Matthew Selwyn is an author, blogger, student, and librarian. Here Stephanie Cox interviews him about his career and his popular blog, Bibliofreak. You can follow Matthew on Twitter @thebibliofreak
1. Please introduce yourself and give me an overview of your career so far.
Hi, I’m Matthew Selwyn – I’ve been writing a book blog – www.bibliofreak.net – for around four years now, which I set up with the intention of forcing me to think more critically about books I had read and also to get me into the habit of writing regularly. I suppose it has succeeded on that score, as after writing the blog for a couple of years I started work on my first novel (****, or, The Anatomy of Melancholy). This was released late-2014, and I’m currently finishing the first draft of my second novel, so I’ve certainly begun to get the hang of writing regularly! I’m also lucky enough to work in a great academic library, which is somewhere I feel completely at home.
2. What are some of the most rewarding parts of working as a librarian?
There was a recent YouGov poll that put author and librarian as the two most desirable jobs in Britain, which made me insufferably smug for a few days. I am incredibly lucky to have fallen into a lifestyle that means I am around books all day – what better way to spend a life? – and I’ve always found the cosy world of libraries more appealing than the more profit-focused publishing industry, so things couldn’t have fallen out much better for me. My university has a gorgeous Victorian library, and being paid to spend time there is an absolute dream for a bibliophile like me. I’ve also worked in public libraries, and I love the sense of being part of a community and supporting people who wouldn’t have access to books, computers, knowledge, a friendly ear, and all sorts of other things, that libraries can provide. Obviously, though, the biggest advantage to working in libraries is a staff library card: almost unlimited borrowing right, priceless. (Yes, I am that sad / easily pleased.)
3. You state on your blog that you “love discussing opinions with others, and arguing various viewpoints. With that in mind I hope my blog creates an atmosphere that inspires debate, and that readers will interact, disagree and generally have a chat with me through comments.” Do you think it’s important that people have debates and differing opinions on literature?
I’m not sure it’s important necessarily – it’s good for people to be able to respond to art in whatever way they like. It is, after all, a very personal thing. For me, though, I know talking about literature and hearing interpretations and opinions argued has helped me develop as a critical reader. It is fun too. Reading, for all that I love it, is a very isolating experience; to be locked away from the world with only the words of an author far removed for company makes for a fairly lonely hobby, so being able to share that hobby with other readers is great, not just for its literary value but for its social value too. Given half the chance, I’d lock myself up in a remote hideaway with a big pile of books and only emerge when I’d exhausted my reading material. Curbing that instinct by making discussion part of my reading process certainly helps me to be a less insular hermit. Sort of.
4. You clearly read a lot of different types of books. Why is it important for you to read / review a large range of book genres?
I think I’m still finding myself as a reader – if that doesn’t sound too pretentious? I was a bit of a late-bloomer when it came to reading, so I’m still finding my way around the literary landscape and discovering what catches my imagination. It is important to broaden your mind as much as possible, too, and reading across different genres certainly helps me to do that. I haven’t yet found a particular genre that suits me better than any others – I suppose, like a lot of things, one day I fancy a particular type of book and on another I’ll want something completely different. I have realised, though, that I want a level of substance to books I read. When I was younger, a good story would do it for me, but now I want books to do something more as well: to address, on some level, the big issues of the world and existence.
To read more of the interview, head over to Stephanie’s blog: Words are my Craft.