Backstories Creative Process getting published

Julian Barnes on hard work, luck and serendipity in his writing career

Metroland, by Julian Barnes (First edition: London, Jonathan Cape; 1980, pp.176)

Here is the fascinating first-hand exposé of how Julian Barnes wrote his first novel, Metroland, and got it published in 1980. With reference to my previous post about the direct connections that are possible between authors and readers through a book blog, Barnes wrote Metroland before blogging and Social Media became everyday. For him, the core of the process was that “…most literary careers depend on three things: talent, hard work – and luck. I had mine at just the right moment (though I suppose that is the definition of luck: something that comes along at just the right moment).”

What is fascinating about his story, is how, in the end, he realized the impact that Metroland had had on readers from far away.

“In 1981 I was travelling with my wife in China; our tour party included a German woman a generation or so above me, who had been brought up in a small village in the Black Forest. She had read Metroland (in English, of course) and told me that growing up had been “exactly like that” for her, too. I was astonished, and delighted. I had known, as a reader, that if a book contained enough truth, it would travel through time and space and language, to find unexpected readers. But this was the first time I experienced the process from the opposite direction.”

(Julian Barnes, Why I wrote an extravagantly damning review of my own debut novel, Sept. 30, 2016, in The Guardian UK, rtrvd. 2019-01-01)


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