What do you want to know?
I am a chartered engineer (Member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology) and professional project manager (Member of the Association of Project Management). My success comes from my ability to take complex information and explain the essentials, painting a compelling vision of the future and the actions required for success.
An innate curiosity and a compelling need to learn led to the research that inspired this book. Indeed answering questions is a constant source of enjoyment and the words ‘let’s Google it’ are never far from my lips. I prefer reading and writing non-fiction.
Where were you born?
I was born in the North-East of England and grew up in West Yorkshire.
When did you start writing?
I have written stories for as long as I remember. However, I came to non-fiction in my thirties and found that I enjoy both the research and the craft of pulling a story from disparate information. That said I have more to learn than I know and am looking forward to becoming a far better writer.
What was your early inspiration?
I wrote my first non-fiction piece when I was eight (or so); after a school trip to a ball-bearing factory. I was hooked on manufacturing at that point, and the business commended my ‘report’ of the visit.
Do you have educational or professional experience in writing (outside of publishing your book)?
Communication and my desire to learn underpin my professional success. I have moved from some very poorly written reports in my early days to business intelligence, communication of strategy and, now, managing communications and readiness for business change.
What other books have you written?
None, so far.
How has your life affected your writing voice?
I have had the privilege to work with many people around the country, and I have found that most people find most things interesting when they enjoy the presentation. My experience has emboldened me to move away from a traditional style of non-fiction writing. I consciously dabble on the edges of the subjects I touch giving a gentle introduction and not a deep and serious immersing.I am a voracious reader; from the back of cereal boxes to newspapers left on trains, I rarely pass up the opportunity to absorb more words and styles of writing.
I am a voracious reader; from the back of cereal boxes to newspapers left on trains, I rarely pass up the opportunity to absorb more words and styles of writing.
Where did you get the idea for this book?
The experience I describe in the preface is real. I was cleaning out my garage, found some blue, nylon rope and had a sudden (and sharp) recollection of playing with an old tow rope when I was young. The rope was rough, fibrous and smelled like plant matter (and engine oil). I looked up nylon rope, and the book grew from there. It started as a popular science narrative describing the uses of oil. But, as I was drawn into the subject, the alternatives kept creeping in and from there some of the economics and politics followed naturally.
What made you decide to self-publish?
Self-publishing became the default after I messed up applications to agents (my book was not ready, nowhere near ready, entirely and completely unready). As I have learned what I need to do to self-publish, I have enjoyed the experience.
Are there any authors whose writing styles or subject matter inspired your book?
I love non-fiction, and my shelves are groaning with popular science books, histories and biographies. At this stage in my writing career, I merely hope to have written a readable book but have taken inspiration from Bill Bryson, the Freakanomics guys, Michael Crichton and Stephen King.
Do you have another project in the works? If so, what is it?
I have yet to start my next book. I am interested in how we have cultivated plants to become food. I once bit into an olive straight from a tree and endlessly admire the people who turn such an unappetising morsel into the incredible food we love today. But I think it will be grass that catches my attention. I also love talking to people who have jobs we take for granted or have never heard of; I think capturing their stories would be a great project.
Who will read The VFUU Price of Oil
Who is your target market?
Narrative non-fiction readers – albeit this is more akin to a set of short stories than a novel.
QI watchers – the gathers of interesting information and titbits.
People who have a sneaky suspicion that they should, could and might do something about their dependency on oil – if only they knew how.
Is there a region that’s relevant to your book?
I have focused on the UK, as our relationship with oil and our situation is different to that of other countries. We have a heavy economic reliance on oil production – we also use quite a lot each. And our relationship with the Middle East is particularly influenced by the days of Empire and WWII. But most of all, the alternatives we can use, the progress we have made in decarbonising and the way our government is (not) supporting our wish to move away from fossil fuels are unique.
Indeed, I believe every country needs its own version of The VFUU Price of Oil.
What do you want people to do — buy your book on-line, come to a meet and greet, etc.?
Buy the book, read the bits that are of interest, recommend it to family and friends. Engage in the conversation and take a bit of oil out of their lives.
Do you have a tagline or sticking point in all of your marketing pieces?
Your Oily One Stop Shop
Everything you wanted to know about oil, but were afraid to ask
Where can I direct people to find your book if they’re interested?
All good ebook- and print book-sellers, some subscription services and, hopefully, libraries.
Why The VFUU Price of Oil is relevant
Do you cover a topic/ subject matter to which a lot of people can easily relate?
Everyone uses oil, every day. But most writers subject us to elaborate descriptions of how we get it, politics and economics. The VFUU Price of Oil takes a different approach; it talks about the way we as individuals use oil and its impact on our lives – we can all relate to that.
Does your book shed light on a different perspective of a common issue?
Oh yes. It doesn’t present conspiracy theories about the oil industry; it isn’t an environmental treatise. It is about each of us and the actions we can take to end our love affair with the sticky stuff. It doesn’t presume to know better than the reader; instead, it takes a journey through a fascinating landscape and invites everyone to come along.
Do you have experience/ expertise on a topic discussed in your book?
No, and that, frankly, is one of its unique selling points. Instead of diving deep into a single area where I have an axe to grind or expertise to showcase, the book is an overview of all things oil. It balances recognising what oil has given us with being excited about the technological and economic changes that are helping us move away from it.
Is there a certain aspect of your author experience that makes the book interesting?
I have travelled on a journey from oil novice to, perhaps, an intermediate level of understanding, and I hope to kick-start the same adventure for my readers. I only use publicly available information. Therefore, anyone reading the book could have written it, can check what I say and should draw their own conclusions.
Do you have a unique background different from most authors?
I am not academic and do not work for any business working in this area. Nor am I a journalist. And neither are the people I know. I think these things differentiate me from every other author on this subject; it means I am much more interested in the human aspect than someone who specialises in just one of the topics covered by the book so I have a different story to tell.
For example, while I am very interested in, say, the US oil export embargo, I realise that most readers have, at best, a passing interest in the fact that there was one and that the government gave it up as part of the budget negotiations. Of course, there are places where I can’t help but get stuck into a diversion and have put them into sidebars, footnotes and appendices.
Most people know fossil fuels are vital, but that we cannot afford to keep using them. They tend to push that daunting information to the back of their minds behind the pressing and resolvable demands of daily life.
But this knowledge keeps bubbling up and posing questions – scary questions that seem to have no answer – and The VFUU Price of Oil answers them.
The VFUU Price of Oil explores the way we use oil and the economic and environmental costs of doing so. But it’s not full of jargon, conspiracy theories or vitriol. It gives oil and the oil industry the credit they deserve for making our lives historically healthy and wealthy. It also shows we would be wise to use less oil. Nor is it heavy going, readers have commented on its lively, pacey tone, and it explains every bit of terminology in everyday English. It inspires by giving some fabulous examples of people who have just got on with the job of taking oil out of their lives.
It will take you on a tour of our interactions with oil – from the first oil wells to the present day – and just about every use of oil – from industry to bubble bath. It shows the things that influence the price of oil and how, in turn, it influences our lives.
Oil has been the power of our world for over a hundred years. It fuels economic growth and underpins almost every aspect of our modern lives. Two attributes, in particular, make oil seem indispensable: its low-cost and its endless utility. Technological advances mean that we believe we can rely on continuing supplies of oil, but new sources come with greater costs (economic and environmental).
Many people (78% in the UK) wish to move from fossil fuels, but do not know how. The VFUU Price of Oil follows the history of oil to the present day, lays out the decisions we face to ensure ongoing energy and materials security and shows alternatives to oil in use around the world.
Because oil is important to us all, The VFUU Price of Oil translates chemical, geological and engineering subjects into English. It is an enjoyable read and offers inspiration to change.
We know oil is essential, we get that its price impacts our lives, and yet we rarely talk about it. Why? Because it is a complex subject? Perhaps we are afraid of sounding uninformed? Maybe we don’t want to be associated with the opposing camps who presume to speak on our behalf?
We face some important decisions and to understand our choices we need to get to know oil, its history, its contribution to our society and its alternatives. The VFUU Price of Oil, uniquely, gives everyone the opportunity to understand the many roles oil plays in our lives. And how some people have already turned away from it. From the big uses: manufacturing, energy, plastics and transport to the small: food, communications, the home and medicine we see that it is possible to reduce our dependence on oil.
“We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.”
The book combines the best of historical reviews and popular science. It takes the reader through the interactions of humanity and oil; it follows the journey of every oil drop; it describes the importance of oil and, by association, the oil industry. It shows the things that influence the price of oil and how, in turn, it affects our lives.
“The VFUU Price of Oil charts the story of oil, from the very start, through its transformation of every aspect of our lives, and concludes with a compelling narrative of why we now need to move beyond oil once and for all. I was engaged, entertained and enlightened by this unique approach to the subject.”
Ben Goldsmith | CEO of Menhaden Capital Plc, founder of WHEB Asset Management | http://www.menhaden.com/
“Oil has served us well and stimulated the biggest growth and wealth creation in human history. The VFUU Price of Oil explains the role it has played and why it is time to wean ourselves off our addiction to oil.”
Paul Polman | Chief Executive Officer, Unilever | www.unilever.co.uk
“Michelle Spaul provides a broad and very readable introduction to the world of oil. Starting from a perspective of the societal advances that have been enabled by oil she looks at how its price influences nearly all aspects of human activity. She then moves on to look at the costs, on the environment and climate and their ramifications, and concludes that we should all be looking to remove oil from our lives.”
Professor Joanna D. Haigh CBE FRS | Co-Director, Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment | http://www.imperial.ac.uk/grantham/
 Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), engineer, mathematician and architect