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Write On! Interviews: Author Robert Nurden

Write On! interviews author Robert Nurden

Robert Nurden is an author and journalist who has worked, both as a feature writer and sub-editor, on the Guardian, Independent On Sunday and Daily Telegraph, as well as many other national newspapers and magazines. He has written about, among other things, worker exploitation in the international garment trade, reindeer herding in the Arctic, racial stereotyping by the Western media and cider-making in Herefordshire.

In the 1980s, he was employed in the aid and development sector as press officer of the charity VSO. As a travel writer and backpacker, he visited 60 countries, including a spell as a volunteer on a leprosy project in India. Now, in an effort to reduce his global footprint, he spends most of his time in Britain, living in east London.

WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?

RN: As a journalist on the Independent On Sunday, The Guardian and Daily Telegraph, I wrote travel, education, workplace and property features. I was also a sub-editor on all three newspapers. In 2018, I retired and started writing non-fiction books. My first, Between Heaven And Earth, is a biography of my maverick grandfather. Stanley James was a cowboy, tramp, newspaper reporter in Canada, then soldier in the US army fighting in Puerto Rico. In 1899, he returned to his native England and became a non-Conformist preacher, communist, pacifist, editor and eventually Catholic convert and author. My latest book is about my experience of being a childless man.

WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest book?

RN: In I Always Wanted To Be A Dad: Men Without Children, I outline my story, i.e. how, at  72, having always dreamed of becoming a father, I explore the pain and regret I went through when this didn’t work out. I unravel the complexities of this neglected issue and show that the grief of childlessness can affect men as much as women. In the introduction, I prepare the reader for the rawness and honesty of this memoir. The 17 short chapters are interspersed with the heartfelt testimonies of other men who also find themselves childless-not-by-choice. A distinction is made between being childless due to circumstance and childless because of infertility. In a series of more reflective passages, the narrative finally arcs away from hurt towards acceptance and a belief in an optimistic future. Nor is humour ever far away. The book concludes with an appendix which provides a statistical analysis of the issue as it affects men, plus a comprehensive list of resources and organisations offering support.

WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?

RN: I’ve always been a seeker after the truth, whatever form that may take. That still inspires me now. In the case of Between Heaven And Earth, the biography of my grandfather, I had to objectively scrutinise his own writings and other people’s writings about him. In the case of my most recent book, I had to scrutinise myself, sometimes with brutal honesty. In both instances, the truth was hidden and I had to use the techniques of investigative journalism to unearth the facts and issues. 

WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of ‘Beginnings And Endings’. With that in mind, what do you find easier to write – the beginning or the end? And do you always write the beginning first and the ending last?

RN: Behind this question lies the assumption that beginnings are always difficult, and this is correct in my experience. But, once started, it’s hard to stop, because one feels driven by the quest. On occasions, I’ve written the end first. In journalism, features often contain a pay-off line, which is a punchy and memorable conclusion, so it makes sense to get this down and work towards it.

WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?

RN: Just write. Keep going even when it’s not turning out the way you want, because the very act of writing sometimes releases ideas you didn’t know you had and ends up being the most important aspect of the piece. The more you use the writing muscle, the better it functions. Also walk: the act of walking seems to boost creativity. But, in preparation for that, read, read, read – not just the good stuff but some bad stuff, too.

WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?

RN: As a travel writer there are many events and episodes I never use in articles. Many of them are, however, recorded in my journals and are ripe for story-telling. I’m gathering these together to create what might be called a truly international, left-field, post-modern book of travel writing. It’s called: And Your Destination Will Be On The Left

WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?

RN: Hazel, the wise rabbit, in Watership Down.

Find out more about Robert Nurden at his website and connect with him on Facebook: Robert Nurden, on X: @robertnurden, on Instagram: @robertonurden and on LinkedIn: Robert Nurden.

I Always Wanted To Be A Dad: Men Without Children is available to buy from, from bookshops and from Amazon:


You can read issue 20 online here and find it in libraries and other outlets. Read previous editions of our magazines here.

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If you or someone you know has been affected by issues covered in our pages, please see the relevant link below for ​information, advice and support​:

The more you use the writing muscle, the better it functions.