Thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of The Writing Desk Blog.
Now, imagine I’m about to introduce you to an auditorium, filled with the smiling faces of folks fuelled by caffeine and an eagerness to learn. What would I say?
“Hello everyone, I’d like to introduce…
André Spiteri, freelance copywriter. Thank you for having me. I’m chuffed to be here.
Here’s the part where we’d sit down and try and look comfortable next to the microphones. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…
Can you name the business book that’s always on your desk? (I’m talking about the one that’s covered in pencil marks, coffee stains and has turned down corners…)
That would be On Writing by Stephen King. Not strictly a business book. But hey, writing is my business.
What’s your all-time favourite advertising campaign?
I wouldn’t call it my all-time favourite, but last year Innis and Gunn ran a billboard campaign across Edinburgh that played on the fact that people commonly mis-spell Innis as Innes. It was eye-catching and always made me chuckle, so I’d say that’s a job well done.
“Everyone has a book in them…” Or so the saying goes. What do you think/know/believe is the secret to good writing?
To quote good old Stevie King himself, read a lot and write a lot. Practice, practice, practice. There’s no other way.
If you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself? Which book or books would you read first?
I’d read Tom Albrighton’s Copywriting Made Simple and Glenn Fisher’s The Art of the Click. Sadly, they weren’t available when I started, but I’ve caught up on them now. If you haven’t read them, you should.
As for advice, I’m not really one for recriminations, to be honest. I’m sure I’ve made a ton of mistakes. I still do. But that’s my journey and I don’t really regret any of it. I try to view mistakes as experiences I can learn and grow from. That’s how I live with them I suppose haha.
Silence? Radio? Or music while you work?
Mostly silence. But I do put on the odd chillout playlist when the mood strikes me.
What are your top three novels of all time – and why?
Woah, tough one there.
It by Stephen King — Pennywise hogs the limelight, but I think this novel is so much more than just a horror story about an evil clown. It’s about childhood, friendship, growing up and all that good stuff.
Winter of the World by Ken Follett — The whole Century trilogy is amazing. But this particular book (the second one in the series) is set in World War II through to the start of the Cold War and I’m a sucker for historical novels set in that time period.
Colossus by Stephen Marlowe — This is a historical novel about Goya, the Spanish painter. I only read it once back in my teens but it has left a lasting impression. I should revisit it at some point.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written? Why did it rock your world?
I’m really proud of the copy I did for Amazon’s line of Wickedly Prime vinegars. My contact at the agency audibly ooohhhhh-ed at one point after he read it. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy.
What’s the last thing you bought? And yes, that packet of chewing gum counts.
A curry from Tesco.
Who was your teenage crush?
Tiffani Amber Thiessen
Can you describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Fazenda, no contest.
It’s a Brazilian-style buffet, which I think they call a rodizio. There’s waiters going round with different cuts of meat seasoned to perfection — minted lamb, fillet, pork sausages, chicken thighs and more I can’t remember right now. At the start of the meal, you’re given a coaster that’s red on one side and green on the other. Place the coaster green side up and the waiters stop by your table and serve. Switch to red to take a break. The food’s so good it makes me cry, and I’m not much of a crier.
What’s your favourite tipple? Is it wine, beer – a cask-aged malt?
My favourite is a craft beer called Mexicake, which is brewed by a Scottish company called Tempest Brewing. It tastes exactly as you’d expect — heavy and rich like cake.
If I were to give you a private jet, David Attenborough as a tour guide and a month off work – all expenses paid – where would you go and what or who would you write about – and why?
I’ve always wanted to go to Bhutan. I’d spend a week or two in a monastery getting in touch with my inner consciousness and then I’d grab Dave and we’d go trekking through the mountains. Bet that would make one hell of a travelogue.
What’s in your pockets?
Nothing right now, but it’s usually just my phone and keys.
Pen and ink, pencil and paper or keyboard and screen? What’s your writing style?
Keyboard and screen for writing. Pen and paper for notes and doodles.
Do you read any blogs or magazines about writing? (And I mean read, not just subscribe to and delete/leave on your desk and recycle?)
I’m lucky enough to be mates with some of the finest copywriters in the biz, so I’m spoiled for choice.
Some of my must-read blogs are Glenn Fisher’s — http://allgoodcopy.com, Megan Rose — https://meganrosefreelance.com/blog/ , Amy Boylan — https://www.amyboylan.com/blog/ , Digital Drum — https://www.digital-freelancer.org/blog, and Work Notes — https://worknotes.co.uk/
Oh and the ProCopywriters blog of course.
Tea – or coffee? What’s your poison?
Diplomat berry fruits tea from Aldi.
Do you have a favourite cup or mug? Can you describe it?
It’s a red mug I bought from Wilko when I first moved to the UK. I was flat broke, so I bought it because it was the cheapest one. Sorry it’s not more exciting.
What was your most adored children’s book? And character?
It was a children’s encyclopedia. I was fascinated by the maps. I’d spend hours looking at them, reading about different countries and daydreaming about what life would be like if I lived there.
Enid Blyton was cool, too. The Faraway Tree FTW.
Your favourite word?
Right now, it’s face-melting. As in, “This tea is face-melting”
But it could also be “That guitar riff is face-melting”
Your most loathed word? (You know, the one that makes you shudder and say “Ew!”?
Where can we find you? – Browsing online or lost in the aisles of a bookstore?
Leave me at a bookstore and come back later. Or maybe don’t come back at all… haha
Favourite song lyric of all time? And why?
You ask me: “Oh god, why?” / ‘Cause I’m god, that’s fucking why.
Name the artist who is guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor.
Drop some cheesy 90s euro disco tunes and I’ll be out there making a fool of myself in a flash.
Do you have any strange writing rituals you’d like to share with us?
It’s not really a ritual, but whenever I have a tough brief I always feel compelled to clean out the cat’s litter box for some reason. Or do laundry. Or both.
What are you working on today? What’s in the pipeline?
Today I’ve just wrapped up one of two blog posts I have to do for a new client this week.
It’s looking very busy in the run-up to Christmas. I’m working on two projects on retainer and I’ve got several blog posts to write for a few other clients. Plus I’m sure something else will come up.
Not that I’m complaining, mind.
Can you describe the last photograph you took?
It’s a photo of my gas meter. I just switched and had to send the reading to my new supplier.
What piece of advice really changed you as a writer?
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” I’m probably doomed, but I keep hoping.
What was the last thing you wrote that had nothing to do with your job?
I wished a friend “Happy Birthday” on Facebook. Well, “happy b’day”
For a writer, I’m not especially eloquent in these situations.
What’s your favourite quote about the process of writing?
“I found that many gifted people are so afraid of writing a poor story that they cannot summon the nerve to write a single sentence for months. The thing to say to such people is: “See how *bad* a story you can write. See how dull you can be. Go ahead. That would be fun and interesting. I will give you ten dollars if you can write something thoroughly dull from beginning to end!” And of course, no one can.” Brenda Ueland
Who is your favourite Mad Man – or Woman?
Ken Cosgrove. He’s an unsung hero. And he gets sweet, sweet revenge at the end.
Can you name your favourite film – and tell us why you love it?
Not sure I have a favourite but the film I’ve probably watched more than any other is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I love the opening, the dark atmosphere, and the potions. And the first time I watched it I hadn’t read the book yet so the ending floored me.
Which book or books is/are by your bed today?
I’ve just finished “Who Sent Clement?” by Keith Pearson. It’s about a 60s East End fixer who comes back from the dead. Not nearly as gnarly as it sounds… it’s actually quite funny,
Who was or is your greatest teacher?
Who is your favourite artist?
I’m going to go with good old Stevie King. He’s written some of my favourite novels. But he’s also written a bunch of stinkers (The Tommyknockers, Cell, The Regulators), and that makes me like him even more because it makes him seem less… godlike?
Where do you like to work best – is it at a desk, in an office or in a coffee shop? And would you send us a picture of where the magic happens?
I’ve finally done up the office in our new flat, so that’s where I’m mostly working from these days. It used to be a dark, dingy closet, so I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
And finally, where can this caffeine-fuelled audience find you?
For biscuit chat and wacky memes tweet me at @Andre_Spiteri
If you fancy working with me and want to find out more about my services or have a mosey around my work, take a look at my website: www.maverickwords.com