Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a writer and academic from Manchester, England. Most of my stories – crime, horror, romance, spy or otherwise – concern my home city in one form or another. I’ve written many short stories, one graphic novella and I am working on my first novel.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book, Perpetual Light, was inspired by the lavish funeral of a local crime boss I observed. After this man’s death, there was a spike in violent crime which shocked the whole country.
I wanted to understand the type of person who works in that world, and also the person who would dare to challenge such a powerful underworld force.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
If I don’t write 2,500 words a day, I feel it as keenly as a schoolboy who hasn’t done his homework. I achor myself to a chair and the soundtracks flits between ambient music, prison song, rain noise and white noise in order to focus my wandering urges.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
The first book I ever read which engrossed me was Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. It helped that my mum was a huge fan of Waugh, but the language – languid, lapidary, rolling, beautiful – arrested me and convinced me to write my own stories.
Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr. was an experience as electric and invigorating as hearing Jimi Hendrix for the first time. It seemed to take language and at once cut it to the bone and chuck it into a blender. I traded this book for a copy of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, which smashed any previous notions of form and expectations I had, showing how attractive it was to hop genre and style. After devouring Moore’s canon, I came across his Neonomicon and kept reading about H.P. Lovecraft. While his style and opinions were baroque at the very least, his mythos was awe-inspiring.
Lest this sound too romantic, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and his Lectures on Literature were a sharpened needle to my ethereal baloon, reminding me that no one writes a half-decent book without a serious respect and attention to craft and detail. If ever I find myself floating above the ground with self-love, I read his lecture on Ulysses to bring me crashing back down to my writing chair.
Furthermore, whats wrong with good old fashioned genre fiction? Graham Greene’s ‘Entertainments’, Raymond Chandler, Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, Damon Runyon’s night owls… I could go on all day.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a rather large Cosmic Horror novel which examines the role of the city in humankind at large. It is set in Manchester over 110 years, from just after the Great War to the near future. This has been a monster to write and research, but on we go!
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
You tell me!
Do you have any advice for new authors?
The only qualification to pick up a pen is the ability to pick it up and move it across the page.
Writer’s method, however, is a test not only of inspiration, but discipline.
Anyone who tells you that writing ‘ought to flow out of you like wine and if it doesn’t come, there’s no point’ is a damned liar. Only frauds make such ridiculous claims. Having a want or need to write is not conducive to having an abundance of good ideas, in which case KEEP THE BLOODY PEN MOVING.
You may have heard the much-trumpeted “Write what you know” and thought “What about me, the fantasy/SF/horror/speculative fiction writer?” Well, I would say “know what you write.” That is, if you want to write a book in a genre you’re unfamiliar with or in a setting you’re unfamiliar with, go for it by all means! But be prepared to do a LOT of research.
Also, bollocks to adverbs. They’re rubbish, use a minimal amount or none at all.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
There is no such thing as a good writer – only a good editor.
Writer’s block is only writer’s indecision.
The adverb is not your friend.
Kill your darlings. If you think its clever, it probably isn’t. Either get a second opinion or get rid.
Take every opportunity to delete words.
Never use a big word where a short one will do.
Be ruthless – bad writing will not get better if it sits in your drawer or journal or hard drive.
What are you reading now?
‘NW’ by Zadie Smith
What’s next for you as a writer?
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse.