“There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception.” James Thurber
What do you write about?
A wide range of people and places and situations including love, death, politics, life events, cheats, survivors, thievers and believers, risk-takers, outsiders, insiders – really, whatever is at the front of my mind at the time, like an itch that I have to scratch.
What do you write?
Mostly novels and short stories – fiction and creative non-fiction. The odd poem (hey, not that odd!) some flash fiction and an occasional script.
There’s a libretto in development too.
Computer or quill?
I started out as a journalist, so the keyboard is still my main quill of choice. But, I do scribble too and always have a way to make notes wherever I am – on paper, notebooks, in my phone.
As Pablo Picasso said “inspiration does exist but it must find you working.”
What’s the first thing that you wrote?
The first thing that I can remember writing was my (as yet unfinished) real debut novel, when I was seven or eight.
It was my own (gripping!) take on RM Ballantyne’s The Coral Island – but I got very sidelined during my in-depth research into breadfruit…I remember taking up a lot of space spread over our brown floral lounge carpet.
Hmmm, wonder where that school exercise book is now…
Names or nom de plumes?
Tomatoes, tomatoes, potatoes, potatoes. Either, either. I also write as Reece Abbott – a variation of my family names. Sometimes it just helps to put on another hat when you are writing…
Paper or plastic?
When it comes to books and publishing and reading, isn’t it a case of horses for courses with space for a range of formats – not an either/or?
Reading a book is not the same experience as reading an e-book – and researchers are learning all the time about how our brains process information from different sources. And, maybe format is potentially a little bit of a red herring compared with content and quality…oh, and literacy.
And yes, I think we do still need libraries and librarians.
Or in the words of two wise people…
“We need to make books cool again, if you go home with someone and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.” John Waters
“A library is infinity under a roof.” Gail Carson Levine
Writing courses or DIY?
Probably a combination.
If you’re concerned about investing in a course, I’d suggest be prepared – be clear what learning you would like out of it, shop around, go in with a specific project and arrive with an open mind. The same goes for writing groups. And do some homework about the teacher or group leader too. There are loads of formats and choices for learning now – online, offline, days, nights, weekends, residentials.
I’ve enjoyed learning more about writing on courses and benefited from some great, inspiring, gifted teachers and meeting some good people along the way too – but at the end of the day, you do need to get on with your writing and re-writing (and reading) yourself.
Which writers do you enjoy?
My tastes are pretty eclectic and for starters and include, in no particular order:-
AL Kennedy; Katherine Mansfield; Kay Ryan; Michèle Roberts; Val McDermid; Lydia Davis; Rebecca Jenkins; Ngaio Marsh; Dreda Say Mitchell; Eavon Boland; Ruth Rendell;
Henning Mankell; William Faulkner; Nikita Lalwani; Samuel Beckett; Donna Tartt; Raymond Chandler; Patrick White; Margaret Atwood; Kate North; Alice Munro;
Dorothy Parker; Annie Proulx;Kate Grenville; Debjani Chatterjee; Margaret Mahy;
Gore Vidal; Lorrie Moore; Patricia Grace; John Steinbeck; William Boyd; Raymond Carver; Lucy Mangan; William Trevor; Sarah Hall; Toni Morrison; Edna O’Brien; Peter Carey; Virginia Woolf; WG Sebald, Witi Ihimaera; PG Wodehouse; Jane Finnis; Patricia Duncker; Jane Rogers; Janet Frame; Zoe Sharp; Donna Fletcher Crow; Nuala Ní Chonchúir;
Kinky Friedmann; Colm Toibin; Rose Tremain; Paul Auster.