An Interview with David Brewerton

Background

David Brewerton was born in London and still lives there, working as a freelance author and journalist.He has worked in financial journalism for both the  Daily Telegraph and Financial Times. In 1968 he helped found The Independent.  

While there he was the driving force behind the investigation of the Guinness Affair which led to several prominent businessmen including Gerald Ronson and Ernest Saunders being sent to prison.  

In 1988 Brewerton was recruited by Rupert Murdoch as Executive Editor of The Times Business News. 

His first full length novel, Impeccable Sources is based on his long experience of investigative stories. 

Ravenshead (RH) interviewed David Brewerton (BB) and the interview is reproduced here:

lorraine cobcroft
RH Please tell us a bit about your background.
DB

am a Londoner from an ordinary East End family. Although I went to a grammar school my formal education ceased when I was sixteen. I went to work as messenger boy in the City and then by chance got a job with a news agency, working on their financial newswire. The only qualifications they required were 'O' levels in Maths and English. From there I was recruited to the Financial Times and went on to work for many years on the Daily Telegraph, followed by The Independent and the Times.

RH When did you start writing?
DB

I left work through illness at the age of 59 and started writing soon after.

RH Where do you write? 
DB

Anywhere. Having been used to working in noisy newsrooms, I can write anywhere. Most of my writing is done at a desk in my sitting room. . 

RH What makes you write? 
DB

I like telling stories. 

RH What's the easiest thing about writing? What's the hardest? 
DB

The easiest is the writing. The hardest is finding the right things to write about.

RH Have other people's comments affected your writing?
DB

Enormously. They also have a disproportionate effect on my confidence, either for better or worse.  

RH Which writers have influenced you?
DB

I would like to write like Graham Swift, or Jon McGregor or Philip Roth. In my wildest ambitions I think of  Hemingway or Paul Auster.

RH You've worked in many environments, including financial journalism, writing obituaries, breaking major stories and novel writing. How has your writing developed and changed over the years?
RB

I suppose the big shift is moving from the "What's the story" approach of journalism into the "What's the story really about?" of creative writing. Journalism and writing are actually poles apart. In journalism everything is pared down to the bone, every word has a job to do. In writing, it is much more important to set the scene, to allow the reader to draw his own mind map of events. Writing obituaries, in a way, bridges the divide because the obituarist tries to explain the life of his subject..  

RH Would you rather work with colleagues or on your own?
DB

I write books on my own. But I loved working with my colleagues in newspapers.

RH Was it easy to find a publisher for your first book?
DB

No!  

RH You broke many of the stories connected with the Guinness Affair. This must have been an exciting time. Can you give us an idea what it was like working on such an important news story?
DB

It is the greatest thrill you can get as a journalist. The excitement of finding a new twist which you believe no other news reporter has found almost beyond description, but it is always tinged with the anxiety that somebody else may also be writing the same story, or will have found an angle that you have missed.  

RH Writing obituaries is an unusual and specialised field. How did you get into it? How do you research the subject?
DB

I got into writing obituaries when I was asked by a fellow journalist if I would do so. The tricks with "obits" is to find somebody who knows the subject well, and to encourage them to talk. People can be surprisingly generous in talking about their friends. Much of the basic research is done from press cuttings.  

RH Which journalistic skills have helped you as a novelist?
DB

I'm not sure. I suppose I am used to listening, and perhaps have an eye for a good story. 

RH I see that your book Impeccable Sources is about a major news story broken by a determined writer. Have your own experiences helped in writing this?
DB

Yes they have, enormously. Although Impeccable Sources is in no way autobiographical and all the characters are entirely fictional, I have drawn heavily on my experience of thirty years in newspapers, particularly in representing the attitudes and priorities of senior newspaper executives. 

RH What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?
DB

Most of the usual London things - wandering about, the cinema, seeing people. And family things - I am a member of a big family. I don't climb mountains or play golf or anything like that. 

RH Finally, do you have any advice for new writers?
DB

Write because you want to. Write what you want, but don't hurt anybody.

RH Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, and good luck with the novel
DB

Thank you.