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#47: Rebecca Mead, staff writer, the New Yorker

Simon and Eleanor speak with Rebecca Mead, a longtime staff writer at the New Yorker magazine who recently returned to the UK after many years in the United States. Rebecca spoke about her early career as a fact-checker, how she moved into writing her own features, first at New York magazine and later for the New Yorker, and lifted the lid on some of the internal processes at the celebrated magazine, from the process of assigning stories to the practicalities of spending months reporting...


#46: Mark Haddon, novelist

Simon speaks with Mark Haddon, who won the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year award for his bestselling novel A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Haddon also teaches creative writing for the Arvon Foundation and Oxford University. He spoke to Simon about how writing and illustrating children's books provided a stepping stone to writing for adults, and about his very first (unpublished) novel, which could be published as a warning "for young men who think they're rather clever"....


#45: Alexa von Hirschberg, senior commissioning editor, Bloomsbury

Eleanor speaks with Alexa von Hirschberg, a senior commissioning editor at Bloomsbury Publishing. Alexa began her career in 2007 at Canongate Books. In 2008 she joined Bloomsbury as an editorial assistant, working with authors including Colum McCann, Lawrence Norfolk, Margaret Atwood and William Boyd. Today her list includes Kate Tempest, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Aminatta Forna, Alexei Sayle and Laurie Penny. We spoke about how Alexa found her way through the British publishing landscape, the...


#44: Dylan Jones, British GQ editor

In this episode of the podcast, Simon and Eleanor speak to Dylan Jones, editor of Condé Nast's British GQ since 1999. Jones spoke about GQ's place in 2018, a year in which masculinity has never been so scrutinised, as well as the challenges he has faced as an editor, including the controversy around GQ's Johnny Depp cover. Jones also spoke about the beginning of his journalism career, starting with the first record review he sent NME and editing ID magazine, to working at the Observer and...


#43: Daisy Johnson, novelist

In this episode, Simon and Eleanor speak to Daisy Johnson, who, earlier this year and at 27 years old, became the youngest person ever shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize with her novel Everything Under. We spoke to Daisy about her views on the importance of the Man Booker, whether there is rivalry between the shortlisted candidates and how fun the winning ceremony actually is. Daisy also talked about studying creative writing at master's and bachelor's level, and how useful these courses...


#42: Ian Rankin, novelist

Simon and Eleanor speak to crime writer Ian Rankin, the multi-million copy bestseller of over thirty novels and creator of detective John Rebus. Ian's books have been translated into thirty-six languages and adapted for radio, the stage and the screen. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Awards, including the Diamond Dagger, the UK’s most prestigious award for crime fiction. We spoke to Ian about the changing face of crime fiction, his struggles during his early...


#41: Hermione Lee, biographer

Simon speaks with Hermione Lee, the biographer known for her lives of Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather and Penelope Fitzgerald. She has chaired the judges of the Man Booker Prize, is a fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the British Academy, is published in the Guardian and regularly contributes to arts programmes on Radio 4. Until last year, Hermione was President of Wolfson College Oxford. Simon interviewed Hermione about her entry into academia, the process of...


#40: Richard Skinner, director of the fiction programme at the Faber Academy

Simon and Kassia speak with Richard Skinner, director of the fiction programme at the Faber Academy, one of a number of creative writing schools established outside the traditional university context in recent years. Richard created the academy's flagship 'Writing a Novel' six-month course in 2009 and since then has worked with hundreds of writers. Notable graduates include SJ Watson, whose debut novel Before I Go To Sleep became an international bestseller and Andreas Loizou, whose The...


#39: Cal Flyn, author

Kassia and Simon speak with Cal Flyn, a Scottish author and journalist. Cal worked as an investigative reporter for The Sunday Times and data reporter at the Telegraph before turning to literary non-fiction. Her first book Thicker Than Water, which dealt with colonialism in Australia and intergenerational guilt, was published in 2016 and selected by The Times as one of the best books of the year. Her second book, Islands of Abandonment, is expected in 2021. We spoke to Cal about breaking...


#38: Rory Stewart, author

Kassia and Simon speak to Rory Stewart, the MP for Penrith and the Border and the author of Occupational Hazards and The Places in Between, a New York Times bestseller. We spoke to him about his influences and how his feelings about walking memoirs and travel literature have evolved. He also spoke in greater depth about how he came to write The Places in Between and how his relationship with his father was pivotal to his most recent book, The Marches. You can find us online at...


#37: Clare Conville, literary agent, C+W

Simon speaks to Clare Conville, the co-founder of literary agency C+W (formerly Conville and Walsh). Listed by the Observer as one of “Our top 50 players in the world of books”, Clare previously worked as an editor at Random House, before co-founding Conville & Walsh in 2000. Between them Clare’s clients have won or been nominated for nearly every major literary prize in the UK, including the Man Booker Prize, the Orwell Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction. We...


#36: Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times

Kassia and Simon chat to Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times since 2005. We discussed his early career in journalism, which included stints at The Scotsman and a fellowship at the Washington Post, before his move to the Financial Times. He also spoke about his plans for the newspaper, both when he first took over as editor in 2005 and how these may have changed more recently as the idea of globalism has become more fraught. We also discussed some recent pieces he's been involved...


#35: Joanne Harris, novelist

Simon and Kassia speak to Joanne Harris, author of the 1999 novel Chocolat, which was filmed a year later starring Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp, as well as numerous other best sellers including Gentleman and Players, Runelight and Peaches For Monsieur le Curé. Joanne talked about her early career as a teacher, dealing with unhelpful advice, the experience of writing a huge best-seller and subsequent movie adaptation, and her prolific, and occasionally acerbic, presence on...


#34: Niall Ferguson, historian

Simon and Kassia speak to Niall Ferguson, conservative historian and author of The Ascent of Money and The Pity of War. He talked about his career, financial pressures and the dynamics of writing as a popular historian in the world of academia. You can find us online at, on Twitter @takenotesalways, and on Facebook at Our crowdfunding page is Always Take Notes is presented by Kassia St Clair and Simon Akam, and...


#33: Louisa Joyner, editorial director, Faber & Faber

Simon and Kassia speak to Louisa Joyner, editorial director at publisher Faber & Faber. Louisa moved to Faber in 2016 from Canongate, and previously worked at HarperCollins, where she published Costa Book of the Year winner Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall and commissioned Curtis Sittenfeld's re-write of Pride and Prejudice - Eligible. Louisa spoke to us about entering publishing from academia, her approach to the editorial process, where Faber fits in today's market, and where she sees...


#32: Jeremy Gavron, author

Kassia speaks to Jeremy Gavron, author of The Book of Israel, (winner of the Encore award), A Woman on the Edge of time and Felix Culpa, a novel pieced together from lines from over eighty other books. Jeremy spoke honestly about many of the relationships that have informed his work, including those with agents and editors and also with his mother, whose story he tells in A Woman on the Edge of Time.


#31: Lucy Hughes-Hallett, author

Kassia and Simon speak to Lucy Hughes-Hallett, author of The Pike, a biography of Italian rake Gabriele d'Annunzio, which won all three of the UK's most prestigious prizes for non-fiction for 2013 - The Duff Cooper Prize, the Samuel Johnson Prize, and the Costa Biography of the Year award. Lucy spoke to us about the rhythms of her work, her relationship with agents and publishers, and her literary treatment of heroism. You can find us...


#30: Jonathan Shainin, editor, Guardian Long Read

Kassia and Simon speak to Jonathan Shainin, who runs the Long Read section of the Guardian. He spoke to us about his nomadic career, which took him from New York (and the New Yorker), to Abu Dhabi, India, and back to New York, before coming to London to set up the Long Read in 2014. Jonathan discusses the differences between US and UK editing styles, where the Long Read fits into the wider Guardian ecosystem, and how venturing abroad can fit into the career of an editor as well as a writer....


#29: Julia Kelly, romance novelist

Kassia and Simon speak to romance novelist Julia Kelly about her portion of the literary universe - romance fiction is a billion-dollar industry. Julia talked to us about how she came to write her first books, the importance of marketing and social media for romance writers, the pros and cons of self-publishing in this genre, and why the happy ending remains non-negotiable. She also discussed the impact of the #metoo movement on the world of romance....


#28: Peter Moffat, BAFTA-winning screenwriter

Kassia and Simon interview screenwriter and playwright Peter Moffat, whose work includes the series Cambridge Spies, Criminal Justice - later the basis of HBO's The Night of - and Silk, as well as the TV films Hawking and Einstein & Eddington. Peter spoke about moving from his early career as a lawyer into writing, the distinctions between British and American approaches to producing TV drama, and the role of both intensive research and muzak-free coffee shops in his writing routine....