Monday, October 3, 2011

Writes & Reads #5: Jerome de Groot

In this weekly slot, we talk to some of the writers involved in Manchester Literature Festival 2011.

Jerome de Groot teaches English at the University of Manchester. He is the author of Consuming History (2008) and The Historical Novel (2009), and runs the Meet The Readers blog about reading historical fiction (take the survey here). He writes about historical fiction for History Today and BBC History. He is also the chair of the board of trustees for the Manchester Literature Festival, and will be chairing the discussion between Navtej Sarna and Shrabani Basu a fortnight from now on Monday 17 October (6pm, Waterstone's Deansgate)* as well as debating the pros and cons of literary prizes with MJ Hyland, John McAuliffe and other writers on Tuesday 18 October (7.30pm, International Anthony Burgess Foundation).

MLF: List your top three favourite books...
JdG: Margaret Atwood, Surfacing; PG Wodehouse, Carry On, Jeeves; Charles Dickens, Great Expectations.

MLF: What are you reading right now?
JdG: Trying to finish Matthew Neale's English Passengers, reading various historical novels for my round-up review for History Today, reading tracts and pamphlets and poems from the 1640s to prepare for some of my teaching, and, for good measure, working my way through Claire Tomalin's new biography of Dickens.

MLF: How did you get to this point in your writing career?
JdG: Luck, hard work, cheek and chance, mainly. I wrote my first book on the 1640s and then swerved quite spectacularly in another direction.

MLF: Who would you cite as your biggest influence, be they another writer, an artist, a musician, a Premier League footballer…
JdG: Raphael Samuel, social historian and author of Theatres Of Memory.

MLF: Which events in this year’s MLF programme are must-sees for you?
JdG: Sean O'Brien is always great, and I am excited about Claire Tomalin, and the Sacred Hearts/Sarah Dunant event. For me the best events in the MLF are always the ones you aren't expecting.

MLF: Tell us about what you’re working on at the moment.
JdG: I'm writing about smoking and history (if anyone has seen Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, they will know what I am talking about...).

For full details of all events at MLF 2011 and how to book, visit the website at

*If you are part of a reading group or want to arrange a night out with a group of book-loving friends, why not take advantage of our special MLF Reading Group Ticket Offer for the discussion between Navtej Sarna and Shrabani Basu. Book for four or more people and get all your tickets at the concessionary rate of £3. The offer is available online or by phoning our Box Office on 0843 208 0500 and quoting MLF Reading Group Offer at the time of booking.

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