Hi Lee, firstly can I thank you so much for taking the time out to answer some questions, I’m honoured! You’re a successful journalist, when did you decide that writing was what you wanted to do for a career?
I’m honoured to have been asked for an interview! It’s refreshing being on the other side for a change. I knew I wanted to become a journalist when I was finishing school – English and Geography were always my strongest subjects and I’ve always been nosy, so journalism made sense as a career. I’m definitely glad I didn’t follow my second career plan and become an estate agent.
A young Lee Boyce.
What was your university course like?
My university course at Roehampton was a combined honours – creative writing and journalism. The course was good, but it was more about the experience to me, being away from home for the first time and flung into the hustle and bustle of London. I then went for a postgraduate course, called NCTJ training in Harlow. This nine month course was far more beneficial than university – I was taught how to really chase a story, the media law knowledge I needed to make sure I don’t get sued and shorthand. It really helped sculpt me into a journalist.
What was the most obscure thing you wrote about?
At university my ‘Mystic Boycey’ horoscope section – that was random.
What field of journalism are you in?
I’m a financial journalist at This is Money – which is the financial website for the Daily Mail. We have roughly three million readers per month, while the Mail Online has more than 120million.
What was it like seeing your writing in print for the first time?
I guess the best way to describe is like becoming a professional footballer scoring a goal for the first time. Elation, your name in lights, it’s a great feeling. I was editor of Roehampton University newspaper Fresh, so that gave me the first taste of being published and I also worked at my local newspaper in Essex – when I had my first byline there, I was so happy I danced around the streets with the copy held high in the air in Hollywood-movie type fashion.
Something like this? Lee in Dubai.
Is journalism what you expected, are there glamorous parties and the like?
First and foremost I became a journalist because I wanted to make a difference – make my voice heard. And This is Money has been fantastic platform for this, I generally set my own agenda and even have my own column, which is great. Glamorous parties are few-and-far between I’m afraid. I do get invited to many fantastic events, such as Cheltenham, Wimbledon, gigs and even the odd press trip abroad – I recently went to Belgrade, Serbia – but I think I’d have to get into showbiz reporting if I wanted the glitz and glam of parties!
What in your opinion has been your most successful story to date?
It might not be the most successful in terms of traffic, but my investigation into mis-selling in bank branches was one that got me really noticed – it was published in the Daily Mail newspaper and ruffled a few feathers in the banking industry. A few other journalists from rival publications e-mailed me to say well done and some I bumped into in person did likewise. It made me immensely proud. You can find the full investigation here:
Have you got a favourite piece you have written?
Probably the investigation I outlined above. But a handful of other stories I’ve enjoyed writing include the This is Money worldwide cost of petrol index that I started (has had coverage across the world and has also resulted in me going on radio to talk about it). I also love writing for my column – my latest was how I think train operators could help boost UK tourism.
Have you ever had writer’s block? Do you have any suggestions about how to start writing again?
Occasionally – but being a mainly online journalist I don’t have time. The best tip I could give is stepping away from your desk and going outside for a while, get inspired by your surroundings. If I get writer’s block, I usually stroll down Kensington Gardens and relax – it’s great to de-clutter your mind and embrace the beauty of the world.
Which writers have influenced you, and in turn your work?
I’ve always been an avid fan of both George Orwell and Stephen King. In a journalist way, I don’t have that many influences, but those that I have worked with have probably influenced me the most – especially my editor, Simon, at This is Money who always keeps me motivated and gives me great ideas for stories.
Is there a particular style of writing which you favour?
I love to be creative – sometimes with financial writing the subject matter can be slightly dull. So the more I can be descriptive and humorous in my writing, the better.
What is your favourite word, and why?
Bamboozle – what’s not to love about it.
What is your least favourite word, and why?
Consumer – I hate it when people are described as ‘consumers’. They’re people!
If you were to describe yourself in three words what would they be?
I’m a chirpy tenacious grafter.
Are there any other areas that you would like to diversify into, such as script writing etc?
I have just finished editing my first fiction novel called ‘The Battenberg Bomb’. I’m self-publishing as an ebook – I’m hoping it will be out at the start of September. That’s the first time the title of the novel has been revealed, so a little exclusive for you there. I also have another half-written novel in the pipeline which I’m very excited about. I have loads of ideas for TV scripts and film scripts, but getting the time to produce them is difficult. I sometimes wish I could just think things onto the page! I also run a review blog with my girlfriend Danielle called Heart & Pepper – we are drinking, eating and sleeping London, one review at a time.
Lee having tea at the Ritz!
If you were to give advice to budding writers and journalists, what would it be?
Stick with it – turn off the television and create your own bit of history. If you want to become a journalist, you have to be determined and willing to put in some hard-work. I’m talking unpaid placements and being treated like a dog. You need to be lucky to get a break – but sometimes you can create your own luck. If you do want to go down the journalism route, an NCTJ for me is fairly essential. As is a stint in a local newspaper – but the competition is fierce, you need to stand out from the crowd (without being irritating). Be enthusiastic without being overbearing. And if you do get a work placement, offer to make plenty of tea. And be prepared to have a thick skin.
What does the future hold for you, are there any exciting plans in the pipeline?
Well I plan to be at This is Money for a long while yet. I love it and although financial journalism is something I never dreamt I would get into, I’m glad I did. I hope to travel around some more and keep building up the Heart & Pepper blog, which has simply grown so fast in the last eight months. The next exciting thing for me is finally publishing my first novel and going travelling for a month around Australia with Danielle in October.
Lee loves travel, here he is in Prague.
Lastly, I ask this question to everyone. What is your definition of beauty?
As a journalist, seeing a story through from start to finish – a story you have worked so hard to get right and put your heart and soul into. Seeing it finally come to life on the page and knowing thousands of people are reading it – each story, no matter how big or small, is like finishing a piece of art. As a reader, beauty is appreciating stories that ignite fire inside you and finding out things around the world you would otherwise never know. That, to me, is beautiful.
Hard at work, getting the full story at Middle Temple Court in Holborn.
Thanks again Lee for your thought provoking, and very interesting, answers. I have to say, I am never normally drawn to financial journalism, but the articles that you have highlighted in this interview have been really interesting and informative, thank you. Plus, I have thoroughly enjoyed your’s and Danielle’s blog Heart & Pepper I wish it every success. It’s exciting news to hear about your novel too, I’m very much looking forward to reading the book. (Thank you for the exclusive!)
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If you’re in or going to London, and you like to eat, drink and snooze, but you’re just not sure where the best places are… I have the site for you! Read these honest reviews at Heart & Pepper and you will never be stuck for somewhere to go ever again!
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All photographs are Copyright of Lee Boyce.