Richard and Judy are very, very clear about what they DON'T like in a book...
"If I'm not hooked 100 pages in, it's all over," says Judy Finnegan, one half of the duo, who launched the autumn collection of their book club yesterday, with a very special, enticing twist for all would-be first-time novelists.
Certain books, including even Stieg Larsson's best-selling Dragon Tattoo trilogy, don't hold Judy's attention. "People say, 'Oh, stay with it..." but that's no good for me."
"Bad writing," says Richard. "I can't stand clichés. I can't stand reading a book which, by page four or page five, you feel they can't write. It's like listening to someone singing quite well, but missing the notes. Once you've noticed, it's too late."
Richard and Judy are after books that'll keep them entertained, and turning the pages
It's a warning any aspiring novelist may do well to heed, because Richard and Judy are using the annual launch of their autumn book club to make an offer it would be hard to refuse.
They've joined up with publisher Quercus, to offer a contract worth £50,000 to a first-time novelist, who "simply" has to produce a manuscript by January 2014. Richard and Judy, who've taken on the status of the nation's book-keepers since they started their book club on TV, are both published novelists themselves now, and are keen to help another writer get a lucky break...
"We get given manuscripts all the time, in restaurants, on station platforms," explains Richard. "We know that there are some very talented writers out there who haven't had the breaks. This is one way of giving them a leg up."
So what are they after?
"A really good story," says Judy. "We all read for entertainment, so for me, it's a book which will stand out, because it's pacey, strong, gripping, and grabs you very early. Crime fiction, historical, science, romantic, whatever... we've deliberately left it wide open to surprise ourselves."
"It'll be the book that you can turn to your mate and say, 'Read this,'" adds Richard.
It's clear that wading through hundreds of books as part of their job now has not dimmed their enthusiasm any for a good read...
"To me, books are all basically the same," reflects Judy, "in that we enjoy reading them because they speak to us, and inform us about our own experiences. They illuminate something we half-feel already, it's just not been expressed.
"You can go and watch Shakespeare which is wonderful, but you still want to come home and lose yourself in a novel. Even now when some people only want to surf the net or to text, there'll always be people who want to go deeper, they need to. I know I do."
Richard and Judy's Search for a Bestseller is open to all entrants until 1 January 2014. Click here for more information.
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