The past 18 months have seen some very interesting things happen in terms of blogging. More and more blogs are being discovered and created and a lot of existing bloggers are upping their game and producing some fantastic stuff. Another very interesting thing to happen was that many bloggers started getting book deals. How about that? Already one blogger, the Bitter Pill had a book out for Christmas and we have the likes of Fiona from The Waiting Game, Grandad from Headrambles, Twenty Major and Kieran Murphy from Ice Cream Ireland getting deals. In the next few months we should see all their books come out. Twenty’s book is right around the corner.
As part of the build-up to the blog Awards, Fiona, Grandad, Twenty and Kieran have agreed to be on a panel to discuss their blogging and their book writing. It should be happening the afternoon of the Awards in Dublin City Centre. More details about this to follow. Really for my own curiosity and maybe it will also interest you, I did interviews via email with all of them. I only needed to strongarm them a little bit for them to agree. The kittens as a result will go unharmed. The first interview is with Twenty:
How long has the Twenty Majorfa blog been going now? Why did you decide to blog? You obviously have a lot to say, is it good to use the blog to unwind? Is it therapy?
It began in September 2004. As for why I started – good question. Almost impossible to answer as well. I just had an idea for the character and took it from there. There was no great plan or anything.
I think the blog does give me an opportunity to say things you might not normally be able to. I suppose it can be therapeutic in some ways although I’d never considered that before. It’s certainly cheaper than going to see a regular therapist – so perhaps the mentally ill should be forced to blog or we put them back behind 50 asylum walls and zap their brains with electricity. On live TV.
One blog post a day (at least), 5 days a week. It’s a tough thing to do. I don’t think I know many bloggers they are as dedicated. Why all this dedication?
Why not? I suppose many people blog for themselves and keep a fairly random schedule but I think part of the appeal, initially at least, was that people knew there’d be a new post every day so they’d come back and check. It’s something I still really enjoy so it’s not a burden (although there are days when it’s more difficult than others). Plus I suppose you have a responsibility to your readers too. If the blog is a success then they’ve played a bit part in that so it’s important not to slack off or lose sight of that.
Where does this inspiration come from?
That is the million dollar question and I don’t have any real answer. It just sort of spews out of my brain and through my fingers. I’d hate to try and find out more though. I remember once reading a short story by Isaac Asimov (I think it was him anyway) about some bloke who tried to discover why jokes were funny or what was the funniest joke ever, or something. He managed it but in the end nothing was ever funny again. Therefore if I find out where the crap all comes from I’ll never have any ideas ever again. Possibly. You can see how dangerous it might be to try though.
You’ve done extremely well at the Blog Awards the past two years. Were you surprised at how well received your blog is? Do you find there’s more pressure now with the awards, the book deal and a great deal of attention every single day?
It definitely was a surprise, yeah. I never thought it would be as widely well-received as it has been, nor was it my intention when I started to write a “popular” blog. I was just writing what I wanted to write, the way I wanted to write it. I have a good laugh writing it and thankfully people enjoy the writing and the content. The wide range of people (in terms of age group, interests etc) that like it is the biggest surprise though.
With regards to pressure I suppose there is a bit because it feels like there are standards to maintain but maybe that’s a good thing. If you get complacent with anything, whether it’s a blog or work or feeding your cat, that thing will suffer. Especially the cat. The book was a different kind of pressure though.
Twenty Major isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade. That’s rare, even in blogging. Is there something wrong with the world and us Irish when we are glossing over things and being too flightfully nice?
Well, you don’t mind complaining, do you? But I think it’s a very Irish thing not to cause a fuss, which is a shame when there’s so much to give out about. I think we’re getting better though, people seem more prepared not to just blindly accept things. I think the introduction of broadband helped. There was so much to complain about and so many people to do it that it just seems to have caught on a bit now. It’s the new craze that all the kids are into. Yeah.
What blogs does Twenty Major read? It’s a given that I’m first on the list, but what about the others?
My blogroll is a good indication of the blogs I read. I read as many other Irish blogs as I can as well. I do find I get a bit lazy though as I have so many in my RSS reader it could take up even more of my life so I tend not to add things for ages – then I realise a site I used to look at once a week is one I look at every day so I add it to the list.
I do hate being asked to single any out though. There are so many I’d feel like I was betraying the ones I didn’t mention.
Beardy people like yourself, John Waters and Richard Delevan seem to wind up the public a lot. Do you think it’s the beard that gets to people or is there some other factor?
Are you suggesting having a beard makes somebody more of a cunt? You could be onto something there. I saw a picture of Ronan Keating with a beard and it’s definitely made him more of a cunt.
On to the book. Well done on the book deal. How did that come about?
Thank you. Basically Hodder contacted me because they wanted to do a book about blogging. After some emailing we arranged a meeting, had a discussion about the book they wanted to do then I pitched them an idea about writing a book based on the blog and the characters in it. They asked to me to come back to them with a synopsis and a couple of chapters, which I did, and amazingly they liked it. They then offered me the two book deal. I said I would think about it. So I thought about it for a few seconds and said ‘yes’.
What’s your regime been like? You seem to have a very short time to get the first book out. How did you juggle that with the blog and with the other things you do?
It was very short and I wish I could tell you I was disciplined and did a bit every day so I wasn’t left with a stack of work at the end. I could tell you that but it would be a lie. I reckon about 50% of the first draft was done in the last month before deadline so that meant writing for 12 hours a day. Lots of coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Thankfully I have a very understanding editor who was a great help during the whole process.
It didn’t get in the way of the blog at all really because it’s usually first thing in the morning or last thing at night when I write it but I did find myself wondering had I used a joke in the book or the blog, or the blog or the book, and it did get a bit confusing at times.
Did you seek out advice from others on putting the book together?
Yep, thankfully I have a good friend who has experience of writing books and their advice was invaluable. I shall follow it more closely for the second book so I don’t end up with loads to do and fuck all time to do it.
Did you find yourself self-censoring things when writing the book or were there times when you thought “holy crap, they’re not going to let this through”?
No, I didn’t censor anything. I thought it was important that it had to be the same Twenty in the book as in the blog. There were things that you can say in a blog that you can’t say in a book however, so there were a few things that had to be changed/modified, but thankfully nothing that detracts from the story in any way.
There were some things that actually got through that I wasn’t expecting though, so kudos to them again. I wonder if they’ve ever published a book with so many swear words.
Your first interview about the books is apparently going to be with Barry Egan. Okay, maybe not but how do you feel about the impending publicity surrounding the book? How much are you involved with marketing it?
Heh, “Barry Egan meets Twenty Major”. Not a chance. At this moment in time I don’t know what exactly is planned in terms of publicity. It’s down to the publishers and the PR company to work that out. They’ll then tell me and I suppose I’ll have to decide what I’m comfortable doing and what I’m not prepared to do at that time.
I can assure you I am not interested in walking naked down Grafton Street with the book cover painted on my arse though. I think most people will be happy to hear that.
You’re one of many now getting book deals. Is this good for bloggers? What advice would you give anyone that wants to write a book, should they start off as a blogger too?
Yes, I think it’s great for bloggers. It’s great for anyone to get a book deal. I don’t know if somebody who wants to write books should necessarily start off as a blogger but what I would say is that blogging allows you to write, publish instantly and gain an audience of people who are reading you because they like what you’re producing.
Not every blogger is going to get a book deal, nowhere near it, but it does give people a platform to showcase their ability and not only that, have instant critiques of what you write (in the comments). There are some very, very talented writers in the Irish blogging scene and I think now that blogging is being taken a bit more seriously ( e.g not being written off as a nerdy pastime anymore) it is a good way for any budding writers to get their stuff out there.
When is the book out?
I think it should be in the shops in the second or third week of February. When I find out the exact publication date I’ll stick it up on the blog