Questions for: Chris Holifield

News - Interviews Tuesday, 21 January 2020

The director of the TS Eliot Prize contributes to our Q&A series

Describe your current job briefly
I have a portfolio career now, so as director of the TS Eliot Prize I organise the whole thing each year, from the appointment of the judges through to the submissions, the announcement of the shortlist, the readings in the RFH and the award ceremony. I run WritersServices, my website providing editorial services for writers, and farm out editorial work to freelance editors. For my voluntary "job" I co-ordinate the Children's Poetry Summit, a network with regular meetings and a fantastic weekly blog.

What was your first job in the book industry?
I started as secretary to the rights manager at Granada Publishing, Reet Nelis, even though I didn't know what "subsidiary rights" were when I accepted the job.

Who has been the most influential person in your career?
My boss at Coronet, Philip Evans, who inspired me with his own passion for books and authors before he had a terrible accident that left him in a coma for four months and then confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

How has the industry changed since your first job?
It's infinitely easier for women to progress, and is very much less dominated by upper class men. Authors have more options and are more centre-stage. Everything moves faster, and email and the internet have had a profound effect on day-to-day working experience.

What's the biggest challenge in your job?
Managing things when everything is happening at once, with no one on hand to help. Moving forward when there's no one to bounce ideas off.

What are the most interesting things you're seeing at the moment in the industry?
The way that print has bounced back, the rise of audiobooks, authors asserting themselves, readers making much more of a mark.

What do you most like doing when you're not working?
Travel, preferably to distant places.

What is the best book you've read in the last year?
Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls, a wonderful revisiting of the Trojan Wars from the women's point of view.

What are you reading now?
Soot by Andrew Martin, engaging historical crime fiction.

How do you like to read: on screen, on paper, or do you listen to audio books?
On paper, and I still prefer paperback books.

Photo of Chris Holifield by Adrian Pope

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