It never fails to amaze me how prevalent the notion is that publishers and writers live in one Georgian square in Islington and hand out lucrative publishing deals to each other over glasses of dry sherry. Last year there was an interview in The Guardian with a young writer called Samantha Shannon, whom Bloomsbury had signed for a vast sum of money. In it she mentioned that her agent knew a friend of her father’s and that she had met her editor-to-be at a party. This was taken by many in the comments section on the website as evidence of nepotism. As if publishers hand out six-figure advances to their friends. I only wish it were so.
Five years ago I had a book idea, an agent and some time on my hands, having been made redundant from my job in publishing. My idea was to write a history of the British Empire told through booze. It would look at how one of the consequences of Britain