What most excites you about your current project?
Bestsellers: Popular Fiction since 1900 is now in its third edition (out in August 2021), which is wonderful because I can now bring the story of English literature up to date with its exciting developments in reading habits, new reading constituencies, children's books, and especially its many new diverse voices. The story of popular British fiction in the last 121 years is the story of our changing tastes and social attitudes and adaption to new media platforms, but it is also the story of continuity and tradition, offering a deeper understanding of commercial publishing and how it affects authors and readers.
What book (or author) has inspired you most during your career?
I write a lot about popular politics and there is no doubt that the radicals without any monument are many favourites. You have to dig deep sometimes into forgotten history to find that singular individual who said they would not do what authority demanded and, in today's cliche, speaks 'truth to power'. There's a very real need for courageous individuals right now. I've wandered many a graveyard and forgotten alley to find my heroes. As Albert Camus said, refusal is the beginning of change. Nevertheless, I love eccentrics and outsiders and those who choose to live their lives differently.
What’s your one piece of advice for students and aspiring academics?
Without doubt believe in what you have to say, and then go back and check everything and read everything you can. You can never check enough. Trust your views even if you are the only one who holds them, but always double check as much as possible so that your argument becomes irrefutable. Others will follow. Always be humble in regards to your subject, but be true to it. The subject is more important than you. Listen to advice, weigh, then act. If you want to get published refine, refine, refine and find a style. Research and scholarship should be hard and need diligence and application. If you’re not diligent or applying yourself fully, the subject isn't for you.
What’s your next big project, and what is the impetus behind it?
I always have more than one project on the boil as I get bored rather too quickly. I have the paperback of Thatcher's Secret War coming out in August 2021 and then I'm completing a book on the history of the gothic for Palgrave for the end of the year and will also have edited The Palgrave Handbook of Gothic Origins. I'm just gathering books for an occult history of London and, hopefully, will be working on a book on insurrection and dissent in Britain. At the moment, I'm happily assisting Dr Catherine Wynne in her wonderful and important project for autistic children, which I think will do for now.