Karl Schmude at The University Bookman has a new interview with Piers Paul Read, author of The Death of a Pope (and many other novels). Read is characteristically thoughtful and insightful in his comments about working as a writer, handling Catholic themes in contemporary literature, the hostility of modern culture to faith, and much more.
Here are some of my favorite excerpts.
On the difficulty in finding work as a novelist:
It is the authors of what publishers call “middle-market fiction” who struggle to make a living. With so many means of distraction and entertainment today—film, television, social media, etc.—the young writer of good novels is unlikely to make a living from his craft. I know a number of young authors who, after writing two or three excellent novels which are well received but sell few copies, give up and either write for film or television, or settle down to a profession. I have been able to live off my writing thanks to the success of some of my works of nonfiction, notably Alive and The Templars.
On depicting sexual sin in novels:
In depicting the dangers to the soul of the World, the Flesh and the Devil, all must be convincing, and the temptations of the flesh must embrace not just gourmandise but disordered sexual desire. I have been charged by some devout readers with being too graphic in my depiction of sexual encounters. My defense is that of Blessed John Henry Newman, which you quote in your question, and the level of candor should fit the times in which one lives… I started writing novels in the 1960s, which saw, in parallel to a precipitous de-Christianization in Britain, a revolution in people’s attitudes to sexual relations outside marriage. I would hardly have been true to my calling if I had ignored this triumph of Baal. I like to think that nothing I have written is pornographic, in the sense that it was written to arouse desire in the reader; and, whether graphically described or not, I have always shown that invariably unhappiness results from the indulgence of disordered passions.
On Ignatius Press Novels:
A novel with an overtly Catholic theme now finds it difficult to find a British publisher: the fine English Catholic novelist Lucy Beckett, having failed to find a publisher in the UK, has her work published by Ignatius Press in San Francisco. My own novel, The Death of a Pope, was published in the U.S. by Ignatius after I was advised by my agent that it was too Catholic in content to be submitted for publication in the UK.
On the importance of family:
I believe that a happy home endows a child with a sense of confidence and self-worth that will last a lifetime, and it baffles me that this is only feebly acknowledged by governments—afraid to alienate voters by appearing to condemn their disordered lifestyles.
Read also talks about his upcoming novel, Scarpia, a re-imagining of the villain from Puccini’s famous opera Tosca. It sounds very intriguing, speaking as someone who was raised by opera buff parents!