Write-Off with Francesca Steele


Michèle Roberts

Season 1, Ep. 9

The Booker longlisted, Women’s Prize shortlisted Michèle Roberts is, like her books, wonderfully erudite, perceptive and expressive. Michèle has been writing professionally for more than 40 years and has published 17 novels, 2 memoirs and has contributed to many poetry and essay collections too. She was once poetry editor at the feminist magazine Spare Rib and her 2007 memoir Paper Houses is a vivid account of her involvement is 70s socialism and feminism. Her new novel Cut Out, about the women who helped Matisse create his art, is out in August. She is by any metric a literary success.

But it is her second memoir that we discuss in this interview. Negative Capability, which came out last year, kicks off with a series of personal and professional rejections - including her publisher saying no to her latest manuscript - and which sent Michèle into a spiral of self doubt and panic where she initially thought she was having a breakdown. Negative Capability is the story of her recovery and it is a joyful, amusing account of a rich everyday life, but also an honest, clear-eyed view of what it feels like to fail at something that, 16 books in, you think you’ve become pretty adept at doing. I found Michèle a funny and fascinating guest - and particularly enjoyed her advice about how to make a friend of your inner critic.

You can find and buy books by Michèle and all my guests here: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/francescasteele

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