Recipe for a bestseller (says Robert Graves)

UnknownIn 1929, Robert Graves needed a best-seller to fund his plan of cutting out of England, buying a house in Majorca, and never having to work again in his life (aside from pumping out 120 books). In eleven weeks, he dashed off Good-bye to All That, a memoir of his years as an officer in World War 1. Instant bestseller (and never out of print). Graves and paramour are off to Majorca.

A few years later, he shared his recipe for success, which I just found and now share with you. His process (he says) was to deliberately mix in all the subjects that people like reading about. Some subjects may be less relevant/useful now, but you can pick and choose.

  • Food and drink . . . “I searched my memory for the meals that have had significance in my life and put them down.”
  • Murders . . . “I was careful not to leave out any of the six or seven that I could tell about.”
  • Ghosts . . . “one ghost story with a possible explanation and one without.”
  • Kings . . . and other people’s mothers.
  • E. Lawrence and the Prince of Wales
  • Poets and Prime Ministers
  • Foreign travel . . . “I hadn’t done much of this, but I made the most of what I had.”
  • Sport is essential.
  • Other subjects of interest . . . “school episodes, love affairs (regular and irregular), wounds, weddings, religious doubts, methods of bringing up children, severe illnesses, suicides.
  • Battles . . . “the best bet of all.”

Easy, right? Have at it and let me know how it goes. There’s still room in Majorca.


Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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One comment on “Recipe for a bestseller (says Robert Graves)
  1. Iosifina says:

    Thank you for the ideas, Pamela. I would like to read some of his books.


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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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