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Brian Jenner Interview

Posted on 01 September 2005. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to writerBrian Jenner about his journalism and non-fiction and why he wrote his autobiography at thirteen.

Tell us all about your writing background- what you’ve written, what you’re currently writing

I trained as a journalist in local papers, but I couldn’t find an editor to take me on. I started on the Peterborough column of the Daily Telegraph and I worked on the Guardian Obituaries desk for a while. I’ve had a number of interesting small jobs – for example I pick the quotations at the bottom of your WH Smith diary.

I started the community website for Paddington and Bayswater (www.newspad.co.uk) in 1999 which has meant I have written hundreds of news stories about the area.

In 2003 I wrote a book called ‘Men and Collections’ which was in the ‘Men in Sheds’ series. I moved out of London to Bournemouth at the beginning of 2004 which was a shock to the system. I am writing a novel about the transition.

A businessman once asked me to write some speeches for him. It was very well paid, so I thought I’d like to do more of it. I put an advert in Private Eye. I now write everything from best man gags to corporate keynote addresses. It helped that I did six years in a speaking club called Toastmasters International – I got loads of public speaking practice in front of a sympathetic audience.

How did you start writing?

I remember when I was thirteen telling my maths teacher at school that I was writing my autobiography. He said, ‘Isn’t it a bit early?’ I can’t really explain why – maybe I was inspired by Adrian Mole.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

I like Evelyn Waugh for his mordant wit. I love Tolstoy for his spirituality. I was at school with Guy Browning, who is a brilliant humorous writer and performer. It’s taken him 20 years to hit the big time, but you’ll see his name in quite a few places now.

How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication?

I sat next to the Sunday Times columnist A A Gill once at a Private Eye lunch and I asked him how he got into journalism. He said, ‘I was asked.’ I was a bit cheesed off by this response, until two years ago I got a commission to write a book about men who collect things. How did I get the gig? I was asked.

What’s the worst thing about writing?

The loneliness, the lack of consistent financial reward, and the rejections, which come in many forms.

And the best?

The thrill of people quoting things back to you which you’ve written and the satisfaction of ‘telling it how it is’.

Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences/readers and if/how this affects/influences your writing

A N Wilson once said, ‘If you know somebody is going to be awfully annoyed by something you write, that’s obviously very satisfying, and if they howl with rage or cry, that’s honey.’ I like to be provocative and I like to go after people. I do this on the local website for Paddington and Bayswater which I set up. Local journalism can be so bland, but it doesn’t have to be.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Al T at 10:09 on 01 September 2005  Report this post
Interesting interview, Brian. On AA Gill, you probably know that before he was "asked", he spent many years moping around at home, not getting published and drinking himself into oblivion, whilst his delightful wife went out to hunt and gather in the City. Of course, as soon as he became successful, he traded her in for a more glamorous model. Perhaps he thought that was a better story...

As for Evelyn Waugh, I loved Brideshead Revisited, which I first read as a teenager after watching the TV series, but recently tried to read Scoop, hoping it would amuse me, but gave up less than half way through as I couldn't care less about any of the characters and didn't find them remotely funny. But perhaps that's just me...

Best of luck with your endeavours,

Al T.


Before this sites owners get too worried, I should add that AA Gill openly refers to himself as a recovering alcoholic and no longer drinks.

Felmagre at 18:56 on 01 September 2005  Report this post
Truthful, fasinanting and inspiring interview, give sone hope... Moreover
I was very interested in the fact that you are concentrating on 'short stories' particularly when we are told they are non-profit and not too welcomed by publishers. Any hints or tips as to whom one should apply to have short stories received with open arms?

Nik Perring at 02:36 on 02 September 2005  Report this post
Nice to see some honesty. Great interview.


Cornelia at 11:49 on 12 September 2005  Report this post
Very interesting interview. I think you are right about 'being asked', but you have to put yourself in the right place, or know the right people as well as be able to do what they want. I was once in the BFI film library, where I always read the notice board. One day a new publishing company was asking for director profiles and I'd just finished one for the MA thesis I was writing. When I sent it in they wrote back asking me if I'd like to write a book about Chinese film, which I did. Later, my daughter was completing a thesis about censorship and publishing and was asked did she know anyone who could contribute to an encyclopedia on world censorship? I wrote the entry on Chinese film and some more about particualr directors. Another time I went to work for a publisher (of educational material) in China,mainly proof-reading, and a colleague got an editor's job with a Beijing Magazine. Later he wrote and said he was commissioning writers for a backpage called 'Expats' Eye', and would I contribute. I wrote two articles before I came back to the UK.


AnthonyAnson at 13:56 on 29 October 2019  Report this post
Getting the unique knowledge is my aim and now after reading the biography of Brian Jenner I feel very happy and now I will write an blog.

DavidHarsh at 10:01 on 30 October 2019  Report this post
I am very impressed by your interview because lots of thing I take about your interview.

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