It doesn't sound so bad if you mumble, but even so the thought of it sends a bit of a chill down my spine – the Hammer Films sort, that is, and not a member of the pleasure-tingle variety.
These are authors of eBooks I'm now interviewing. Okay, so they also produce print copies, but the interviews are primarily aimed at those serving the digital market. The idea came about with the loss of The Book Show on the Sky Arts channel. Presented by Mariella Frostrup, it ran from 2008-2013 and featured interviews with the creative movers and shakers of the printed book world until it was simply dropped by Sky to be replaced with … nothing.
The early set was distinctive, looking like a pastel-coloured front room, with book-shaped coffee tables and a backdrop of giant book spines. Seated comfortably on a settee, the authors would chat with Mariella – one could be forgiven for thinking she even flirted with some of them – and of course we were party to these conversations with such names as Rosamund Lupton, Sir Roger Moore, Terry Jones, Kate Mosse, William Boyd, to name just a few. These meetings were punctuated with short pieces filmed in the homes of, say, Nicci Gerard and Sean French, Alison Weir, Joseph O'Connor. Other pieces looked around bookshops with authors such as Ian Sinclair.
Also, each year a studio marquee was set up at the world-famous Hay Festival and extra Book Show programmes were made where guest interviewers such as Sarah Crompton tackled authors before a live audience (I never noticed her working from a script, so awarded her 10/10 for that and her excellent way with people). Other book events, such as the Dublin Writers' Festival, were also included.
It was amazing to be invited, along with thousands of other viewers, into the homes and private spaces of these authors as they told us how they created, their likes and dislikes, their treasured preferences. And I was fascinated to see where they worked, the scenery amongst which their stories developed and gelled – hey, I even found myself looking at the details of how their bookcases were constructed and what their floors were like. Yes, a bit of the woodworker in me was spilling out, which isn't a bad thing because it shows how I was accepting these people into my life; they were, after all, speaking to me at the other end of the camera.
The show was, quite simply, superb, bringing the authors to the readers in a way that hadn't been done before. And when, in June 2013, the broadcaster axed it, my wife and I were devastated. Strangely, about the same time, BBC2 dumped its weekly Review Show into a monthly slot on a back burner on BBC4, and The TV Book Club on Channel 4 – yet another proactive look into books and authors – had disappeared in 2012.
Now, there was no way that I could take over and finance the making of a dedicated TV book programme, but working from a computer, and with software and equipment on hand from Pin Productions, I thought it would be worth conducting online interviews with eBook authors, to bring them some exposure, to introduce them to their readers, to bring their names alive and put voices to them.
eBook Showtime was born and I grabbed the domain name right away (I've since been offered large amounts for it). Unfortunately, personal circumstances prevented me from getting it going until a couple of years later, but it's here now and in my next post I'll be talking about what it was like doing my first ever Skype interview.
*All images are screen grabs from the Sky Arts television programme and are used here for educational purposes.