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#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...


#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....


#27: Helen Lewis, deputy editor, the New Statesman

Kassia and Simon interview Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman. She spoke to us about what her current role entails, the training she received as a sub-editor at the Daily Mail (and what it was like to work there). Helen candidly discussed the importance of networking, feminism, sub-editing and longform journalism. She also revealed a brilliant tip for powering through writers' block.


#26: Max Hastings, military historian

Simon speaks to Max Hastings, the best-selling military historian and erstwhile foreign correspondent and newspaper editor. They discussed Max's early career - how 1960s and 70s Fleet Street really was, without the benefit of rose-tinted spectacles - his experiences in the Falklands in 1982, the development of his book writing, from early ventures to his doorstopper World War Two histories, and the evolution of military history as a genre. You can find us online...


#25: Hannah Westland, publisher, Serpent's Tail

Kassia and Simon speak to Hannah Westland, the publisher at Serpent's Tail, an independent imprint that published Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin and Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent. She spoke to us about her early career — she started out as a literary agent — some of the projects she's currently working on and the role of independent firms in the publishing marketplace. You can find us online at...


#24: Laura Palmer, publishing director, Head of Zeus

Simon speaks to Laura Palmer, publishing director for fiction at Head of Zeus, an independent publishing house in London. Laura co-founded Head of Zeus in 2012, having started her career at Quercus Books, and she also worked at Corvus, the commercial fiction imprint of Atlantic Books. We spoke about what 'commercial fiction' precisely means, whether 'women's fiction' is still a useful label, best practice for aspirant writers and editors, and whether the Kindle has boosted public appetite...


#23: Ben Judah, journalist and author of This is London

Kassia and Simon chat to Ben Judah, the journalist and author of This is London and Fragile Empire. He told us about how he got into writing, the influence on his work of Polish reportage styles and why he's decided to take a little break from Twitter. (We were on Skype, so please excuse the odd rough patch.)


#22: Patrick Kingsley, New York Times correspondent

In this episode Kassia and Simon interview Patrick Kingsley, a correspondent with the New York Times. Patrick previously covered migration and the Middle East for The Guardian, based in Cairo and Istanbul. His first book, How To Be Danish (2012), was an exploration of contemporary Danish society. His second book, The New Odyssey (2016), chronicled the European refugee crisis, and was one of NPR's books of the year. Now based in London, Patrick is also a past winner of the annual foreign...


#21: Nikesh Shukla, author

Kassia interviews Nikesh Shukla, a TV and fiction writer. We spoke about his novels Coconut Unlimited and Meatspace, and how he came to edit The Good Immigrant, the collection of essays about race and immigration and what it means to be a model "good immigrant" in the UK. You can find us online at, on Twitter @takenotesalways, and on Facebook at Always Take Notes is presented by Kassia St Clair and Simon Akam, and produced by Olivia Crellin,...


#20: Antony Beevor, military historian

Kassia and Simon interview Antony Beevor, the celebrated military historian. Best known as author of Stalingrad, the runaway success which on publication in 1998 transformed military history as a genre, Antony has also written on the Spanish Civil War, the battles of Crete and Berlin, and D-Day. His latest book Arnhem – The Last German Victory, will be published in May 2018. Antony, who is also a former chairman of the Society of Authors, has sold more than seven million books in 32...


#19: Sam Knight, magazine writer

Simon interviews Sam Knight, a British writer who works mainly for the Guardian and the New Yorker and specialises in longform pieces on unusual topics, such as the UK sandwich industry and the psychology of a stalker. They discuss his entry into journalism, his love of classic American nonfiction and how he puts features together.


#18: Joelle Owusu, editor, Unbound

Kassia speaks to Joelle Owusu, an editor at Unbound, the innovative publishing company that aims to use crowd-funding to shake up the way books are produced, paid for and disseminated. Joelle explained how Unbound's business model works, how it compares to traditional publishing, and how they aim to give voice to writers that have traditionally faced a sceptical response from the industry. She also discussed her own career, which has seen her make an unlikely move from petroleum geology to...


#17: Candice Carty-Williams, senior marketing executive, Vintage Books

Kassia and Simon interview Candice Carty-Williams, senior marketing executive at Vintage Books. She spoke to us about the nuts and bolts of marketing a book and the role data play. She also discussed how she wrote her debut novel "Queenie", which was acquired by Orion earlier this year for a six-figure sum and will be published in 2019. You can find us online at, on Twitter @takenotesalways, and on Facebook at Always Take Notes is presented...


#16: Nick Summers, features editor, Bloomberg Businessweek

Kassia and Simon spoke to Nick Summers, a features editor for Bloomberg Businessweek who at time of recording was based in London but is now in New York. Nick talked us through his commissioning and editing process and spoke about some fascinating pieces he's worked on recently including one on an Wall Street informant who double-crossed the FBI and another that looked into exactly what it is that IBM does (and whether it's any good at it). Stories discussed:...