Lisa Byrne - reading is one of life’s biggest joys

Lisa Byrne

Lisa Byrne - Credit: Archant

Which writer is right when it comes to putting pen to paper?

Literary genius Christopher Hitchens said that everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay. Judging from the growing army of successful new and established authors, however, he doesn’t seem to have put anyone off.

Despite the onslaught of modern technology with games, addictive TV shows and the joy (or curse) of the internet, we can’t get enough of good old fashioned story-telling. Like vinyl records, books and literary festivals have enjoyed a huge resurgence in recent years.

I’m sad for people who don’t read as I feel they’re missing out on one of life’s biggest joys. Every night before sleep, I escape from reality into the wild moors of West Yorkshire to witness the destructive behaviour of Heathcliff and Cathy or, if I’m feeling mischievous, grab Jilly Cooper’s latest novel Mount! and head to Rutminster for a naughty half hour with Rupert Campbell-Black.

Regular readers will be aware that I’m in the midst of researching and writing my first novel, which has meant many meetings with inspiring Yorkshire historians. Unfortunately, I can’t say much more as a literary agent (fingers crossed) is interested in my rather bonkers idea. Let me tell you, however, that, for me, the research is the best part. I relish listening to dedicated archaeologists talk fervently about historic events and mysteries, while I often loathe shutting myself off from the world to write. Many of my journalist friends who have written books advise writing for at least two hours every day. If only it were that simple.

I have a ritual that involves sitting at my antique Georgian desk surrounded by candles waiting for inspiration from writers of a bygone era who dedicatedly toiled without the help of a keyboard. Unfortunately, I usually find a million and one things to do apart from write; a dog walk maybe or browsing the sidebar of shame on a gossipy website.

Do I turn to Oscar Wilde, who said drink was the curse of the writing classes as he knocked back absinthe and champagne, or William Faulkner, who wrote at night with a bottle of whiskey at his side? Probably not. I have a hatred of hangovers so will stick to Earl Grey and a shortbread biscuit.

George Orwell said: ‘Writing a book is like a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with a painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one cannot resist nor understand.’ I totally get what he means. I know that, despite the hard slog, I will write this book because it’s a novel I would kill to read.

We’re very lucky that our county boasts numerous literary festivals, two of which kick off this month. Jenni Murray, Ian Rankin and Alan Johnson are taking part in Huddersfield Literary Festival (4th-19th) while, over in York, the city hosts its biggest literary festival (16th-30th) with star guests like Mark Gatiss, Michael Palin, Sue Perkins and Jonathan Dimbleby.

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How I envy these writers who can consistently produce works of genius. As I sit here editing a few chapters of my first-born novel, I dream that maybe sometime soon I will be appearing at a literary festival near you.

For now, however, I’ll just put the kettle on and have a quick peek at the sidebar of shame.

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