10 Questions with David Littlewood

<p>David Littlewood, one of the editors of Massey University Press's first trade book, <em>Experience of a Lifetime.</em></p>

David Littlewood, one of the editors of Massey University Press's first trade book, Experience of a Lifetime.

Now that it’s almost published, what delights you most about your book, Experience of a Lifetime?

At the risk of using a cliche, I really can’t pick out just one element. I am delighted with every aspect of this book.

Tell us about one thing that you discovered while writing it.

All of the chapters depart in some way from the traditional interpretation of the First World War; that’s one of the major attractions of the book. I was particularly intrigued to learn about the very close and respectful relationship that New Zealand and Indian soldiers enjoyed at Gallipoli. This couldn’t be more different from the racist and Eurocentric attitudes that usually dominate accounts of the early twentieth century.

How long did it take from first thinking about the book until you signed off on the final proofs?

The book is based on the proceedings of a conference that took place in August 2014. I became involved with the editing in June 2015 and worked on it for around nine months.

Exhausting or exhilirating?

5% exhausting. When I first joined the project, I remember thinking to myself that editing a book sounded pretty easy! That piece of blissful naivety lasted all of three days, and I don’t think I have ever sent as many emails as I did while editing this work!

However, the other 95% of the time was definitely exhilarating. This is the first book I have edited, and I was incredibly fortunate to work alongside two such esteemed and knowledgeable historians [co-editors, John Crawford and James Watson]. The contributors have produced some fascinating and important chapters, while the book itself looks magnificent thanks to the team at Massey University Press.

What time of the day is best for you for writing?

Between 9 and 12 in the morning. I tend to flag after lunchtime, before recovering for another burst in the late afternoon.

What snack food kept you going during the hard slog of it?

I consume ridiculous quantities of fruit. Being English, I also require at least seven cups of tea each day.

What keeps you focused while you are writing? 

I’m one of those people who needs peace and quiet to get things done.

What do you hope readers will learn from Experience of a Lifetime?

That the First World War was about more than trenches, lice and death. Each of these things was certainly important, but we need to look beyond them to understand how the conflict was experienced by the millions of individuals who took part. It is vital to view events in context and in detail, and to try to understand how people at the time interpreted what was happening around them.

Would you write another one?

Absolutely. I am about to begin turning my PhD thesis into a book and am happy to take advance orders!

What are you reading at the moment?

I try to keep up to date with the latest writing on the British and New Zealand home fronts during the First World War.