How This Blog Ended Up As It Is


Books. It’s meant to be about books. Specifically my books. At least, that was the plan at the start – in 2008 my publisher wanted me to start a book blog and dedicate one side of it to direct selling.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m the world’s worst networker. At a party I’ll be the one on the steps outside talking to the wait-staff. In the film industry I had set our staff an agenda from the outset; Just Be Honest. Needless to say, this quickly got us into a lot of trouble. After viewing the rough cut of ‘Victor Victoria’, virtually watching it through my fingers, Blake Edwards asked me what I thought of it. By this time I had evolved phrases that would prevent me from lying without hurting anyone’s feelings (not that directors have feelings), so I told him I thought it would polish up better and find its audience – not exactly a lie, just an omission. When I lost a summer working on the appalling ‘Santa Claus’ for Jeannot Schwartz (who told me he had made a movie that would ‘last through the ages’) I told him he had ‘made unusual choices’ and he went away happy, although by this time it was just important to me that he went away. I won’t tell you what I said to David Cronenberg after he ruined ‘Crash’.

I thought we might get a bad reputation. I don’t see the point in sucking up when it will only make your situation more and more untenable. In fact, it drew clients to us. So when it came to books I applied the same thinking, which made the plans for the blog problematic, because one publisher wanted to link it directly to their site and sell books through my Facebook page, which they would then manage. I had vulnerable family members on Facebook who would have been likely to naively respond to trolls and scammers, so after a trial period of reluctantly letting them control my personal online presence I closed it down.

Instead, with the help of my pal Simon I opened this one. And from Day One I went off-brief. The first post concerned a London art installation, and was just two lines long. The next was about Sarah Palin. I likened the site to the old children’s TV series ‘Picture Book’, in which a presenter opened a book each show and picked a random subject.Of course it’s not entirely random because there’s very little here about sports, cars, celebrities, reality TV, fashion, shopping or any of the subjects that seemingly preoccupy minds other than mine.

Clearly there’s a way of running a blog that makes money. Somewhere on here is a direct link to Amazon from which I can ‘earn referrals’. To date, since 2008, I have earned precisely £0.00. But if I was running it to make money it would be a business, and I’d be limited in content to upbeat earning-power articles, and that’s not what I want. I want to engage with readers and the curious-minded. And if the blog reflects the chaotic conditions of a PCU investigation, so be it.

I have a friend who runs an online magazine. He’s desperate for you to read it, and his desperation shows through in everything he does. He talks about driving up the figures while driving people away. He’s clearly passionate about it but the passion is lost behind his need to succeed. I guess the takeaway is: Do what you love. You won’t earn as much as doing what you don’t love, but you’ll be happy.


26 comments on “How This Blog Ended Up As It Is”

  1. Liz Thompson says:

    Support your choices and what you’re saying. I don’t read boring blogs, your blog is very readable!

  2. Christine says:

    Was that the reason you left the USA for good?

  3. Martin Tolley says:

    I think I’ve said it before here. When I was teaching and students asked for advice about “what course should I do next year?” “What subject would be best for me to do…?” The answer was always (as yours Mr F) – Do what you enjoy. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you won’t do it well. “Bookselling” author’s blogs are HORRID. Visit once, they harvest your email and pester you for life. I’ve had to go to quite labyrinthine lengths and identity changes to get away from one in particular. If only his book plotting were half as good.
    As long as you love writing this blog keep doing it. There are many of us who love reading it.

  4. Bronwen Rowlands says:

    I love the accompanying photo, with the creepy dachshund and our hostess making one of those useless cut-and-fold paper lanterns from the 50’s. This must be from “Picture Book.”

    Your words are pretty good, too.

  5. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    You sell your books to me by writing books that I want to read.
    I enjoy reading this blog.
    I’m far more likely to sample an author’s books if I enjoy reading their blog than if they are trying to sell me books.
    Having said that, I’m so far behind the times that my usual source for new ( to me) authors is still the library. My first encounter with your work was Old Devil Moon, where The Night Museum made me laugh so much that the rest of your books joined my wish list.

  6. Brooke says:

    Sweetie, update the blog’s B&M page…HoM remains as “latest” rather than the fabulous TLH.

  7. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    PS if you go to the Books page and click on a book, there is a drop down menu that allows you to choose to buy from different booksellers, including Amazon. Is that the missing link?

  8. Brooke says:

    Would you mind also mentioning BoFA in Other books…it deserves some acknowledgement or is it a step-child?

  9. admin says:

    Thank Brooke – I’ll get on it.

  10. John Howard says:

    All I can say is that I bet you have many more regular readers than contributors. As I contributor I drop in and out but day in and day out it is always a great read. As Cornelia says, it’s your books we love to buy. This blog is just a plus for us as far as I am concerned. Part memory jog, part discussion forum, part travelogue. Please keep going as I know we all enjoy it.

  11. Roger says:

    “By this time I had evolved phrases that would prevent me from lying without hurting anyone’s feelings”

    “Interesting” used to be the word to use then, but it’s outworn its purpose,

  12. Peter Tromans says:

    Most certainly, it’s possible to achieve greater financial success by concentrating on selling, but that’s merely one measure. And one that’s rather empty compared with doing what you enjoy. Does the blog help to sell books? Well, it keeps us loyal readers up to date and involved. As for links, they can’t compete with the pleasure of a visit to a good bookshop, especially not the best in the world, Blackwell’s in Oxford.

  13. Jo W says:

    When reading your blog, Chris, it is easy to see that you are certainly enjoying what you do in life. You’ve made it.
    So, if you’ll keep writing what you enjoy writing about, then I will keep reading and enjoying your words. That way you’ll be happy and I’ll be happy. A win-win situation. 😉
    P.S. Almost got enough in my piggy-bank now to get the new B&M ( ooh so excited!)

  14. Richard says:

    I thoroughly love this blog despite the absence of cars (my pet ‘thing,’ I’ve just spent my birthday today racing old cars around a circuit in Wiltshire). The eclectic range means I learn stuff with every blog, which makes me happy. Feel free to ask if you ever need to research cars for a book! One endearing vehicular thing I would suggest is to google ‘Beast of Turin’. Basically an Edwardian Land Speed Record car, or barely-controlled-explosion, used as a road car for trips around Europe. The people involved in it are basically all Arthurs.

  15. kevin says:

    Funny, it just occurred to me – yours is the only author’s blog that I read – regularly. It was your books that brought me here. I’ve tried a few others, even going so far as to follow them on twitter but they just didn’t work for me. I don’t follow you on twitter either because I don’t want you to think I’m a stalker or something. I still can’t get over the fact that you are tall. It’s depressing.

  16. admin says:

    Why is it depressing that I’m tall?

  17. kevin says:

    This will probably not make a lick of sense to you, Chris. Hell, I don’t completely understand it myself; I just feel it. Since you are tall, that probably means everything that I have imagined about you is most likely not true. It’s like discovering one of your internet best friends doesn’t actually exist. My mental incarnation of you begins with the fact that you are 5 ft 6 in (my height) and have the sensibility that I believe you to have largely based on your blog and books – catholic, macabre, somewhat twisted, charming, funny, serious, thoughtful, surprising, all that. This is someone with whom I can have a cup of tea with and talk all day about everything. We’ll be eye-to-eye. I have no interest imagining tea with a Christopher Fowler who is
    6 ft 4 in tall. I just don’t. I think you’re the seed of a character in my head and that dose of truth threw me for a loop.

  18. Christine says:

    If I could have a cuppa with Chris I wouldn’t consider height a problem. If it did I could only meet the Time Bandits.

  19. Ken Mann says:

    I’m reminded of my late mother’s all purpose response to being asked to admire a baby: “Now there’s a baby!”

  20. Andrew Holme says:

    As a 6ft 4in person, I’m not tall, I’m exactly the right height.

  21. Helen Martin says:

    As a 5′ tall person I can tell you that Chris’ height is not an awkwardness in enjoying a cuppa with him. (Now there is a weird topic!)

  22. Brian Evans says:

    Noel Coward’s truthful response to a friend who was awful on stage on the 1st night of a new play was : “My dear, good isn’t the word” If I knew how to do italics on here, the “isn’t” would have been in italics.

  23. Brian Evans says:

    PS, I thought “Victor Victoria” was rather good.

  24. Wayne Mook says:

    Well if it’s any comfort I have bought some of your books from coming on here I would not have bought.

    I like this bog, I tend to avoid others or find myself only dropping in now and again. I’ll have to go on social media again, sometime.


  25. Debra Matheney says:

    I am totally with Kevin. Came here after reading your books and stay because I enjoy the posts. I, too, imagined you well under 6 feet tall. Oh, well. I would have a cup of tea because seated your height would be more equal to my short self.
    I’m with you outside talking to the wait staff. At a wedding reception, the waiter and I had great rapport and I got to see photos of his wedding. I dislike self promoters a lot which is another reason I like self effacing Brits so much.
    Keep writing and be happy doing what you like.

  26. Helen Martin says:

    Richard, I just watched the video of the Beast of Turin being driven 150 miles from Bristol to Goodwood. That was the most hysterical thing I’ve seen in a long time! It was operating on its original clutch!

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