I miss my old job. There I've said it. No, not the nine years I spent as a middling BBC manager being bounced by crack pot edicts from the higher-ups, or being held responsible for their consequences by those under me. No, I mean I miss the thrill of live broadcasting, being an audience's eyes and ears, experiencing and reporting on news and sport events as they happened.
Running Hobeck has some of those charms, albeit in very slow motion. Publishing is creativity with the luxury of time. Nothing is set in stone, until it is. In broadcasting, you are always up against the deadline. Top of the hour, you charge into the studio and read the news. It's out there, in a flash, hopefully right, occasionally wrong. It's an exercise in controlled adrenaline, coping with butterflies and trying to mask their impact with your commanding voice or unruffled expression. When it goes well, it's like flying. It's fun too. When it goes badly it's like a fatality free car crash; you emerge bruised and dazed, replaying the events that led to the 'disaster' and switching blame between yourself and the rest of the team involved.
Launching books has its own demands and rewards. There are few better feelings than opening the cardboard box containing freshly minted paperbacks. There are few worse than when you realise there remain a few wayward proofing issues two days later. The best feeling is that flow of collaborative creativity between publisher and author; challenges are met, edits highlighted and polished, narratives honed.
You have to strike a delicate balance as both broadcast editor and publisher. Encourage risk-taking and creativity, while remaining the arbiter and enforcer of accuracy, best practice and style. You are the proxy for the audience, be they reader, listener or viewer. Ultimately, you are looking out for their best interests, and that can sometimes bring you into conflict with the author or journalist concerned.
Rebecca and I regularly reflect on these issues in our podcast, the newly rebranded Hobcast Book Show. Our most recent guest, Jenny Parrott, is a fearless advocate of giving authors honest feedback. They can't grow without it. Her view is that all authors have the potential for development and growth, and an editor's job, as well as a publisher's, is to enable that process. Tough love is sometimes needed, she argues.
Our next guest shares that view too. Like Jenny, Brendan Dubois began his literary career in the 1980s. A former journalist, Brendan knew from an early age that he was destined to be a writer. Initially, the fertile U.S short story market helped to pay the bills, until in 1999, the success his breakthrough thriller Resurrection Day made it possible to become a full-time author.
I won't deny it, having Brendan join us from his home in New Hampshire was a personal thrill. I read Resurrection Day in 2000 on a long, often dangerous duty trip to Nigeria to cover the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations football tournament. I was a dilettante reader until that trip. Brendan's novel made me an avowed fiction fan from then on. So I owe him a debt. Publisher, narrator and nascent author - he provided the spark.
As you'll hear in Episode 18 of the Hobcast, Brendan is modest about his achievements, and honest about his challenges. He endured seven lean years recently as publishing underwent the revolution driven by Amazon, until he was connected up with the world's most successful thriller author, James Patterson. 'Jim', as Brendan is privileged to now call him, commissioned Brendan to work up an idea for a novella. Two years on they've co-authored four novels together. Jim sends Brendan ice cream at Christmas, and royalty cheques that have ended those lean years at last. It's an inspiring story. Brendan also credits James Patterson with changing his approach to writing. The moral? You can always learn something, as long as you're prepared to listen.
That's what the Hobcast gives Rebecca and I the chance to do. We listen. We hoover up insights and inspiration from our amazing guests, be they Hobeck insiders or honoured outsiders. When that metaphorical studio red light goes on, I get something else too. An echo of my old self, of the old broadcasting thrill and excitement. Trust me that's a priceless feeling.