Archive for August, 2014

My Glorious Publishing Career- Pt 2- Mark meets Marcus Aurelius

Following the success of the Tao te Ching audio, Rupert Lancaster – my editor at Hodder and Stoughton – commissioned me to produce an audio version of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. These short ‘meditations’ were spiritual exercises that Marcus wrote for himself while attending to his day job – Emperor of Rome. He would have preferred to be a stoic philosopher, but Hadrian picked him as his successor and this forced him to keep his philosophy as a private self-help guide. The meditations were a way of reminding himself how to respond to people and events.

Marcus was a Roman but he wrote in Greek, the ancient language of philosophy. Since I don’t know classical Greek (being mono English), I needed to find a translation to work from. I started to read the various translations then in print but didn’t find one that really spoke to me. Some were a bit dated in language, while others were seeped in Christianity, not suitable for a pagan Roman. I saw a reference to a Victorian translation by George Long that was said to be completely literal, and since it was out of copyright, I set about re-writing this archaic language into the kind of contemporary language that I thought reflected Marcus’ vision of life. At the same time I did not want to lose the sense of his second-century mind, so I tried to evolve a style that gave meaning to the text, in a way that would read to a contemporary audience, but which still sounded like the words of a Roman Emperor.

Once I began, I could see that Marcus had a holistic, cosmic view of life resembling the ancient Indian and Chinese philosophers. His ability to look objectively at the world and to penetrate deeply into his own mind seemed similar to Buddhist psychology. I was also impressed that Marcus’ perspective of the world was an ecological one, very close to our own view of the link between humanity and the environment.

Once I had re-written some 10 of the meditations, I realised I was creating a new copyright, and thought perhaps these could serve as a book as well as an audio. I wrote to a handful of New York literary agents to see if there was any interest. One large agency immediately turned me down, but a smaller agent- Liv Blumer-responded almost immediately. When we spoke, I was surprised to hear that Liv had never heard of Marcus Aurelius or his Meditations. The next day she went to a branch of Barnes and Noble and asked the salesperson if they had a copy. The saleswoman responded by telling Liv that it was the best book ever written, that she kept it by her bedside and read a meditation before going to sleep. Serendipity.

Once she understood what I was working on, Liv said she thought a book could get published, but I would have to write the introduction. What! I had never written anything longer than two pages since leaving university, and the thought of writing an introduction to a philosopher filled me with dread.

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August 28, 2014 at 7:47 pm Leave a comment

My Glorious Publishing Career Part 1

I have now made all of my books into ebooks, so it’s a good time to look back and reflect on my illustrious publishing career. It’s been an interesting ride so far, and I hope it continues. Book six is about to come out, and I think it’s going to be a bit of a breakthrough.

For the record, my first 5 books are: The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius, The Spiritual Teachings of Seneca, The Spiritual Teachings of the Tao, The Spiritual Teachings of Yoga and The Living Wisdom of Socrates. The new one is called I Survived a Secret Nazi Extermination Camp and is coming out in September.

I started writing by accident. In 1997 I thought it would be a great thing to make an audio of The Tao Te Ching, the 2300 year old Chinese Taoist classic. And one day it just happened. I visited Martin Palmer in Manchester and told him this was a book I would love to record. He told me that he made religious programmes for the BBC and maybe he could arrange a recording studio. But who would read it? I hadn’t thought that far ahead, so I needed to think about good actors who could handle the text. Ideally I hoped to find someone who knew the book, but failing that, I needed someone sensitive to ideas and feelings. I settled on the late Nigel Hawthorne, who didn’t know the work but threw himself into the project with great enthusiasm. He did a remarkable job, responding very well to Martin’s directions regarding the meaning of the sometimes inscrutable text. Once we added music to Nigel’s voice, we had a very fine recording of the classic.

I now needed distribution to get the audio (it was a cassette at that time) into shops. Someone introduced me to Rupert Lancaster at Hodder and Stoughton and after he listened to the tape he offered me a deal. A year later, he rang to ask if I had any other audio ideas. It just so happened I did (or at least I did once he put the idea into my mind). I gave Rupert four ideas and he responded best to the notion of recording The Meditations Of Marcus Aurelius.

To be continued (possibly).

August 26, 2014 at 8:39 pm Leave a comment


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