Louise Gray is an environmental journalist turned award winning author. Louise worked for The Daily Telegraph as an Environmental Correspondent for five years, but is now working at as a freelance writer. As a writer, Louise Gray has worked for the BBC, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Country Life, The Spectator and more. Her contacts across the world and her deep knowledge of environmental issues has made her one of the leading writers in her field. This has led to Louise Gray chairing a number of debates and offering her services as a public speaker. Louise Gray released her book, The Ethical Carnivore, to a chorus of positive reviews, including ones from The Guardian and Evening Standard. The book discusses the ethics of meat through the application of the theory of only eating animal you kill yourself. The book was shortlisted for the Fortnum and Mason Food Awards for Best Debut Food Book 2017. Please enjoy my interview with Louise Gray…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I am an environmental journalist and writer. My first book, The Ethical Carnivore, is about my year only eating animals I killed myself. It has been nominated for a number of food writing awards, so people think I am a food writer. But the purpose of the book was to understand the impact on the environment of eating meat. I plan to write more books about the environment through exploring our everyday choices, such as the food we eat. I am also interested in writing fiction about mankind’s impact on the planet.
Lots of books about vegetables (for my next book) such as Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent by John Reader. It’s more interesting than it sounds! Also The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola, which is all about the fruit and vegetable markets of 19th century Paris and the cruelty of a capitalism. I do like to read something lighter on holiday and I’m looking forward to reading some novels like The Party by Elizabeth Day.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
I read Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery countless times. She is an icon for any bookish imaginative girl – or anyone who feels like they don’t fit in.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be?
Gosh that’s difficult. I would like them to read something they enjoy so they read in the future. I think reading is an important way – indeed essential way – to escape the tough moments of life. So I would encourage them to read imaginative fiction. The Earth Sea Trilogy by Ursula Le Guin is fantastic and has a strong environmental message.
Can you remember the first non-fiction book you read and loved?
I was very keen on animals when I was young so I read a lot of wildlife books. Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell is a good example of descriptive nature writing that not only explores our relationship to animals but the landscape and each other – though it is terribly sad!
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
My first job in journalism pounding the pavements, attending court cases and knocking doors was pretty tough. But I think being a rookie hack gives you a lot of necessary skills as an investigative reporter and writer.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring non-fiction writer?
1) Don’t give up, not ever. 2) I told you not to give up.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
Never, there are too many wonderful books in the world to read!
What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path?
I think climate change is the most important issue of our generation. I would urge other writers to read the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC, a group of scientists from all over the world who are crunching the figures on global warming. They come up with reports every few years which tell us what we need to do to keep temperature rise below 2C and preferably below 1.5C.
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier because it is a wonderful romantic escape about falling in love with a pirate, and sometimes a girl needs that.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Most recently The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. Its about the recovery of an alcoholic through nature. Its unflinchingly honest about how tough it is to give up an addiction, but also about the healing power of nature.
Who would you say are the three non-fiction writers that continue to inspire you?
What’s your favourite genre of book?
Great literary fiction because that is how we really understand the truth about humans. Look at Tolstoy.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
Not worth living in. For me books have kept me sane.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Plenty! If I had time… Jared Diamond who wrote Guns, Germs and Steel tends to write books that really influence how we see the world and human history.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
No. I have a Kindle and its extremely useful for travelling but bookshelves full of beloved books will always be the ultimate in interior design.
What book do you feel humanity needs most right now?
Books about the reality of climate change and the environment that do not frighten people but give them actions that can help – like eating less meat.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
It’s a cliché, but the Bible. I am not a practising Christian but much of the stories and sermons have influenced my life. It also helps to understand writers of the past.
Thicker Than Water by Cal Flyn, a friend of mine. It is about the colonisation of Australia but unlike other books, there is no blame on one particular group. She shows the complexity behind this bloody history.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
More books about fruit and vegetables as I would like to follow up The Ethical Carnivore with The Ethical Herbivore… On my reading list is Banana by Dan Koeppel and The Hidden Half of Nature by David R. Montgomery.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Love, Therapy and Jam.