Best-selling author shares wisdom with Sheffield students

In October we were delighted to welcome worldwide best-selling author and Sheffield alumnus Lee Child back to the University to meet Sheffield students and to share experiences from his career with them.

Lee, author of the Jack Reacher novels, returned to campus to meet a group of students from the School of English, to pass on his words of wisdom and answer their questions. He began with an introduction about himself and his career, before discussing the practical aspects of life as an author.

This is not the first time Lee has given back to Sheffield. He was previously generous enough to fund 50 ‘Jack Reacher Scholarships’ to support students through their studies, named after the main character in the book series for which he is best known. Since releasing his first book in 1997 Lee has sold over 100 million books about the enigmatic hero, and the series has now made its transition to the big screen featuring Tom Cruise in the titular role.

He explained how it had been a long journey from starting out to becoming the success he is today, how he looks at writing as a job, and how it is no different to any other job – requiring time and dedication to produce a novel.

After asking students about the areas of writing they wished to pursue, Lee went on to discuss the practicalities of creating a physical book, the challenges of printing and selling large novels, as well as how he has observed buyers literally weighing up books in their hands when deciding which to purchase – something he loves to observe when in airport book shops.

Lee also spoke about the importance of being aware of the audience when writing, accommodating voracious and casual readers alike, but that both groups typically want a book that is “the same but different” – something that feels comfortable but that is telling a new story.

He also spoke about the experience of having his books adapted on the big screen, and crossing paths with film stars – including adventures with Tom Cruise – but also mentioned how he would like to see a PhD study examine why actors tend to be so short.

The event was organised as part of the University’s Sheffield Connections networking programme which gives small groups of students the opportunity to meet informally with inspirational alumni.

Lee originally studied Law at Sheffield, but during his studies developed a passion for drama which led him to work in television. After producing successful programmes including Prime Suspect, The Jewel in the Crown, Cracker and Brideshead Revisited, Lee left the world of television to try writing a novel and has never looked back. Twenty years and over twenty books later he is now one of the top thriller writers in the world.

Lee was back in Sheffield to take part in the Off the Shelf festival, speaking in conversation with Professor Chris Wigginton about his latest novel The Midnight Line, along with his creative process and other best-sellers.


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