creative writing is in danger

The legendary chef, foodie superhero and Great British Bake Off judge talks about her twin passions – cooking and fiction. Her food books include the iconic Leith’s Cookery Bible and most recently Prue: My All Time Favourite Recipes and her memoir Relish: My Life on a Plate. Her new novel The Lost Son is the latest instalment in The Angelotti Chronicles series. We asked her how she manages writing two distinct genres of literature...

Sometimes I write both genres together, but they’re very different. Cookery writing is quite mechanical, you have to get the instructions right and not waste the readers’ money on recipes that don’t work. Whereas with fiction writing you’re in the middle of a story, I don’t mind being interrupted when I’m writing cookery, at any time someone could make the mistake of walking into the kitchen where I write and they’re likely to get a job like chopping onions whereas if someone walks in while I’m writing a novel, I’m so deeply in that I don’t even hear them, people can talk to me and I don’t notice, I also can only do fiction writing in the morning because my creative brain only works in the morning, by lunchtime I’m tired so I can edit or plan but I can’t actually write anything creative after lunch.

I think creative writing is in danger, the idea that an algorithm can tell a publisher what will be a bestseller absolutely drives me mad. There are now algorithms that publishers use to tell them what colour eyes go down well, it’s all complete baloney. If they used an algorithm to tell EL James how to write 50 shades of grey it wouldn’t have become one of the bestselling novels of all time, because like it or not it was very different from the mainstream, she wasn’t listening to some algorithm telling her what to write and I bet that’s true if Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, all the great novels.

Last time I came to Hay Festival a few years ago, it was the time they had tremendous floods all over this part of the world and all our books were in a basement which flooded so they were completely ruined. I didn’t sell a single book! I’m hoping this year I won’t be so unlucky.