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Kobo Writing Life Podcast

The Kobo Writing Life Podcast brings you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We feature interviews with bestselling authors and industry experts, who share practical advice you can use to improve your writing and sell more books. Hosted by the Kobo Writing Life team, you'll also get the latest news and updates about Kobo and the KWL platform. Self-publish today at

Nov 23, 2016

Executive Vice President of Publisher Relations and Content at Kobo, Pieter Swinkels introduces a live on stage at Kobo “Kobo in Conversation” interview of Robert Harris about his latest book, Conclave. (As an interesting aside, Pieter was, at one time, Robert’s publisher in the Netherlands). Robert is interviewed by Toronto pop culture columnist, film journalist and television personality, Johanna Schneller.

In the interview Johanna and Robert discuss:

  • Brexit and how, though the public events surrounding Brexit are possible fodder for a forthcoming Robert Harris novel, he prefers to wait perhaps 10 or 20 years after such an event, because after such time, you can more properly see the patterns a lot more easily when you’re not as involved in them
  • The research involved in writing about a papal conclave, the oldest, most secretive election in the world, starting with the request for permission to see the places that aren’t normally open to the public
  • The overwhelming majesty of the setting of the Sistine Chapel and the Apostolic Palace
  • The bunker-like setting that the cardinals are sequestered in and the similarities to an Agatha Christie cottage mystery setting
  • The enormous power of the internet when it comes to researching a book such as this one, and how the entire process of gathering that research being hugely sped up
  • The writing routine that Robert Harris employs, starting with research
  • How this particular novel was written between January and July of this past year
  • Harris’s daily writing routine of starting sometime around 7 or 8 AM and then finishing at about half past noon, and his belief that one can do only about four hours or so of hard creative work
  • A reference to the Stephen King quote about the “boys in the basement” who are hard at work for a writer when the writer is not sitting at their writing desk
  • Harris’s strong belief in deadlines and how the fear and adrenaline helps him produce
  • A look into one of Harris’s earliest books, the non-fiction title Selling Hitler, an investigation of the “Hitler Diaries” scandal, which was published in 1986, and how it led to the author’s evolution into writing novels


Kobo Writing Life Director Mark Lefebvre then talks about something Robert Harris mentioned in the interview – the concept of the deadline and how he saw that fear and adrenaline as important elements in the creative process for him as a writer. Lefebvre talks about his own experience writing to deadline on his own non-fiction works and then considers the concept of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and that 30 day deadline to write a prescribed number of words (50,000). He talks about the critical nature of that imposed “deadline” and how it can help a writer actually sit down and get words written.



Robert Harris's website

Johanna Schneller on Twitter

Robert's books on Kobo