Today I am excited to share an interview with David Boyle, whose new book ‘Thomas Edison: Shining a Light’ explores the life and triumphs of one of the greatest minds in American history – read on for more information, and if that piques your interest, there are two signed copies of the book to be won to celebrate the book’s publication!
Title: Thomas Edison: Shining A Light
Author: David Boyle
We may think we are living through times of great change right now in the Digital Revolution, but if you were born in the 1880s in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution, you would have witnessed the seismic shift of a country moving from a mainly rural way of life to an urban one. It makes our current revolution look like a tame snail’s pace of change!At this time a quarter of the population of England abandoned rural living to work in the factories. The new technologies of electric light, motor cars, cinemas, gramophones, safety bikes, submarines and aeroplanes all emerged and changed life dramatically. And if you survived the First and Second World Wars you would have seen all these developments reach their full flowering in the 1960s: the traffic on ten-lane highways, the monstrous ballistic missile submarines and supersonic jet airliners.But what is most amazing about this period of huge acceleration is how was one self-taught man, Thomas Alva Edison, able to provide the keys to unlock so many of those technological changes?“Thomas Edison: Shining a Light” reveals the extraordinary life and times of one of the greatest and most original thinkers of modern times. What shaped him, what drove him to such prolific invention, and how did he achieve it?
Interview with the author: David Boyle
1) Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I live in the South Downs with my family and write from a small hut at the bottom of the garden, now filled with rather too many books and papers. I’ve always wanted to live in Sussex, and now that I do I seem to spend far too much of my time on the school run or rushing elsewhere, but that may be my age. I also live with a lurcher puppy called Gwen.
2) You’ve written a lot of informative books about all kinds of topics, how do you choose the subjects you’re going to write about?
I tend to go for what really fascinates me the most, and of course it often means I have to persuade somebody else to commission me, which isn’t at all straightforward. The problem is that commissioning editors don’t see the connections between the subjects I write about – but as far as I’m concerned, it is one story which ranges around human life and genius. I’m just hard pressed to communicate it sometimes.
3) What made you decide to write a book about Thomas Edison?
I have always been fascinated by inventors and especially the entrepreneurial ones. When I heard about the film, I wanted to write a short introduction explaining why he shaped the world we live in. I like to set subjects in a broader context if I can.
4) What surprise you most about him when you were researching the book?
Just how prolific he was. And the sheer breadth of his interests, from lightbulbs to the future shape of money. I was fascinated also to find how he believed his deafness helped his inventing.
5) Your stories are interesting and readable for everyone, how do you manage to write about difficult matters in an understanding way?
I’ve been a self-employed writer now since 1992 and often the only way anyone commissioned me was to communicate new ideas in ways that made them easy to read, and maybe told a story. I kind of think that’s the way the English do it – they start with the story. My feeling is that if you can tell the story of an idea, you can usually get it across to everyone. And Edison also really believed in telling stories too.
6) Could you describe your writing process?
I tend to research each chapter at a time and then to write a rather impressionistic draft, and then go back through it again.
5) What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Good question. Best advice for being a self-employed writer: just because the client isn’t clear about what they want, it doesn’t mean they don’t know. Best advice for writing: plug into your sub-conscious as far as possible. It is why I write the first draft as fast as possible. The best writers seem to me to be able to listen to their innermost feelings as they write, and it brings their writing alive.
8) Did you always want to be a writer and where does your passion for writing come from?
I never realised I could in my youth – often I think people suppress their dreams because they don’t believe they will ever get there. That was certainly true of me. But I’ve always been much too didactic for my own good and I think that has always made me want to communicate.
9) What are your plans for the future?
I’d like to write about time, but I have written a novel about the enigma code and other novels too. I find I have a parallel career writing about economics in the Think Tank world, and would like somehow to fuse that writing together. I’m not sure how yet…
Competition time: win a signed copy of the book!
Good luck! Competition closes 31st July. UK only! No giveaway accounts please.