evening. Because no matter what camp of author-dom you fall into, you’re doing all the hard stuff yourself, and it can be pretty lonely at times.
Here are four of my absolute favourite bookish podcasts.
You’re Booked – Daisy Buchanan
Daisy Buchanan is a journalist and author, and every week she visits a fellow author’s house and rifles through their bookcase, quizzing her subjects on their reading habits. The author tells us about books that changed them, shaped them and stayed with them, and it’s a goldmine of new discoveries to add to your TBR pile. So far, Daisy has snooped around in the literary collections of Sophie Kinsella, Lucy Vine and Holly Bourne, and her list just keeps growing. It’s also helpful that Daisy has the most gorgeous, soothing voice – perfect for my commute home towards my bed and that next exciting read.
The High Low – Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton
Pandora and Dolly are journalists by background, who began their podcast in 2017 (spoiler – it exploded). They discuss, as their tagline goes, ‘current affairs and pop culture’, and they also do ‘author specials’, where they interview writers such as Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené, Fatima Bhutto and David Nicholls. Both Pandora and Dolly are almost unbelievably good at articulating the things we’re all thinking, and I walk away from every episode feeling like my brain has gained 6lbs.
How To Fail With Elizabeth Day
If you think you’re alone in feeling like an imposter, think again. Elizabeth is also a journalist, with an incredible knack for interviewing all kinds of people and extracting the most interesting information from them. Each interviewee (many of whom are writers) recounts three ‘failures’ they have encountered in either their personal or professional life, and heads-up: it can get pretty personal. In an industry where failure is a rite of passage, it’s so reassuring to hear that the likes of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sebastian Faulks and David Baddiel aren’t so perfect either.
The Honest Authors’ Show – Gillian McAllister and Holly Seddon
We’re done with the journalists now; Gilly and Holly are authors (cue cheers from the back of the room). Once every three weeks or so, they either chat to each other about their books, lives and writing strife, or interview an author or publishing professional to gain precious insights from their side of the camp. As the title suggests, they’re honest, and I particularly love that they place focus on debut authors such as Imran Mahmood, Will Dean and Lia Louis. It’s (literally) like listening into a conversation between a couple of great friends.
And that’s a wrap. I’m sure there are many more undiscovered nuggets of podcast gold out there, just waiting for my ears to receive them. If you know of any, please do let me know via twitter: @MKHarg
Podcasts have been transformative for me, and have aided in immersing me in a world that I felt so distantly attached to. No matter what kind of author you are, whether you’re querying or a number-one bestseller, I think we could all benefit from an hour-long one-sided chat with our colleagues every once in a while.