Fiona Barker – Q&A

Fiona Barker

Fiona Barker

Fiona is positively potty about picturebooks; reading them, writing them and talking about them. When writing, she longs for alliterative loveliness. When reading, she looks for the marriage of words and artwork and she loves anything that is fun to read aloud.

Fiona is especially enthusiastic about encouraging reading habits. In her 40s she studied for a PhD where she was lucky enough to study the theory behind the onset and maintenance of behaviour. This is so applicable to reading and it is lovely now to be able to combine her academic and professional enthusiasms.

She loves the outdoors and support several organisations that seek to encourage children to engage with the natural world including The Wildlife Trusts and the Marine Conservation Society. She spend a lot of time in Devon and loves the sea.

Fiona can be contacted at:
Website: https://fionabarker.co.uk/
Twitter: @Fi_BGB
Instagram: @fionawritesbooks

Tell me what inspired you to write these two seasonal books?

The BIG Christmas Bake was inspired by wanting to big up twelfth night. When I was growing up my mum wanted us to save all our presents until then because the Christmas story says that’s when the three kings arrived with their gifts. But we never wanted to wait! Our concession was to save one present to open after all the decorations were put away on 6th January. I still do this now I have my own family and it’s actually the present I look forward to the most even though it’s usually something quite small. I think we are bombarded by Christmas and advent from the first of December (if not before!) and it’s easy to forget about the original twelve days of Christmas. Twelve days seemed to fit perfectly with a twelve spread picture book and the idea was born. Pippa Curnick has added so much more joy and humour through the illustrations too.

I Definitely Don’t Like Winter was inspired by a newspaper article about an academic paper showing that people who dread winter have a worse experience than people who look forward to it. My Dad hates winter and I love it but I don’t want him to be sad. He is Hank to my Hoog in the story which is why the book is dedicated to him. I just love how Christine Pym has brought these two little characters to life.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

My first book was self-published after many many rejections. So many rejections! Then I was lucky enough to get picked up by a small publisher who published my next two books (with more to follow!). By that time I had an agent and she was able to get my work seen by bigger publishers like Scholastic and Quarto. As I absolutely love Christmas and Christmas books, I feel incredibly lucky to have two out at once!

How long did it take to write?

With picture books there is usually a lot of thinking time before I put pen to paper and then even more time afterwards editing. I have a fantastic critique group who are wonderful at giving feedback and helping me refine ideas. Although the first draft can be done pretty quickly, we picture book writers tend to spend ages afterwards obsessing over single words. When you have less than 500 to play with, every word counts!

How many publishers turned you down?

I have definitely been turned down, multiple times, by every major publisher and lots of smaller ones. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

I know everyone says you shouldn’t read them but I’ve had some wonderful early reviews on Goodreads. I really want everyone to love these books.

What can you tell us about your next book?

My next book is a follow up to my previous one, Setsuko and the Song of the Sea (Tiny Tree CHildren’s Books, illustrated by Howard Gray). I think I’m allowed to say it’s called A Swift Return.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I have written a teen romance and while I loved writing it, apparently nobody loved reading it so I’m sticking to picture books!

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

Alongside writing, I work part time as a healthcare scientist. I work with people who are dizzy.

Which author(s) inspire you?

I’m inspired by so many of the fantastic picture book writers and illustrators working today. There is so much variety in this genre. I love lyrical texts but also funny, silly books, rhyming and prose. And the variety of illustration styles is breathtaking.

What will always distract you?

I am hideously distracted by social media, especially twitter. You can see what I’m being distracted by if you follow me @Fi_BGB.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I remember with great fondness the Church Mice books by Graham Oakley, both for the humour in the text and the glorious detail in the illustrations. I still have them all. My other favourites were Whistle For Willy by Jack Ezra Keats and a rather more obscure but lyrical story called Starsound by Yevgenia Margolis. Very 1970s.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

So many! Particular favourites are Fourbears Books (Caversham), The Alligators Mouth (Richmond) and I really wish I lived closer to Bookbugs and Dragon Tales (Norwich) which is a phenomenal bookshop really embedded in its community.

What books can you not resist buying?

I buy A LOT of picture books.

What is your current or latest read?

I’m currently enjoying Wolves In Helicopters by Sarah Tagholm and Paddy Donnelly and The Blue Footed Booby by Rob Biddulph.

What inspired you to write the genre you do?

I’m incredibly privileged to be writing picture books and sharing them with parents and children. Picture books really are for life, not just for childhood. They plant a seed that lasts a lifetime. They’re an affordable way to own spectacular innovative artwork and they’re also unique in that they are books that are meant to be shared. That’s very special.


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Louise Walters – Q&A

Louise Walters

Louise Walters§

Louise Walters studied for a Literature degree with The Open University between 1998 and 2010. She took Creative Writing and Advanced Creative Writing courses during the final two years of the degree, and she says that writing her first novel, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, has been one of the most positive experiences of her life.

Louise can be found at:
Website: louisewaltersbooks.co.uk
Twitter: @LouiseWalters12
Instagram: @louisewalterswriter

Tell me what inspired you to write your novel?

It’s my fourth novel and the inspiration came from two things. One was an article in a local newspaper, years ago, which I cut out and kept. It was about a local hermit who used to go into town once a week to shop. Rumour had it that he had been betrayed in love by his own brother. The second inspiration was from even further back. As a teenager I stayed on an estate in Devon, in a holiday cottage. It was called Wiscombe Park and that is the inspiration for Rowan Park in the novel.

What came first the characters or the world?

The world, really. The action takes place on the fictional estate and in the nearby fictional seaside town, also based on a real town: Beer, in Devon. I thought about the characters for a long time… the novel has been on the needles for ten years or so.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

I only ever got my first novel trade published. The other three have been independently published at my indie press, Louise Walters Books. I sent The Hermit to twenty agents. Then I said to myself, enough is enough, and decided to bring it out at my indie press. A book deal would have been great financially. So it was worth a try.

How long did it take to write?

On and off, ten years or so. Mostly off, to be truthful! But it’s been around in my head, and on various laptops, for a decade.

How many publishers turned you down?

No publishers because I couldn’t get an agent! I tried one indie press, who rejected it with lots of encouragement, as did several of the agents.

What can you tell us about your next book?

I have 12k words so far and it’s the first in a planned saga, or series of novels, about the fortunes of a working-class family and their hangers-on, set over about thirty years. That’s the current plan. I have all the characters and the odd thing is I hardly had to think about them. I started writing it earlier this year, and there they were. Mainly inspired by my own families, on my mum’s side and my dad’s. I’ve sort of mashed them up into one big family.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

Yes and no. I don’t take them to heart. Or try not to. Everyone has an opinion and they are entitled to express it. I love the good reviews, of course!

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Yes, I think so. I’d love to have a go at a ghost story.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years! Currently I’m a freelance editor, providing manuscript reports and developmental edits for hoping-to-be-published writers. This is my day job, really.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Lots! I’m really enjoying Kate Atkinson’s work. Joyce Carol Oates is great, perhaps my biggest inspiration. And I love Taylor Jenkins Reid at the moment. Making my way through these writers’ work is a total reading joy.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Mostly literary fiction with a plot. Joyce and Kate do literary-fiction-with-plots really well! Taylor is a little more commercial, but I’m well aware of the work involved in writing good commercial ficiton. In some ways it’s much harder then writing literary fiction. I take my hat off to writers who can pull off good commercial novels.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

The Hermit

The Hermit

I have been working with the wonderful Jennie Rawlings since I started Louise Walters Books. I usually supply Jennie with a brief from me and the author, with our vague ideas of what the cover might look like… then Jennie does her own thing. Her ideas tend to be much better than mine or the author’s! I am however now turning to a single, generic, cover design for any books I may publish in the future. The Hermit is the first to carry this “brand” cover. I hope it will work out OK. I’ve had to completely re-think my publishing. DIY is the only way forward, realistically. It’s a constant financial struggle to run an indie press.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes. I read all the time. It was a source of comfort, and still is. I can’t imagine life without reading.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I wasn’t really into fantasy like Roald Dahl, not much. I loved the Chalet School Books, Ballet Shoes, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women… realist and literary-ish stuff. Penelope Lively was a favourite as a child, and she is now too. Moon Tiger is my favourite novel.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

I used to work at the Old Hall Bookshop in Brackley, Northamptonshire. It was the inspiration for the bookshop in my debut novel, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase. So that is my favourite bookshop. I also love Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London. It’s like a book cathedral. Blackwell’s in Oxford is always a great place to visit.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

No, none at all. I write when I can, and love it when I do. But no rituals. I’m quite workaday about my writing.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Currently around a dozen. Usually is! I try not to overwhelm myself with too big a pile. With my publishing and editing work, reading-for-pleasure time is quite limited. How ironic is that?

What is your current or latest read?

Currently reading Big Sky by Kate Atkinson. I have a little literary crush on her private investigator, Jackson Brodie. Yeah, I know… ridiculous…!

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

I would love to complete a first draft of my new novel in 2023. That’s the goal. 12k words down, another 80k or so to go.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

My reading. I love literary, realist stories, with good plots and characters. Always have, always will.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

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Sarah Tagholm – Author Q&A

Sarah Tagholm

Sarah Tagholm

Sarah Tagholm has a very unusual head. If she doesn’t do creative things it falls off, so it’s really incredibly fortunate she never had a job in data entry.

Mischievous children, nature, and all things bizarre are the inspiration behind her stories, which tend to be odd, ridiculous or, more often than not, both.

Sarah lives in Cornwall with her family, two cats and a fourteen year-old albino toad called Cuckoo (in real life).

If not reading or writing, she can usually be found in, or on or under the sea.

Sarah Tagholm’s first book – the scary, funny and utterly memorable But Wolves, in Helicopters! – is out with Andersen Press in September 2022.

Sarah can be found at:
Twitter: @mrstwit
Instagram: @sarah_tagholm

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

When our son was very small he started having terrible nightmares, he couldn’t speak about them and was tight lipped on what they were about. One night he had called out for me and I was curled up in bed next to him, in his state between sleep and wake he just uttered one word – wolves. Wolves In Helicopters is my take on his nightmares and our experience together trying to conquer them

What came first the characters or the world?

For this book they came simultaneously, when the line “Hop shivers in a dark wood. One hundred hungry eyed wolves watch her through twisted trees,” appeared on my blank page.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

I had written for years and been rejected a gazillion times. Joining a picture book writing course helped me better understand structure – and that changed everything.

How long did it take to write?

To write probably a morning, a dark and moody morning! To edit – on and off for a year.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

Sadly, I can’t listen to anything when I write, I’d just tune into the music and not the writing – I need a completely quiet house – I’m easily distracted.

How many publishers turned you down?

Wolves in Helicopters was offered first to Andersen and the brilliant and brave Sue Buswell took it on straight away, but as I mentioned, I wrote tons before Wolves and they were all rejected, and some since too!

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

I think it’s probably a bit of a marmite book – one for children and families who like the weird, who like the old fairy tales and a touch of dark humour. It was described by an editor being ‘like Hitchcock wrote a picture book,” so that was a high for me.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

It’s not published yet, but an editor at Bloomsbury who took on a couple of my texts said it was like, “Darwin meets Dahl,” so that was a great honour for me, I’m a huge fan of both – our son is named Darwin.

What can you tell us about your next book?

Sam Francisco, King Of The Disco is about cats sneaking out at night to rave and a man called Buzzkill Bill trying to thwart them. It’s a rhyming picture book with a danceable rhythm and super-lively illustrations by Binny Talib. It publishes in June 2023 with RocketBird Books, the new picture book arm of Barrington Stoke. I’m so excited about it, it’s going to be the best fun to promote.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

My debut has only just published so I haven’t read any bad ones…. yet. I think it would be hard not to take them to heart.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I’ve written an early readers book and a middle grade but they haven’t gone out on submission yet. I’m a huge fan of the weird I’d love to try something akin to Andrew Michael Hurley’s writing but not sure I have the skill or patience!

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I worked in TV and film and in conservation and the charity sector. I’ve always bagged jobs that are either great fun or for a good cause. I work part time for international disaster aid charity ShelterBox and have been there eight years now.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Oh wow what a question SO many… Tove Jannson, Susan Cooper, Ursula Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Charlotte Bronte, NK Jemisin, John Burningham, Roald Dahl of course Tolkien. Probably most of all Susan Cooper – The Dark Is Rising series blew me away as a child, I frequently re-read them, I think that’s why I fell in love with Cornwall where we now live.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Fantasy, folklore, mythology, mid century horror – those sort of stories open portholes in my head and those portholes are where the ideas for my own stories come from. I LOVE all things bizzarro.

What is your biggest motivator?

Well firstly I just love writing and making up ridiculous stories and secondly I love children’s illustration and design so seeing what an illustrator makes of my text is so exciting.

What will always distract you?

Chocolate or a lack of chocolate. A still day at high tide – I’ll want to swim or kayak. Three to seven foot waves – I’ll want to bellyboard. A wild windy day I’ll want to walk along the coastal path with the wind whipping my face – it’s a wonder I ever write at all.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

Well I’ve only seen two and I’ve fallen in love with both instantly but both publishers have been incredibly collaborative with me about the illustrations so I like to think I would have some say had I wanted it.

Were you a big reader as a child?

An avid reader, we didn’t have a lot of money growing up so I had my mum’s old Enid Blyton’s which instilled a love of adventure, but when I found the library and the fantasy genre – that changed everything for me – HOORAY FOR LIBRARIES, LONG LIVE THE BIBLIOTHEQUE!

What were your favourite childhood books?

Without a doubt it was The Princess And The Goblins and The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe,

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

We are lucky to have lots of independent bookshops in Cornwall I love the Falmouth Bookseller, Stories By The Sea in St Ives and End Of The World Books in Penzance. Waterstones Truro is my local – I love the staff there, they know exactly what I love to read and have recommended some brilliant reads.

What books can you not resist buying?

I love vintage kids books, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s illustrations make my eyeballs so happy.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

I sit on the floor in my lounge at a table that used to belong to British Film director Mike Leigh, he used to keep the actors notes in it’s little drawer, I feel there’s huge energy and creativity in the wood – I’d be devastated to lose it.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

In actual physical life 14, but that’s just the pile by my bed…

What is your current or latest read?

Leo Carew’s The Wolf, I am really enjoying it, can’t believe he just pinged that one off whilst training to be a doctor – its so disgusting when people are multi talented!

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I’m forever waiting for Patrick Rothfuss to write the third book in The Name Of The Wind series, though no idea when that might be.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

I’m working on a dark story inspired in part by the work I do at ShelterBox for displaced people.

Any events in the near future?

I hope so!

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I suppose picture books isn’t actually a genre but I’ll go with that… I think I write picture books because I so loved, with all my heart, reading them with my son.

Stu Hennigan – Author Q&A

Stu Hennigan

Stu Hennigan

Ghost Signs – Poverty and the pandemic – An eyewitness account of the impact of the early days of the pandemic on those living in poverty in Leeds, as Stu Hennigan delivered emergency food and medicine to communities that had already suffered 10 years of austerity. It is a blistering exposition of what happened to a community in one of the richest countries in the world.

Stu can be found at:
Twitter: @StuHennigan

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

A tricky one to answer. I was lucky with Ghost Signs because I was already in regular contact with Kevin Duffy at Bluemoose, and he was very keen on the idea of the book as soon as he heard I was writing it, so this wasn’t one of those where I was having to hawk it around agents/publishers in the usual way. I think one thing that helped was that I’d submitted a novel to Bluemoose about four years previously; Kev thought the writing was great but didn’t want the story, which was fine, but it meant that when he found out about the work I was doing on the book that would become Ghost Signs, he knew I’d be able to do a good job of writing it. Before that, though, I’d got so sick of rejection letters that I actually gave up writing when I was about 24 (in the mid-00s) and didn’t go back to it until about 2018, so it’s been a long journey.

How long did it take to write?

The whole process from beginning to publication took exactly two years, but not all that time was spent writing. Once Kev and I had started talking about the book as a serious thing, we needed a timescale for what period the book would cover, and we decided on around 8 or 9 weeks. During that time, I made a lot of notes when I was out delivering food parcels, as well as keeping a daily diary of personal events during that time, and also trying to record as much as I could about what was happening nationally with the pandemic. I wrote the first draft in 9 days, getting up at 4.30 every day, writing for three hours, spending a couple of hours with the kids, then doing a full day on the van and another three or four hours in the evening when the kids had gone to bed. Because Bluemoose are more or less a one-man operation, it would take Kev a while to send it back with comments and suggestions, then I’d do another couple of weeks of really intense work and send it straight back. There was a lot of research to be done during this stage too – reading IFS reports, collecting poverty stats, trawling through press releases/newspaper articles for quotes from politicians etc. In January 2021 it went to Annie Warren, my editor at Bluemoose, and we spent nine months working on it but it was a leisurely pace; because the pandemic was still ongoing and we weren’t even sure when the book was going to publish, we had a lot of time to play with, and submitted the final draft in the September, although it still didn’t come out for another 9 months after that, during which time there was proofing, final copy-editing etc.

How many publishers turned you down?

None for this one! After I graduated from uni in 2002 I wrote an incredibly bleak realist novel called A Night In the Cells and had at least 20 rejections for that, so many that as I said, I gave up writing for publication for about 15 years.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

Not these days. I like to write in absolute silence where possible, although with two primary age children it’s rare to get this, unless I work at night.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

The book seems to have been well-received so far. Pre-publication, ex-Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger commissioned a piece about the book in Prospect magazine, including 3000 words of printed extracts, and that opened it up to a much wider audience. After that, there was a brilliant review of it in Tribune, and a great one in the Yorkshire Post too. The public response has been extremely flattering and pretty humbling too – it seems to have really struck a chord with a lot of people who are pissed off with the state of the country. It’s interesting to note that a lot of people have said they were surprised and shocked at the level of deprivation and extent of the poverty that the book depicts; one of the main aims of the book is to raise awareness of how severe the problem is, and also how widespread, so I suppose based on those kind of reactions it’s doing its job in that sense, although it’s sad that it had to be written.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

The most pleasing response, I think, has been from other people who have done similar work, or have worked with similar communities. I’ve had a lot of people say that the book captures the communities and people really well, so that’s always good to hear. It’s kinda difficult to celebrate in a sense though, given the content. It’s also difficult to know what to say to readers when they say they’ve bought it – I can’t say I hope they “like” it, or “enjoy” it, because that would be crazy. On a slightly lighter note, I had a message from one person that signed off with “You are a gem in fucking great boots.” I treated myself to a pair of nice boots for doing literary events and they’ve become a sort of running joke on Twitter, so that really made me smile.

What can you tell us about your next book?

I’m currently well into the second draft of a novel with the working title of False Friend. I don’t want to go into too many details but it’s about relationships and how they can fall apart, addiction, loss, death, family secrets/lies, trauma, and how lives can be shaped by events that are almost completely beyond our control. Definitely not a feelgood read, but it’s taking shape quite nicely at the moment and I’m very, very excited about it.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

Not really. I try to reply to everyone who’s kind enough to share their thoughts on the book via Twitter and obviously I really appreciate them all, but I hate A*azon with a passion so never go on there, and I’ve never really been on the GoodReads website either. As a general point, if you look at reviews for anything online you always get complete extremes, so even a book that’s had rave reviews across the board will still get slated by some people, and a book that gets panned will still have readers who think it’s the greatest thing ever. Once you’ve finished creating something, whether it’s art, music, literature, whatever, once it’s in the public domain it’s out of your hands and you can’t control the response, so there’s no point losing any sleep over it.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Ghost Signs

Ghost Signs

I’m constantly inspired by other writers. I read an article a couple of years back that compared a writer to a sampler, and I really like that analogy. You’re always looking at other people’s work to see what works, what doesn’t, how you can apply their techniques to your own writing. Ben Myers is a writer who I think a lot of people can learn from – no one ever talks about this, possibly because his stories are so well-told that they don’t notice, but he creates a completely different narrative voice for every book, and you need real chops to do that. He’s definitely someone I look at as an example of a complete writer – he’s technically brilliant, and that feeds into everything else, so his dialogue is great, as is his characterisation, plotting, pacing and everything else. Heidi James is another writer from the current crop who I take a great deal of inspiration from as her work is all about the same themes that pre-occupy much of my fiction/poetry – time and memory, the distortive symbiosis between the two, the mutability of personality, humans as method-actors, the masks we wear. She’s so precise, doesn’t waste a single word and her work is deceptively complex when you start digging. I love the way she weaves ideas from different thinkers into her work but buries them so you’ve got to get right down into it to find them. The great Denis Johnson is someone else I’ve always had a lot of admiration for, and in the last couple of years I’ve been introduced to Percival Everett by the lads at Influx and he’s blown me away completely. Need to get hold of everything he’s ever written, sharpish. The Trees is the best novel I’ve read this year so far by a country mile.

What is your biggest motivator?

Now, my biggest motivator is lost time. I wasted 15 years when I more or less completely stopped writing and I’m determined to make up for it now. There’s a lot of anger in my work too, and that’s another motivating factor, especially with the current shitshow of a government and the untold damage they’ve done to this country. It’s going to take decades for the mess started by that pair of cunts Cameron and Osborne to be cleared up, and by then it’ll probably be way too late. People can’t be allowed to forget that, as odious as Boris Johnson is, those two were the diabolic progenitors of the current clusterfuck and they shouldn’t be allowed to escape responsibility.

What will always distract you?

I have ADHD so am very easily distracted, especially if I forget to take my medication!

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

I had much more input into the book cover/design than I was expecting, although I have Fiachra McCarthy to thank for bringing it all to life. If you’d asked me at the beginning, before the book was even finished, how I’d like it to look, it would have been pretty much what you see in the bookshops now. Fiachra was brilliant to work with and it was a surprisingly easy process – I gave him the gist of what I thought would work, he sent some samples and we went from there. Didn’t take long, and I think it nails the vibe perfectly.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes – voracious doesn’t even cover it. I taught myself to read before I started school and was never without a book from then on.

What were your favourite childhood books?

The first series I remember reading that really blew me away was The Worst Witch books, which I read when I was about 7. I’ve read them as an adult with my children, and last week we were listening to the audiobooks in the car when we were on holiday. They still stand up – a masterclass in storytelling and characterisation without any gimmicks, frills or fancy stuff. Miss Hardbroom is one of the best antagonists is children’s literature for me, and Jill Murphy achieves it pretty much singly through the way she speaks to the girls, especially Mildred. Great, great writing, and the illustrations are wonderful too. Children of Winter by Berlie Doherty was another one I loved when it was read to me when I was about eight. Read that with my eldest last year and that was still brilliant too.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

If so, which? The Old Pier Bookshop in Morecambe is a treasure trove if you like digging for hours through crates of second-hand stuff. I’ve literally spent whole days in there.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

No. Just shut the study door, fire up the Mac and crack the fuck on!

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

About 15 at the moment. I’ve never understood when people say they have hundreds of unread books and still keep buying more – it seems pointless to me. I’ve always been a very quick reader and have generally been able to keep on top of mine, but it’s so hard to find time to read these days. I work full-time, have two kids, I’ve a novel to write, plus a lot of other shorter pieces, not to mention events and all the promo/publicity stuff for Ghost Signs. Before I had kids I used to get through about five books a week; after kids it went down a bit, but these days I’m lucky if I can read one, and that’s a source of real chagrin. It’s rare for me to have 15 unread books, and it’s stressing me out tbh, especially as ARCs keep landing on the doormat, plus books from the indies that I subscribe to…….

What is your current or latest read?

I took four books on holiday but I couldn’t get into any of them, and ended up buying a copy of A Brief History of Seven Killings from a charity shop for a couple of quid. Read it before, but loved it all over again. Marlon James is a genius writer, and this book is every bit the same big, bad, beautiful motherfucker it was when it first came out. Essential reading, kinda like a Don Winslow pulp thriller but written like a Faulkner/Tarantino mash-up, in Jamaican patois. Next up is one by Dennis Cooper, a writer who’s been on The List for years but I’ve never had time to check out.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

I’m going to be super-annoying and say that there are lots of things afoot, but I’m not allowed to talk about any of them. I’ve a couple of short pieces (mixture of fiction and non-fiction) coming out before the end of the year, all being well, and you may get a sneak preview of some of False Friend in the autumn, but that’s all you’re getting!

Any events in the near future?

Loads. Won’t list them all here, but anyone in London who’s interested in hearing me speak about the book can see me on Friday 16th September at 6 p.m. at The Social, in conversation with the great Heidi James. It’s going to be a brilliant night, and it’s FREE, so come along and join us if you can.


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