Friday, 3 December 2010

Haruki Murakami: Reality A and Reality B

Let’s call the world we actually have now Reality A and the world that we might have had if 9/11 had never happened Reality B. Then we can’t help but notice that the world of Reality B appears to be realer and more rational than the world of Reality A. To put it in different terms, we are living a world that has an even lower level of reality than the unreal world. What can we possibly call this if not “chaos”?

What kind of meaning can fiction have in an age like this? What kind of purpose can it serve? In an age when reality is insufficiently real, how much reality can a fictional story possess?

A very interesting article in which Haruki Murakami discusses the ever changing role of fiction, and how it seemed, for him, to morph over the 2000 year mark into not post-modernism or any other 'ism' but more into story and what those stories mean in themselves, in contrast to what is going on in the world now.

You can read the article here

I really can't wait for 1Q84 to be translated into English.

Salt Publishing: 30% Off and Free Delivery

It's nearly Christmas and Salt have an amazing list of talented writers. At the moment they're doing 20% off all books, with free UK delivery, plus an extra 10% off when you use XMAS2010 in the code at the check out.

So, er, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Author Visit: Alan Bissett

Alan, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a couple of questions for us, I know that you're a very busy guy. Welcome!

Hello there.

If a person hadn't heard about you [how very rude indeed!] how would you sum yourself up as a writer?
My writing is kind of funny-serious. And, no two ways about it, it’s very Scottish. That said, the last one, Death of a Ladies’ Man, wasn’t about Scotland it was about sex, which meant more people in England read it. I write novels and plays in both Scots and English. Some of my books – especially the earlier books such as Boyracers and The Incredible Adam Spark, where barely a moment will go by without a Star Wars quote or Queen lyric – have pop-culture tourettes. But that’s getting better. My work, I think it’s fair to say, has a certain verbal element to it, and sometimes I perform it. Sometimes I perform it as a woman. Nae kiddin.

Speaking of being busy, you seem to be doing a bit of everything right now. Books, readings, writing plays, doing a one man [well, woman] show, films, put all of us to shame. How the heck do you find time to write new material?

Things are happening at breakneck speed just now, right enough, which isn’t always what the life of a writer feels like. Basically, I’m going with ‘write what wants out that day’, and the results just happen to be taking all sorts of different forms. I’m saying yes to virtually any creative project that excites me at the moment, just to see what happens. You tend not to get a chance to do just crazy and try stuff very often. But it does feel like a lot of intense, short-distance sprinting, instead of the big, langorous, roomy feeling of working on one novel.

What is your favourite writing form? Or does it change all the time? How do you decide what form you're going to write in next?

I’m really enjoying writing plays at the moment, more than anything else. It means I can strip everything down to dialogue and I like the naked pulse of that. Film means thinking in images a bit more, which is perhaps harder for me, as my work is very talky. Novels are an amazing thing to have written, but they are exhausting beasts to actually write. Plays have just the right amount of zip for me just now. As for deciding which to write in, the ideas just appear in a certain narrative shape, which will dictate the form. If there isn’t much fat on the bone I’ll make it a script. If I can feel all sorts of psychological red meat in the character then it becomes a novel.

Your first novel was 'Boyracers' in 2001, can you tell us your story of writing to publication?

Well it was pretty clear to me from a young age that I wanted to be a writer; it was always the thing I felt happiest doing and I was encouraged by my teachers and my parents. As I got older that feeling intensified to the point where it became what I was determined to organise the rest of my life around. Which is not to say that it isn’t sometimes dispiriting work – especially as the rejections pile-up – but I never felt discouraged enough to give up. I started taking my writing very seriously from about the age of 22, when I found a fantastic writers’ group with an inspirational tutor, the poet, Magi Gibson, who was the first person who really helped me understand the craft. I started having some success with short story competitions, and by 25 I felt confident enough to complete my first novel, Boyracers. In 2001, it was picked up by Polygon, a small independent Scottish publisher, and found an appreciative readership (in Scotland, anyway!). Now that I’d proven to myself it could be done I saw no reason to stop. But that’s when the hard work really started, as I developed my first ever crisis of writing confidence, starting my second novel. But I got past that eventually. You start realise that your creative life just goes through stages.

You've said “I tend to think that a novel is like conducting an orchestra, fixing a car engine and talking to a psychotherapist all at the same time... it takes stamina as much as technique.” How do you personally go about writing a novel? How much do you plan ahead? Where do you start? How long does it take you?

Writing a novel is mental chaos. There’s no ‘method’. Sometimes I plan, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I can work on them quickly, other times they lie there half dead for weeks. Sometimes you junk six months’ of work. Sometimes a blinding flash of revelation will appear before your eyes. And this chaos usually goes on, for me, for about four years. That’s what I mean about stamina.

I've heard that your fantastic 'The Moira Monologues' [Alan's one man show, where he plays a woman, a cleaner, called Moira] is now being adapted for film, congratulations! Is it easy to set your 'baby' free like that for others to adapt?

It’s not difficult if you get the feeling that the creative team understand it and you repsect their vision for it. Although, I’m sure, with the best will in the world, I’ll have as many horrendous experiences as I’ll have good ones. But for many of these projects – including Moira, who has been bought by the BBC, I’m in there as a writer. So at least I’ll be able to influence and protect it in some way. That’s the theory anyway.

On our Book Forum, we have a Book Tree, where members choose their favourite book and post them round in a circle, so everyone reads each one and writes comments in them as they go. If you were to take part in our Book Tree, what book would you choose and why?

My favourite book of all time is American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, but that’s also not one I’d like to inflict upon people indiscriminately, which I think is so scathing in its political attack and so original in form that it really woke me up as a young writer. I read it the same year as I discovered Trainspotting so it was like discovering punk. A kinder choice to the Book Tree would be The Trick is To Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway, which is a great Scottish novel not known enough outside its own land. It’s a book quivering with truth, which articulates acute depression with more insight, wit and deftness than any other I can think of.

And, finally, what projects are you working on at the moment? Are you allowed to tell us?

I’m finishing my next novel, Pack Men, which is about three Glasgow Rangers fans’ disastrous trip to Manchester in 2008 to attend the UEFA Cup Final. I’m also writing the radio adaptation of The Moira Monologues and preparing the original playscript as e-book download with a live recording of me performing it, due in the new year on Cargo Crate, an innovate, young Scottish publishing company. I’m developing a potential TV adapation of Death of a Ladies’ Man. My first BBC Radio comedy script, The Crazy One, will be on just before Christmas. I’ve written the film treatments for a modern drama and a Horror film and a script for the stage version of The Incredible Adam Spark. There will be more new plays also. I just have to write them.


Alan Bissett was born and raised in Falkirk and now lives in Glasgow. He is the author of the novels Boyracers (Polygon, 2001), The Incredible Adam Spark (Headline, 2005), and Death of a Ladies’ Man (Hachette, July 2009).

Alan’s first play, The Ching Room, was commissioned by Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and was shown at Oran Mor and Traverse in March 2009 to great critical acclaim. In the same month, Alan performed his own ‘one woman show,’ Times When I Bite, monologues from the perspective of ‘Falkirk’s hardest woman’ at the Aye Write! Festival in Glasgow. Times When I Bite is being adapted for film, and Alan has also collaborated with award-winning director Sacha Kyle on The Library (Arches/ Traverse, April 2009). He is a regular performer at Discombobulate, a monthly literature/comedy night which runs at the Arches in Glasgow.

He lectured in Creative Writing at the Universities of Leeds (2002-04) and Glasgow (2004-07), before becoming a full-time writer. He writes intermittent academic criticism, and a blog for The Guardian. In 2008 he was named Falkirk Personality of the Year, and the Daily Record voted him the 46th Hottest Man in Scotland, a title he takes very seriously indeed.

Boyracers is currently being adapted for film, having received funding from Scottish Screen. Alan is writing the sequel to the novel, to be published in 2010, set in Manchester on the day of Glasgow Rangers’ UEFA Cup Final appearance.

By day, Charlie Bain is the school's most inspiring teacher. By night he prowls the stylish bars of Glasgow seducing women. Fuelled by art, drugs and fantasies of being an indie star, Charlie journeys further into hedonism, unable to see the destruction his desires are leading everyone towards...

'Bissett's third novel is delivered with invention and flair'

(Esquire )

'Hilarious, disturbing and hugely entertaining... Bain is a remarkable creation'

(Big Issue )

'He has pulled the sheets back on Lothario men and shown them lying there wriggling, pathetic, and bare-bummed...Bissett proves himself to be a fresh, compelling and distinctly Scottish literary talent'

(Scotland on Sunday )

'A high-speed, coke-fuelled rollercoaster ride through bars, classrooms and bedrooms'

(Scotsman )


Saturday, 27 November 2010

Table Manners at The Pygmy Giant

As I said below *points two posts down* this week is National Short Story week, hurrah! So, I hope you've all been immersing yourself in the short form/storm-in-a-tea-cup-joy.

The wonderful Pygmy Giant have posted a short-short story of mine: Table Manners, which is one of the shorts from my book, to help celebrate National Short Story Week :) You can read that over here.

Happy Saturday! x

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Author Visit: Anthony McGowan

The lovely Anthony McGowan has stopped by to answer some questions about writing, breaking wind and sleeping with JK Rowling.

Ok, really only the first one of those is true.

Nevertheless, make yourself a cup of tea and read on :)

Hi Tony, welcome to my blog. Pull up a chair! So. Down to business: How would you sum yourself up as a writer in a couple of sentences?
I try to do two quite possibly irreconcilable things – I try to be as intellectually stretching as I can – hence the philosophical and literary underpinning of my books, whilst also appealing to the part of the brain that laughs at the conspicuous breaking of wind.

What’s your ‘story’ – getting your first book written, finished and published?

Quite a complicated one. I wrote my first book– an early version of what eventually became Hellbent, while working as a civil servant in London. It was the most enjoyable writing time of my life – I was writing purely out of love, and enjoyed every moment at my computer, which I think transmitted itself to the text I was pretty excited about it and sent it off to the usual places, receiving, in due course, the usual rejections. In the meantime my wife (whose day job is designing clothes) wrote a novel which, embarrassingly, got a book deal straight away. Her agent took me on out of pity. She suggested that I write something more commercial, which I did – an adult thriller called Stag Hunt. Hodder and Stoughton snapped it up. And now I was published writer, suddenly Hellbent seemed attractive, and Random House brought it out.

What motivates you to get your writing done? Do you set yourself word limits every day? Do you leave a sentence half finished for the next time you sit in front of your computer?
I always try to write a 1000 words a day. That seems a good target – achievable, but reasonably stretching. I’d never leave a sentence hanging – I’m such a bubble head I’d probably forget what I was going to say.

When someone says to you ‘What do you do?’ and you answer ‘I’m a writer’ – what reaction do you normally get? What’s the worst reaction you’ve had? And the best?

Yeah, I usually fess-up. Generally people are polite and interested. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever had anything other than that, except for the occasional embittered unpublished writer, who’s convinced that I only got published because I’m sleeping with J K Rowling or Martin Amis or whoever. Although, it could be argued, that I only got published because I was sleeping with my wife, who happened to get a book deal ... But compared to ‘I work in the VAT department of HM Customs & Excise’, ‘actually, I’m a writer’, usually goes down very well.

You’ve written both adult and YA novels – which do you enjoy writing most?
Hard to generalise – each book has its own challenges and frustrations. But, over-all, I’d say I slightly prefer writing for teenagers.

To those [idiots] who say that writing for children is easy, what do you wish to say to them?
All writing is hard. Or easy. Or somewhere in between. Children’s books are often shorter, which can be an advantage. Or make things harder. Or something in between. I know that’s not very helpful, but the answer to this question does simply depend on where your natural gifts lie. One thing that annoys children’s authors is the idea that any old celebrity can knock out a quick kids’ book. They’re invariably crap, but get so much marketing attention that they end up selling way more than much better books by less well-known authors.

Your YA novels mix the supernatural with real-life issues facing YAs today. How do you find the right balance between the two?

I trust my instincts. I like to mix up the real and the strange/supernatural/fantastic. Actually, I think with me, the most important mash-up is not between reality and fantasy, but between reality and literature. All of my books begin with some other text, which forms the spine my story. So, with Hellbent, the originating text is Dante’s Inferno. With Henry Tumour it’s Henry IV part 1. With The Knife that Killed me it’s the Iliad. Ah, just how pretentious does that sound!

You also teach writing, and will be running a YA writing workshop, ‘Writing For Children’ with The Faber Academy in the new year. How has teaching writing affected your own writing?

I don’t think teaching has affected my writing at all – it’s the other way round - what I teach is based on what I’ve learnt about writing from actually doing it. Having said that, I find it terrifically stimulating from an intellectual point of view – creative writing students are (quite rightly) very demanding, and I always feel like I have to be at the top of my game to keep them happy!

In a recent interview, Tom Vowler said [when asked what was his most memorable moment of his writing career so far] ‘…but increasingly I’m finding it’s the little moments. Seeing a stranger browsing the book in the High Street. Or when a writer emailed me to say one of the stories had just made her cry on the train.’ What is your most memorable moment, and what are your ambitions for the future?

Writing is such a diffuse and vague activity – a book can take a year, two years. So I treasure the rare intense moments of pleasure - winning prizes is always very, very nice. But the simple joy in seeing your book in a bookshop, which used to thrill me, fades ... Having a boy who’s never read a book before send me an email saying they’ve enjoyed The Knife that Killed Me (or whatever) is also very moving.

And, final question, in our Book Forum, we have the ‘Book Tree’ where members pick their favourite book and post it to each other in a circle, so everyone reads each others’ books, writing comments in them as they go. If you were to join in, which book would you choose and why?

In the teen book world, it would have to be Red Shift, by Alan Garner. If an adult book, I’d probably pick The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley – the greatest book that no one’s ever heard of.


Tony McGowan will be teaching ‘Writing For Children’ at The Faber Academy starting 25th January 2011. For more information, see or call Ian at the Faber Academy on 0207 927 3827.


Sent to Hell for typical teenage misdemeanours, Conor is surprised to find that it's not all pitchforks and leaping flames. But an eternity in a fusty cave full of philosophy books and obscure classical music is actually worse.

Then Conor realizes that his personal version of Hell might be someone else's idea of Heaven – and vice versa. He sets out on a filthy, funny and forbidden journey to search for his opposite number, accompanied by his repulsive pet dog, a depressed cross-dressing Viking and a stumpy devil called Clarence. What he sees is disgusting and what he discovers is shocking, but oddly enough Conor learns a hell of a lot about life – now that he's dead!]

Monday, 22 November 2010

short stories [and Jon McGregor]

I don't have much time, but just a little post here to say LET US CELEBRATE 'National Short Story' week. Fabulous. :)

Grab a short story collection, get reading, tell people about it, shout out about your favourite short story writers and celebrate the tiny novel, the tale in a cup et cetera, et cetera.

I'm not biased or anything, you know ;)

I'm very pleased to announce that the fantastic Jon McGregor, author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, twice Man Booker Prize longlist-er who is currently shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award, will be popping along here in the New Year to talk about short stories, and his new book (the paperback of which will be out in February). I just like to give you all a chance to get excited about that [and impatient ;) ]

Coming up soon as well, will be interviews with the fantastic Alan Bissett and Tony McGowan. Watch this space!

Friday, 12 November 2010

"I don't know the author... or the title... but it was green."

I don't know what it is about bookshops and weird happenings. I think they are magnets for ridiculous questions. There was that gem of a moment when a customer asked if Anne Frank had written a sequel to her dirary *facepalm* And the other week I was asked if we had any signed copies of William Shakespeare plays. I mean, REALLY? REALLY?

But this gem of a conversation just happened and, sadly, there was no one else in the shop at the time for me to look at them in a way that says 'Did you just hear that too?' And, no, before you say so, this man was not taking the piss.

"Do you have black and white film posters?"
"Yes, we do, over here."
"Do you have any posters of Adolf Hitler?"
"Adolf Hitler."
"Well, he wasn't a film star, was he."
"Yes, he was. He was American. Jewish, I think."

Some days, some days, there are just NO WORDS.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Imogen Heap

Last night I went to the Royal Albert Hall to see Imogen Heap. I've been a fan of hers for a very very long time, and this time she had written 11 movements for an orchestra and was conducting them [and singing at the same time], followed by a two hour solo concert. I just can't really get my head around how talented this woman is. We were sitting in Choir West, which was behind the stage so, as Immi was conducting, she was facing us. It was a really beautiful and moving performance. You can find the music on youtube in three parts.

Immi's last album Ellipse came out last year, and she was vlogging about it before it came out, showing us all how she was putting it together, the amount of detail she puts into it. How she stays up until 7am most days and then gets a few hours sleep, tears it all up and rearranges it. She is the queen of editing and perseverance. She produced her own album, played nearly every single instrument on the album, recorded sounds all over her house. The end product is phenomenal. Dan and I watched her DVD Everything In-Between, and seriously it's enough to give anyone a huge kick up the backside and say YOU CAN DO THIS. You can make your WIP the best that you can; you have to slave over your work; you have to suffer for your art. [I'm not saying we'll all win a Grammy if we do that, but you know] bloody well get on with it.

She's amazing.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Jonathan Lee Visits

I'm very pleased to welcome the fabulously talented Jonathan Lee, who is here to talk about his writing. :) Put the kettle on and sit down (that's an order!). At the end of the interview you can find out how to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of his fantastic debut novel.

Hi Jonathan, welcome to my blog. Please take a seat/beanbag/make yourself at home.

I'll take the beanbag please. Hugely underrated bit of furniture, the beanbag.

Your first novel 'Who is Mr. Satoshi?' was published with Random House this July; sell it to us in a couple of sentences.

The central character is a once famous photographer who has lost his creative urge and become a bit of a recluse. His mother dies and leaves him a package addressed to the mysterious Mr Satoshi, and - searching for some sense of purpose in his life - he sets out to deliver it. His quest takes him to Tokyo, a new neon world full of colourful characters, and forces him to excavate some long-buried secrets in his past. (Three sentences - sorry.)

I'm sure it must be an amazing feeling to see your book sitting on a bookshelf in a bookshop; where was the first place you saw it?

A couple of days after Who Is Mr Satoshi? came out in hardback I saw it in the 'our favourite books' display of Daunt's in Marylebone. That was a nice feeling - to see something you've produced sitting there in one of the loveliest of all bookshops.

How long have you been writing?

In terms of fiction writing, I've been scribbling bits and pieces for the last ten years or so. I'm twenty-nine now, and though I'd been a keen reader since a young age, it was at Bristol University, studying English, that fiction became something of an obsession for me. I was twenty-seven when I started writing Who Is Mr Satoshi?, my first published piece of fiction. It was the first thing I'd done which I wasn't instantly ashamed of. The rest was terrible autobiographical stuff about English literature students sitting around trying to write novels about English literature students sitting around trying to write novels. Often on beanbags, coincidentally. There's nothing wrong with autobiographical fiction, but perhaps you need to have had an interesting life. Mine is dull: full of coffee, paper, and - of late - Amazon rankings.

When did you write this book, and how long did it take you to get it published?

I was working as a lawyer and saved up enough money to take a six month period of unpaid leave. That's when the bulk of the book was written.

I sent the first three chapters, with a synopsis and cover letter, to a number of literary agents. One of them was Clare Alexander at Aitken Alexander Associates, who loved it (or made a good show of loving it). I was chuffed to bits - she's a bit of a superstar in the agenting world. When she'd read the whole thing we had a coffee and worked out which aspects of the manuscript needed further work. People don't necessarily realise what a collaborative process book-writing is. First your agent gives you feedback, and then your editor has a go, and what ends up on the shelves can be quite different to the thing you initially envisaged - better, hopefully. In my case the book definitely took strength from the editorial process. Jason Arthur, my editor at Random House, gave some hugely helpful suggestions, as did Clare. I took the book as far as I could, and then I needed sensitive expert readers to help me with the finishing touches.

Where did the idea for your book come from?

I became interested in photography and the idea of a photographer who has a trauma in his past that's blocking his creativity. His life has become flat, still and outside time. It's less a life and more a record of past events - a photo, if you like. He's fallen out of love with his own creative process, and he's become reclusive and unproductive, untethered from the wider world. Then some seemingly insignificant but intriguing object comes into his life - a parcel wrapped in brown paper, addressed to a guy he's never heard of - and it sets him off in a new direction.

I had spent some time living and working in Tokyo. It seemed like the perfect setting in which to drop a withdrawn, quiet character - it was the counterpoint to everything he is. So that's where I put him, and the story rolled on from there.

When you write, do you have a specific place to sit? Do you type or write? Must it be quiet, or do you prefer background noise?

I type into a laptop. I suspect I'm of a generation that can't think in longhand. Most of my writing gets done at the dining room table of the flat I rent in Islington. Preferably in silence - although I don't go to the Franzean extreme of blindfolding myself and strapping on ear-defenders. Seems to work for him, though ...

Which writers would you say have inspired you the most, and why?

John Updike, for his lovely lilting sentences and forensic eye for detail; David Foster Wallace, for the frenzied and funny edginess of his prose; Samuel Beckett, for perfect comic timing in the darkest of places. I don't get anywhere near these writers, of course, and I'm not sure I'm trying to, but they are each a source of inspiration on some level.

There seems to be quite a lot of discussion about whether reading a lot makes you a better writer. Personally, I agree with this. What do you think?

Yes. I agree. Could you be a top chef without first knowing what good food tastes like? I haven't met any writers who don't read widely. If they exist, I would hazard a guess that they're a bit rubbish.

In our book forum, we have the Book Tree, where members post books to each other in a circle, writing comments in each book as they read them, so that when your book comes back to you it's filled up with notes from lots of different people. If you were to send a book round our Book Tree, what would you choose?

I recently read a cool little book called All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman. It's very short but, I think, rich in all sorts of ways. It's the sort of story that lends itself to lots of different interpretations, so it would be interesting to re-read it alongside readers' notes.

What are your writing plans for the future?

I'm working on a second novel for Random House, unrelated to the first. No Japan, no Mr Satoshi, no parcel requiring delivery. It's possible that one minor-ish character from Who Is Mr Satoshi? will turn up again, but we'll see. I'll audition him/her and see how they perform.

Finally: the infamous 'six word novel' [baby shoes for sale: never worn]. Go on, give us a six word novel.

Am I concise with words? Possibly.

Jonathan is 29 and lives in London. Who is Mr. Satoshi? is available from Amazon over HERE. His website is over HERE.


Thank you so much to Jonathan for taking the time to stop by!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


Today I have a massive amount of paper spread out over the kitchen table. My book needs to be a bit longer, and I have to lasso my stories with string and bring them all together for a group hug. So, I'm enhancing cross overs and creating more, rearranging the order, tweaking the narratives.

S'not as easy as it sounds, yo.

[By the way, the fabulous Jonathan Lee, author of Who is Mr. Satoshi? will be popping along for an interview next week. Watch this space :)]

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Tom Vowler Visits


But enough waffling - TO BUSINESS.

Make yourself a cup of tea and pull up a chair. The fabulous Tom Vowler has answered some questions about his new book: The Method and Other Stories (winner of the Scott Prize), and writing in general.

And, can I just say, I have read his book and it is wonderful. Seriously, one of the best books I have read in a very long time. So, you should want to get your mitts on it! At the end of this post you can see how to be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of it, too :)

So, on with the questions and, I'm sure you'll agree, there are some beautiful answers here x

Hello Tom, welcome to my blog! Please make yourself at home.
Thank you, Jen. I will.

So, you've got your first book out: The Method and Other Stories, which won the Scott Prize. Congratulations! How would you sum up your book for someone who hadn't heard about it?
It’s an award-winning collection of short stories. The characters are all rather good at losing things: lovers, children, hope, the plot. There’s humour, tenderness and tragedy in equal measure. Well, almost equal.

How long have you been writing? Have you always been a writer of short

I started late, I suppose. If we’re talking fiction, then ten years. There was the compulsory clumsy first novel, slightly autobiographical, hopefully never to see the light of day. I dabbled with the short form back then, but only took it seriously in the last few years. Half the collection was written for my dissertation on a creative writing MA, doubling in length over the next year.

Who/what inspires you?
Other writers mostly, or, I should say, their fiction. So reading a remarkable story or novel and wanting to have that same impact on others. But also anyone with creative sensibilities. Those who shun orthodoxy, who take risks, who suffer for their art. Those who have fallen through life’s cracks, but don’t give up.
But if you mean what inspires my work, I’d have to say people. Magnificent, flawed, beautiful and tragic people. Their idiosyncrasies and deviances. Their fears and secrets. If you’re going to write, I think a basic curiosity, a fascination and empathy, in those around you is crucial. What makes them behave as they do, what it is to be human. And then there’s everything else: Nature. Colour. Music. A story, for me, can come from anywhere: a shared glance with a stranger, a song lyric, a headline, a nightmare. Everything becomes potential material, or to put it less pragmatically: inspiring.

What's your 'writing routine'?
I need a daily word-count target when working on a big project, such as a novel. This is a minimum, so can be set as low as a thousand words per day – but it must always be reached, even on a bad day. I find this important as motivation, but also to give myself an idea of when I’ll be finished. I’m an afternoon and evening writer, morning's a curious affair I’ve never quite come to terms with. And I like to edit as I go. So once my target has been reached, I’m allowed to revise the day’s output. It’s an old piece of advice, but one I find invaluable, and that’s to leave the day’s writing mid-scene, mid-sentence even, allowing a less truculent resumption the following day. Short stories, for me, are different. There’s more precision, more sculpting, from the start. Stamina apart, I find them harder than their longer cousin.

What's your 'story'? How did you get from writing this book to publication?
In short the book won an international prize, part of which was publication. In long I suppose it’s the first thing I’ve both been any good at and enjoyed doing. Actually that’s untrue: pulling pints of beer rivalled it. Writing fiction obviously begins as a hobby; you don’t awake one morning and announce yourself a writer. I hope. There were years of apprenticeship, reading everything, anything, trying to understand both what the writer was trying to achieve, and how she’s gone about doing it. Then learning to take criticism, as well as rejection by the bucket-load, listening to Them What Know. Finally, lots of sweat and self-doubt. And some luck, of course.

What do you consider to be the best moment of your writing career so far?
The email announcing I’d won the Scott Prize is certainly up there. And then the build up to publication. I was taken aback by the number of people who likened it to childbirth: elation, anxiety, pride, problems finding a name. The first time you hold it, smell it. I can’t comment on the precision of the analogy, but it has been an extraordinary time. Knowing that my stories will be read in the US, in Australia, as well as here, is a great feeling.
But increasingly I’m finding it’s the little moments. Seeing a stranger browsing the book in the High Street. Or when a writer emailed me to say one of the stories had just made her cry on the train.

Finally, what are you working on at the moment? Are we allowed to know?
Having just finished a novel, I’m at that wonderful stage of contemplating the Next Big Thing, with endless ideas swirling, nudging me awake at 4am. For me this is the most exciting bit, when setting, style, theme and character are all up for grabs. It will be a novel, I’m fairly sure, one that, to quote Norman Mailer, hunts big game. And no, of course you’re not allowed to know.


Bio: Tom lives in south-west England where he writes and edits fiction. He blogs here (

The Method… can be pre-ordered from Amazon ( or the Book Depository ( ahead of its official publication date of November 1st.



A huge thank you to Tom for stopping by! x

Saturday, 11 September 2010

au revoir!

I have been a very bad blogger, please do forgive me! I've been at work so much I'm afraid I don't have any writing news at moment, but I thought I'd come and say hello to you all anyway.

Mr.M and I are off on holiday next week (so need this holiday, so excited!). We're going InterRailing to these places:

Lake Garda

Did I mention that I'm excited?!

& we got pretty good tickets to see Mefistofele at The Hungarian State Opera House for £1 [!]

Oh and I shall be taking my pen and notepad with me, because I'm in the process of planning Book Number 2. ;)

I'll be back at the beginning of October with pictures.

[NB: If anyone is reading this from Edinburgh then you should go and check out the new, revamped Edinburgh Bookshop]

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Gutter: Issue 3

It's out today! You can buy a copy over here

Micaela Maftei — Melissa
Louise Welsh — A Simple Life
Jenni Fagan — Impilo
Jen Campbell — In the Beginning

Jenni Fagan — The Bob Conn Experience
Andrew C Ferguson — Scotland as an Xbox Game
Graham Fulton — Historic Scotland
Josh Byer — a sincere apology
Rob A Mackenzie — At the Church of Scotland General Assembly

Zoe Strachan — Ever Fallen in Love?: Extract from the novel What I Was Going to Do
Tracey Emerson — New Lovers Who Polish Their Stories Like Shoes
Mary-Paulson-Ellis — The Monday to Friday Routine
Lesley Wilson — Extract from the novel Guitar Man

Colin Herd — mike
Colin Herd — strictly following
Graham Fulton — Three Women Ten Minutes Apart
Aiko Harman — How Salt can be a Man
Bridgit Kursheed — The little gothic orangery
Brian Johnstone — Reading the Book
Hazel Frew — A Sequence of Six Pregnancy Poems
John Douglas Miller — Brother Works the Saw

Kate Tough — Extract from the novel Critical Mass
EK Reeder — Attendance
Elaine diRollo — Extract from a novel in progress
Colette Paul — Marginalia

Maggie Wallis — Journey to the Centre of a tomato
Elizabeth Rimmer — Granary Cottage, Wexford
Donald S Murray — An Application for an Enterprise Project
Hugh McMillan — George 5th Earl of Seaton
Graham Hardie — The dead men of Luing
Chris Powici — Otter
Brian Johnstone — The Accents of Mice
Michael Stephenson — Enso
JoAnne McKay — The Magdalene Fleur-de-Lis

Kirsten McKenzie — Moored
Dorothy Alexander — Fifty Word Hospital Stories
Ewan Gault — Thawing
Ewan Morrison — A Compilation from the Collection Tales from the Mall

Stephen Nelson — Whit a Man Wants
Richie McCaffery — East Chevington Opencast
Mark Ryan Smith — Emigration
Marion McCready — The Captayannis
EP Teagarden — Subconscious Relationship to Success
Eveline Pye — Book Launch
Kevin Williamson — The Art and Craft of Fiction
Andrew Elliott — The Art of Discretion

Adam Hofbauer Believe
Ronald Frame Special Terms
Barry Gornell Extract from the novel The Healing of Luther Grove
Carl McDoughall Reflections

Jacqueline Thompson The Cave
Graham Hardie The pursuit of thought
Jim Ferguson fragments from a european leg
Jim Ferguson dubrovnik.
Sally Evans The Poem WILD BOAR

Donal McLaughlin dachau-derry-knock
Iain Maloney Honda’s Tale: Extract from the novel Dog Mountain
Stuart Finlayson More Death in Venice
Martyn Murphy Sashimi

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Salt - JustOneBook

Salt Publishing do great things for poetry and short stories. They need our help. I leave you with this message.


I hoped I'd never have to write this note. The recession has continued to have a very negative impact on sales at Salt and we're finally having to go public to ask you to help support us.

Our sales are now 60% down on last year and have wiped out our grant and our cash reserves as we continue to market and publish what we can from what we believe is a great list. We've plans in place to help secure the business from November 2010 — though the books we'll be publishing won't deliver any real revenue until 2011. We're sorry to ask, embarrassed to ask, but we need your help to survive until then and if you were considering purchasing a Salt book, we'd dearly love you to do it right now. We've less than one week's cash left.

If you can help us, please do two things:

1. Buy one book from us — we don't mind from where, it can be from your local bookstore (they need your support, too), it can be from Amazon or the BookDepository. It can even be directly from us. But please buy that book now.

2. Please tell everyone you know to do the same. Buy just one book and pass it on.

If money is tight for you, too, you can simply write a review of any Salt book you love on Amazon. Or recommend a book to a friend.

You can visit our Web site right now, simply go to
and buy JustOneBook.

Remember too, that every book you buy directly from us gets a raffle ticket in our Big Summer Raffle — and you could win one copy each of the next 20 books we publish from 1 September.

Thanks for continuing to support us.


Monday, 28 June 2010

Gutter publishes 'In the Beginning'

I'm very pleased to say that my short story 'In the Beginning' (which is from my book) will be published in Issues Three of Gutter, out August 10th 2010. ^_^

Click here for a full list of contributors.

Happy Monday x

Friday, 11 June 2010

Lobster Girl

'The Lobster Man's Keeper' by Steve Kissing in April's issue of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine is about a man with 'Lobster Claw' (ectrodactyly) in a cage in the circus. Interestingly, and unbeknown to the editors, that same issue contains a story by a girl with ectrodactyly, me. Considering it's one of the most rare conditions, what a bizarre coincidence - made me giggle.

Thankfully, no one has ever tried to throw me into a circus. Long may it stay that way. ;)

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Poetry London

Good morning, my dears. :) A quick post to say that the summer issue of Poetry London is now available, with a poem in by yours truly. You can order it online here (by clicking 'current magazine'), or buy it from these bookshops.

Happy Wednesday x

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Short Fiction publishing 'Fringe'

I'm very pleased to say that my short story 'Fringe' (which happens to be the final story in my book) will be published in Short Fiction, a beautiful journal that publishes about sixteen short stories once a year. This year's issue (Issue 4) will be out in October :) You can find out more about Short Fiction over HERE Yey! ^_^

Friday, 5 March 2010


Hi everyone, just a quick post to say that I'll be on BBC Radio Scotland this Monday 1:15pm-2:00pm to talk about my book :)

You can stream it live over here:

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Poetry Night at The Edinburgh Bookshop

Hello one and all.

I'll be in Edinburgh, 24th of February (next Wednesday) to take part in an event for the UNESCO City of Literature, reading some of my poetry along with other lovely poets (who actually have books to their name ;)).

It's going to be held at The Edinburgh Bookshop, which is 181 Bruntsfield Place. It's from 7:15-9:00pm, and tickets are £5 (which includes wine). If you would like to come along, then you need to book a ticket. To do so, call the shop on 0131 229 9207. :) x

Monday, 15 February 2010

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Hello everyone! Don't worry, I'm writing away: promise. I'll also be reading in Edinburgh next week, so I'll post details soon. But here is a post on something different. :)

Simon and Schuster approached me, asking if I would read and review some of their books prior to publication, so here is the first one. Before I begin, I would like to point out that I'm not being paid for doing this; so what I say is what I feel, and I pointed out to them that I would give a book a bad review if I didn't like what I read. So, here I am, writing this out for you and for them (when I should be working, damn you, free books!). I am the queen of procrastination. Love me for it. I hope you find this helpful; I'm copy and pasting it over from my book forum.

Still Alice is already published, but will be coming out in paperback this March. You know me, I'm a literary fiction girl, and I don't normally stray from that bar book club and book tree books. But, obviously, I'm a fan of good writing and a good story. We all like sitting down with a cup of tea and being transported elsewhere, especially if there's something else we're supposed to be doing instead! Still Alice covers the ground of good writing and good plot. It is the story of Alice, a university professor at Harvard, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's when she is just fifty.

Here I should probably pause and say something. I hate stories that take a topic that will tug at people's heart strings for the sake of a good sale. I hate stories that choose a topic and then toy with it loosely because the author doesn't really know what they are dealing with, or doesn't want to bog the reader down with facts. This book does not do this. Lisa Genova holds a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University and is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's Association. To put it bluntly: this woman knows what the hell she's talking about, and she doesn't patronise her readers by talking down to them, nor does she flood them with so much information that it blocks the story.

This book finds the perfect balance between fact and fiction. Obviously, it's not one of the most uplifting books, and you're going to need tissues, but it encompasses an honest account of family, love and the confusion that Alice feels as her disease progresses. It's funny in places, and smarts in others. The narrative changes throughout to reflect Alice's state of mind, dragging the reader deeper into the story. Genova tells a story better than Picoult, and I'd recommend it to people who enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife. I don't want to sit here and talk about the plot, because I'm personally not a fan of knowing too much about a book before I read it, so instead I will take Lydia (Alice's youngest daughter)'s approach and say forget about the plot; how did it make you feel? Well, it's been a while since I've read a book that I've not wanted to put down. I read this book in just over a day, and when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it and I have a feeling it's going to play on my mind for a while. It's not the best writing, but it affected me in a way that is hard to describe: I feel that it was a book I should have read. I have a feeling it's a book that we all should read at some point. It's not a book that lectures; it's not a book that makes you feel bad about yourself. It's a book that lays open facts in an accessible way, in a way that screams out to be read. There are few books that fall into this category. Wasted by Marya Hornbacher is one of them; the account of something so raw, experienced by one individual desperate to tell their story. Alice may be a fictional character, but this book shouts out on behalf of people who suffer from Alzheimer's, on behalf of Genova's grandmother who suffered from it. Alzheimer's is a topic that is often neglected by fiction or poorly written. If you're going to do something, then do it properly. If you're going to read a story about Alzheimer's; if you want an emotional story; if you're just looking for a good read, then choose this book.

You can pre-order this book now, for £4.79, out 4th March: here