View from the fence

Social, environmental and economic issues surrounding GM foods, and the latest news


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Book Club: Did Sally make the right decision?

This is one of the book club questions for my novel A Column on Smoke. Please add your thoughts in the comment section below – I will be very interested to read them.

I’m talking about her primary moral dilemma here (I do think she made the right decision regarding Paul). Continue reading

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Book Club: Why did you decide to write a novel?

This is one of the book club questions for my novel A Column on Smoke. Please add your thoughts in the comment section below – I will be very interested to read them.

I can’t quite remember, and looking back I’m almost surprised that I was brave enough to give it a go. When I was at junior school my career ambition was to be an author, but my English lessons in the first few years of secondary school turned me off reading and therefore writing. Continue reading


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Book Club: Do you portray life as a scientist accurately?

This is one of the book club questions for my novel A Column on Smoke. Please add your thoughts in the comment section below – I will be very interested to read them.

Yes, I think so. I wanted it to be as accurate as possible, with lots of different characters who you encounter in the lab. I wanted to portray the pressures which scientists experience, particularly the pressure to publish, and explore how this can affect their lives and their judgements.

The blurring of personal and professional life I think is also very common for scientists. I suspect many people will also identify with the power hierarchies as students, research scientists, professors and technicians all interact.

I would be very interested to hear which bits people felt did or didn’t match well with their experiences in the lab. What characterises life in the lab for you?


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Book Club: A Column of Smoke

To celebrate the publication of my novel ‘A Column of Smoke‘ I’m going to dedicate some posts to book club style questions. Please ask more questions and join in the discussion under each post. The first one is perhaps the most obvious:

How did you come up with the plot?

While I was doing my PhD at Rothamsted Research a friend saw me reading The Girl at the Lion D’Or by Sebastian Falkes. He pointed out that ‘The Girl at’ was a common book title but ‘The Girl at Rothamsted Research’ doesn’t have the same ring about it. That set me thinking about what could happen at somewhere like Rothamsted to make a sufficiently exciting plot, and fraud was an obvious answer. Continue reading