Now it’s National Stationery Week, and Notebook Day!, we just had to take a peek into the stationery passions of some famous writers.
One of the wonderful things about stationery is that it connects us to the act, the art, of writing. That’s a theme we found when we investigated what top authors felt about their creative process and what part stationery plays in it.
Let’s delve into these famous writers’ thoughts and, along the way, we’ll also find out find out some secret pen names and surprising facts.
(Oh, and I’ve linked to some of our own stationery in the quotes. Just as a little disclaimer, we’re not suggesting the authors bought from us, just imagining which of our products we think they’d like.)
Secret Pen Name #1
Sophie Kinsella’s real name is Madeleine Wickham. Wickham read Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Oxford and for a time worked as a financial journalist. She’s written several novels under her own name, including The Tennis Party and Cocktails For Three.
Dame Hilary Mantel is perhaps most famous for her Booker Prize winning novel Wolf Hall, now a critically acclaimed BBC series staring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell.
#Mantel adores stationery. Writing in The Guardian, she said she fantasies about all her furniture being destroyed and having to start again with only office stationery and reception sofas. She even looks to stationery for comfort when work isn’t going too well:
When narratives fracture, when words fail, I take consolation from the part of my life that always works: the stationery order. The mail-order stationery people supply every need from royal blue Quink to a dazzling variety of portable hard drives.
It’s true – there’s nothing like having your own little package of stationery appear on your doorstep to make you happy.
Secret Pen Name #2
J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith. Rowling chose the Scottish pseudonym to release her crime novels Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm. After Rowling’s true identity was revealed, the Cuckoo’s Calling shot to the top of Amazon’s book charts.
Not all writers are novelists. Quentin Tarantino, the Quentin that made Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglourius Basterds and Django Unchained, is an avid fan of red and black pens. And notebooks. (It’s always cool when famous people are just like us.)
In a 2007 Reuters interview, Tarantino explained how he works and the essential parts of his writing process:
One of the great things about being a writer is it gives you complete license to have whatever strange rituals make you happy and productive.
My ritual is, I never use a typewriter or computer. I just write it all by hand. It’s a ceremony. I go to a stationary store and buy a notebook – and I don’t buy like ten. I just buy one and then fill it up. Then I buy a bunch of red felt pens and a bunch of black ones, and I’m like, ‘These are the pens I’m going to write ‘Grindhouse’ with.
Do you have any budding scriptwriters in your family? Now you know what to buy them as a present.
Gaiman, beloved of fantasy fans, has written many successful books, films and comics, such as #Coraline, Good Omens (with the late Terry #Pratchett), #Sandman, American Gods and #Stardust.
In a 1999 interview, he said he used stationery as a way to get a certain tone and feeling into his work; he reminds me of an artist picking different brushes to get texture into a painting:
“Stardust was written in longhand because I wanted to inject the kind of feeling to recreate the kind of sentence structure, emotion, the whole thing that people had in, say, the 1920s. I wanted a slightly archaic voice. Most of all, I didn’t want to do what I know that I do when I’m working on a computer. I work on a computer as if I’m working in clay.”
It must be nice to be so talented to feel that, at your worst, you’re working in clay. At my worst I feel like I’m working in crayon.
Secret Pen Name #3
Stephen King wrote as Robert Bachman. He wanted to release more than one book a year, but was worried about flooding the market with ‘King’ titles. A bookshop clerk was the first to break the story, after finding King’s name accidentally listed as the copyright holder for one of ‘Bachman’s’ books.
Sophie Kinsella (see above!) is best known for the incredibly successful chick lit series #Shopaholic (starring Becky #Bloomwood), but she’s also written a number of standalone novels including Twenties Girl and I’ve Got Your Number.
In a 2010 interview with Time, Kinsella explained that writing, putting pen to paper, is something she does before sitting at a computer. It’s the start to the build up of her books.
If I’m planning a book, then I like to go out to a coffee shop and sit down and make notes longhand. Because I think the most scary thing in the world is to sit down at a blank computer, type Chapter One and see what happens. That would freak me out.
Must be nice to have a job where you can sit down with a coffee, a pen and a notepad. (Actually, that sounds like she’s a private detective.)
Secret Pen Name #4
In 1987, Rahila Khan wrote Down The Road, Worlds Away, a collection of short stories about the experience of Asian girls in the Midlands. Except that Khan was actually the Reverend Toby Forward, a parish priest in Brighton; a tale that overtook the book.
Sidney Sheldon was a popular author. Really popular. He’s the sixth best-selling author of all time, cranking out airport fiction blockbusters like If Tomorrow Comes, The Best Laid Plans and Master of the Game.
He also produced 1960s TV series I Dream Of Jeannie and created 80s TV hit, Hart to Hart. All in all, it’s estimated he earned $3 billion from his works.
But it’s perhaps Sheldon’s quote that best sums up the relationship between writers and stationery. About what it means to pick up a pcen…
A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God.
Secret Pen Name #5
US Founding Father Benjamin Franklin is on our list because of the sheer variety of pseudonyms he used. A non-exhaustive list includes: Silence Dogood, Harry Meanwell, Alice Addertongue, Timothy Turnstone, Caelia Shortface, Martha Careful, Busy Body, Anthony Afterwit, Polly Baker, Benevolous and, the extremely peculiar, Richard Saunders.
Who are your favourite authors? What kind of stationery do you imagine they’d use? Let us know in the comments.