Also known as Frequently Ignored Answers, but here they are anyway…
When did you start writing?
I wrote a little as a teenager, but really started trying to get published when I was in my mid twenties. My first piece of published writing was in a fanzine, when I was about 16. It was a short horror story…
In my mid twenties I started to think about writing seriously (whatever that means) and a couple of years and “a few” rejection slips later, I found an agent. My first book, Floodland, was published in 2000.
Why do you write, what would you do if you didn’t?
I write because I love it (most of the time). At the very least, I am obsessed with it. You can’t be a writer if you aren’t – it’s too hard otherwise. If I wasn’t a writer I would love to have been a professional musician, of almost any kind… Music does a very similar job to books, but speaks without the need for words, and is perhaps even more powerful for that.
Do you have any tips for writing?
I think it’s important that you try to finish what you start – don’t worry about how good your stories are to start with, or how long they are, just practice finishing! No publisher is going to publish half a book, no matter how great the start is. It can help to read out loud what you’ve done. ALWAYS try to enjoy it, or be gripped by it, and if you’re not, ask yourself why. Asking ‘why?’ is a very helpful question generally when putting a story together. And here’s my final tip – ignore list of writing tips found on the internet. Including this one. One of the biggest challenges about being a writer is that there is no single correct way to do it. It’s one of the things about being a writer that’s unlike many other vocations. You have to work out what works for you and what doesn’t. This is one of its biggest challenges, but ultimately one of its greatest rewards.
Do you have a special place for writing?
I have a study at the top of the house – it’s small, but quiet and warm. Which is just as well since the temperature can drop to minus 20º C during the wintertime. I like to have music playing while I work – I generally don’t work in silence… but it has to be music appropriate to what I am trying to write.
What do you do in your spare time?
I do a few things, like draw, watch films, listen to lots of music, travel from time to time.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
From anywhere and everywhere, from my frontal lobes (or is it from Wernicke’s Area?), from a funny little shop in the high street, from music, from love, from life, from fear, from love. Choose your favourite answer, they’re all more or less valid.
Who are your literary heroes?
There are many, but I should name the following to start with: Thomas Mann, Mervyn Peake, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, Peter Dickinson, Daphne du Maurier, Edgar Allan Poe, Artur Schnitzler, Ursula le Guin, Willa Cather…
Will you read my novel?
Like most published authors I get a lot of requests from people wanting help with their writing, and I can’t help everyone – I’d never get any of my own work done. But if you’re really serious about it, I teach creative writing once or twice a year, at places like Arvon, and Ty Newydd, and also hold the occasional writing retreat here in the French Alps – for more information on this, please look here. I also now deliver Arvon 1-1 tutorials via the web; go here for more information.
Will you answer some questions for my book report?
I’m really sorry not to be more helpful with this, but I get many emails asking for help with school reports. Usually 40 at once arriving in the inbox, and it’s impossible to give a decent reply to all of them individually. The best place to look for more information is around this website and on my blog. Anyway, writers are the worst person to ask for information about themselves. If you want to know who I am, you can’t do better than read a few of my books.
My favourite music is by:
The Mars Volta
The Divine Comedy