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Interview with Tim Kevan

Tim Kevan’s ‘BabyBarista and the Art of War’ started life online and is now published by Bloomsbury. Here he explains what blogging can do for an author, and why it always pays to check your spam.

Are you a barrister who writes, or a writer who practises law?

Having spent the time qualifying and then more than ten years practising, my identity is rooted in being a barrister. However, it’s been great fun taking on a new identity as a writer as well.

How did your book BabyBarista and the Art of War come about?

I wanted to write a legal thriller but when I started what popped out was a mischievous voice and a cast of characters which seemed to take on a life of their own. I think what inspired BabyBarista and the Art of War most of all was probably my general sense of the absurdities that life produces and a love of farce that can result. The fact that it is set at the Bar rather than any other office setting simply reflects the fact that it is a backdrop with which I am familiar.

It started life as a blog – have you always blogged?

I started writing BabyBarista and the Art of War in early 2007 and I’d previously been writing my own Barrister Blog for just over six months. However, this was my first experience of writing a blog in a fictional voice.

Is blogging something you’d recommend?

Blogging is definitely one tool which might help some writers. The need to keep it up-to-date can provide discipline and the diary format gives an immediate structure, particularly for first person narratives.

What can a blog do for an author?

Another benefit is the fact that it is immediately published and made available to the whole world. In many ways it democratises writing and allows voices which otherwise may not get out there to be heard. It also enables the writer not only to build up a reader base but also to get valuable feedback as to what’s working and what’s not along the way. In effect it can act as a way of serialising a story in the tradition of the likes of Dickens and most recently Alexander McCall-Smith.

What can’t it do?

From my own experience I found that when taking the characters and general storyline from a blog and turning it into a novel there was a lot of work still to be done on tightening up the narrative arc, giving more depth to the characters and adding more physical details of the world they inhabit.

How did you get your agent?

After I started writing the blog I was lucky enough to be approached by a couple of literary agents. I chose to go with Euan Thorneycroft of AM Heath who has been extremely helpful at all stages of the process from looking at the story itself to negotiating with the publisher. I couldn’t recommend him more highly. Funnily enough, though, I almost didn’t get the original email he sent me since it was along the lines of “you don’t know who I am but I am a literary agent and have been reading you blog etc” which hotmail immediately decided was spam. It just shows that it’s worth checking your spam box occasionally!

What tips would you give a writer just starting out?

I feel I’m still learning so much, but if I were to say anything it would be simply to write. Get on with it and try not to be perfectionist in any way. Remember you can always go back and change it later on.

Beyond that I would say allow the voices that pop out when you sit down and start writing to gain a momentum of their own. Listen to them and give them the freedom to grow. So, too, with the characters which come into your head. Let them loose and see where they take you.

Your book is ‘a fictional account of a junior barrister’, how did you manage the line between fact and fiction?

It most definitely is fiction just as much as a murder mystery is fiction. I haven’t therefore had a problem distinguishing between this and real life. The legal setting helps provide both a colourful backdrop and also narrative tension in the sense that day-in day-out, people are involved in conflict and courtroom battles of one sort or another.

How have colleagues responded?

People have for the most part been very nice and supportive, albeit perhaps a bit surprised to discover that I’d been writing an anonymous blog for The Times or that I had a book deal with Bloomsbury. I’m writing a light comedy that aims to entertain and hopefully occasionally to make people chuckle – and it does seem to have garnered an audience first through the blog and now the book.

How did you find time to write?

I took a break from the Bar just under two years ago in order to give myself the time to finish the first BabyBarista book and I am continuing with that break at the moment while I write the sequel.

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