Why did you become a journalist?
Terry Pratchett: When I was in school I wanted to be, among other things, a writer. I was sufficiently clever to read some books about it, and I learned that the chances of making any kind of living writing fantasy and science fiction is remote….But if I got a job on a newspaper they’d have to pay me every week.
I went round to the local paper to find out more, and they told me they had a job right then! Well, journalist jobs were hard to come by, and I didn’t want to miss out. I ran away from school, and I told my parents I’d been given a job. They were pleased that I’d found work that didn’t involve getting my hands dirty.
What did you like about being a journalist?
The first day I was a little journalist I was sent out with a real journalist and I saw my first dead body, and it was an extremely dead dead body. When you are a journalist, you see the world, the nasty bits and the good things. You see democracy in progress or no progress whatsoever. You learn about people and get into people’s worlds which you’d never get into otherwise. It turns a boy into a man, and it grew me up. It most definitely grew me up, and it was free—they were even paying me!
Is journalism a good background for writers?
Being a journalist, I saw a lot of people, and dealt with a lot of people, and learned to see things from everyone’s point of view. It made me think so much my brain turned over and started coming out my ears. Being thoughtful and moderately erudite was incredibly good training for a journalist and especially so for a writer: It’s all there if you’re there, watching everything carefully and working hard to get it down accurately.
You also learn write in any circumstances. Editors and their deadlines have no sympathy for late copy!