Students and staff alike filed in as I waited at the front of the room with my student co-interviewer and author Anthony Horowitz. When I first volunteered to help interview Anthony I felt quite nervous. I had a list of questions I was meant to ask, and I was trying to make sure I would remember them all and say them well. I was representing the student population of the University of Roehampton, and as an international student, my home university as well. I wanted to represent myself and my communities well. Therefore, I was nervous.
But even as the large lecture hall filled, I knew when I met Anthony that I had nothing to be nervous about. The energy buzzing in the room let me know that my fellow students were nervous and excited, too. They were seeing a figure that played a prominent role in the development of their imaginations and free time right before them, with their own eyes. I knew Anthony Horowitz from his Alex Rider novels, which I had read as a child and then passed on to my younger brother. I was also reading his book Moriarty as part of my Victorian Adventurers novel. I had not yet considered that he had a large following in England, but in those moments, I felt connected to every person in the room as we listened to him impart his wisdom for writing and reading.
As an author and Creative Writing major, Anthony’s writing advice left a very strong impact on me.
“Never underestimate what you can do in an hour,” he said. As a student in a digital age, I know that myself and others can often feel that an hour is too little time to get anything meaningful done. But that is completely untrue. Notes can be taken in an hour. Research can be started in an hour. Edits, rewrites… the most important thing is that during that hour, your mind is focused and working on that project. If you choose to work for an hour, it is one less hour wasting time.
Anthony Horowitz also talked about how he manages multiple projects at the same time, mentioning that he compartmentalises each project. He works on one project, one day at a time. He doesn’t work on one book and then also attempt to write a script-work at the same time, for example. He said that he compartmentalises each work to prevent “the characters from bleeding in to different works.”
And for aspiring writers, Anthony had very simple advice. “If you want to be a writer, then WRITE.” As someone who often calls herself an aspiring writer, it was like a well-placed kick to the rear. No one else can make me a writer, and I’m not a writer unless I am writing. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be for public consumption. It just has to be for me, and if I’m enjoying it, then I’m writing. Anthony also said that the “good writers are the ones who never gave up.” Rejection is a huge part of the publishing world. If we, as writers, give up after rejection, we’ll never know if our writing could make it. Writing is a skill and a talent. It needs to be developed through practice, and if we stop practising, we do ourselves a disservice. If we quit writing, we never give ourselves the chance to be published.
So even though I was nervous to interview Anthony Horowitz, it’s an experience that I now wouldn’t trade for the world. And I am very grateful to the University of Roehampton for giving me this experience. I had to cross the ocean to be exactly where I am right now, and it was worth it.