‘…and then the Prime Minister hit me…’

Most people can write a shopping list, many can write a postcard home and some can write a letter…but writing a book, that is something very different indeed.

At the beginning as I wrote in my earlier blog, the empty white page on the screen terrified me, but I blindly carried on, not really thinking that maybe, just maybe, one day my precious words would appear in print…in a book..between two hard covers and with my name on the front…wow !

Brian Harris AttPMHMOver the years I have written a few pieces for various papers whilst employed as a staff photographer, a few hundred words, maybe a thousand…but not 75,000. My first article was a short photography and travel piece in The Times…I must say I was quite chuffed with that and I was paid extra to boot. On The Independent I turned out a few ‘Photography exhibition criticisms’ and wrote a regular opinion piece for the British Journal of Photography. I rather enjoyed the discipline of writing…even though my spelling was pretty darn awful.

After four years of two finger typing I realised that I may actually have the makings of a book. I had a beginning, a middle period and very much an end!

I showed a couple of chapters to my partner Nikki, who is also co-financing the end product, and said she had enjoyed what she had read, ’It’s definitely you’..i think that was a positive remark…or maybe she was just being kind.

I needed to get a professional writer’s opinion, someone who had worked as a journalist but had made the transition to become an author. I was chatting to my friend Clare Arron about my problem and she recommended a pal of hers who may be able to help out. Now, dumping 70,000 plus words in a raw form onto someone that you didn’t really know was a big ask…step unto the plate the very brave Wendy Holden. Wendy was well into writing her wonderful emotive book ‘Born Survivors’ but for the price of a case of wine she read my manuscript and made several ‘observations’.http://www.wendyholden.com/born-survivors.php

‘Get rid of that complete chapter’ was one of her gentler comments…’and get rid of that one as well’…’write from the heart, don’t just write a list of what you have done…take me with you…take me there…’

And so, the first of many rewrites. Rewriting is nowhere near as much fun as writing the first draft, but if this is to be published with my name on the cover, it had better be a belter.

I took on board most, nearly all of Wendy’s suggestions…even leaving out the chapter of getting roaring drunk in Bordeaux and having lovely Helen Mirren get me back to my hotel and point me to my room. Shame, as that’s quite fun, but as Wendy said… ‘it’s a photographers bar room story…you got pissed and an actress helped you out’, yup, that’s about it.

Pretty sharp lady our Wendy.

So, after several rewrites and some tough editing, I had a finished MS (can a manuscript ever be finished?).

Something I learned when working on ‘Remembered’, the history of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – CWGC which I co-authored with Julie Summers in 2006 was the absolute importance of getting a top notch design team on board at the very early stages of putting a book together.http://www.amazon.co.uk/Remembered-History-Commonwealth-Graves-Commission/dp/1858943744

I contacted the urbane and ever helpful Hugh Merrell who published ‘Remembered’ and he recommended I get in touch with Professor Phil Cleaver at et-al design, based in Oxford who he had used on several projects.

Phil and I met and we got on straight away. He is clever and direct, but has some wonderfull quirks in his method of working. Phil has a tight team in Jennifer and Remi working for him – they are all very hands on.

We had a couple of meetings in his Oxford studio and he went away taking on board my ‘absolute wants’ and my ‘must haves’ and a few weeks later the cover of my book was born. Clean simple and bold…a classic piece of design and oh so very, very clever, see above.

Brian Harris book editing with Professor Phil Cleaver of et-al D
Editing Brian Harris’s book ’…and then the Prime Minister hit me…’ with Professor Phil Cleaver of et-al Design

Now to get some picture editing sorted out…that will be for next time.

Author: brianharrisphotographer

I have been an editorial photographer since 1969. After working for various 'Fleet Street' press agencies and local papers in the east end of London I joined The Times of London where I worked around the world until 1985. I joined The Independent Newspaper in London in 1986 and stayed with them until 1999. I'm still working as a photographer, generating my own story ideas which I sell to the international magazine market. I also contribute generic stock images to various photo libraries. I live near Cambridge in eastern England.

5 thoughts on “‘…and then the Prime Minister hit me…’”

  1. Looking forward to your book very much Brian…. I hope you don’t plan on revealing the anecdote about the PM hitting you before publication tho………………….!!!


  2. Hello Brian – I am very much looking forward to the book.

    Oddly enough, I suggested to Glynn years ago (when I first met him and worked with him) that there also ought to be a book about the photography in The Independent. (I mentioned this to David Sandison too, when I worked with him more recently.)

    For me that was an era that was unique and unsurpassed – I used to buy the paper (when it was a broadsheet) because of the photographs you all took – and indeed commissioned Glynn on the strength of some he’d taken. (I used to cut out the images that I liked and keep them in a drawer.)

    I hope that your book is a success (I shall be buying one) and I hope it spurs all of you on to produce the Indy one…


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