‘I believe in giving away instead of lending. Does anyone ever return a book? I’ve never known it to happen.’
—Author Kelly Creighton answers bookish questions for Burning Books…on Paper, the sister series to our popular podcast.
Writing in the margins, or sacred pages?
I usually give most of my books to charity if I know I won’t need to consult them again. Therefore, I don’t want all my secrets escaping in the margins. That would be embarrassing! One exception is Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, which I will never part with anyway. But I do love finding books that have been written in.
Do you lend without expecting a book returned?
Yes. I believe in giving away instead of lending. Does anyone ever return a book? I’ve never known it to happen. These last few years, I recommended books and buttoned my mouth just before I went to offer to loan my own copy.
Do you keep all of your books, or do you have a regular cull?
I am the opposite of a hoarder. When I started writing I was sorry I’d given so many books away over the years, but it wasn’t long until I’d replenished the stocks. Before the pandemic, I gave away at least a hundred books to charity shops. The bookshelf keepers I have now are to-be-read books, books I need for study, classics, signed copies, and my favourites.
Digital or physical copy?
Until the first lockdown I was definitely a physical copy only kind of reader, though I adore my Kindle now. It is so practical. I have loads of books in my coat pocket. The lighting is adjustable, and so is the font. Which I appreciate now I need to wear glasses more often.
Are you one book at a time, or a polyamorous reader?
Polyamorous. I wanted to set myself a reading challenge this year, and read a book that was published during every year of my life. I thought it would help diminish the TBR pile. It didn’t last long.
As I read I go down rabbit holes of wanting to find books mentioned within texts, then there are the research books I need to read. I would like to commit to one read, but reading as a student, writer, and reader, complicates things.
A book that makes you laugh?
I love a funny book. Colin Bateman is brilliant for giving me belly laughs. So is Gish Jen.
One of your own stories (published or unpublished) that you’d choose to save over others (or conversely something you’ve written that you’d leave in the flames…)
There are a couple of short stories of mine that could go up in blazes. Thankfully they were never published. And I have masses of poetry that didn’t work out, which I did recently cull. I feel quite bad about the hypocrisy of that, as I always tell workshop participants to never delete any of their writing. I felt better for it.
You can save one non-book item: what is it?
This answer would always have been photographs. But I think they are mostly on the cloud these days. Something sentimental, like my late granny’s braille watch, or my kids’ milk teeth or first outfits… Maybe I could put it all in one bag and save that.
Kelly Creighton is the author of eight books including the Belfast-set DI Harriet Sloane series, The Bones of It, and her new thriller, Souls Wax Fair.