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Biography: Life lessons

A good biography demands attention to detail, good research skills and a great story. Three authors talk to Mary Hogarth about the secrets of their craft.

Writing a biography is difficult. It requires painstaking research, attention to detail plus the ability to get people to talk. Biographers also need a nose for a good story as well as a fascination for human nature to capture those quirky characteristics of their subject. Without memoirs we would lack valuable insights into those lives that have shaped the future. But what makes a good biographer? And how can new writers learn their craft?

Three experienced biographers – Geoffrey Wansell, Andrew Lownie and Vin Arthey give fascinating insight and share their expertise.

Find your subject

Geoffrey Wansell started as a journalist. Like most reporters, he prides himself on ‘writing for the reader’. His first commission was a book on Sir James Goldsmith, which he reveals came about by accident while working on Now!, a weekly news magazine, owned by Sir James.

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Slow down! Why word counts and targets aren't always good for your writing Synopsis secrets: The single page that will sell your book Top tips for every genre:- • Crime: Perfect pacemaking • Five ways to grow creatively as a children's author • Explore the new trend for genre-blending fantasy Masterclass: Study the style and stories of Henry Fielding, James Thurber, Rudyard Kipling and Roald Dahl Star interview: Anne O'Brien, the challenger to Philippa Gregory's crown WIN! A PC worth £600

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