Writer. Novel — Liberties, available now: https://rymour.co.uk/liberties.html & the usual places. Extracts in New Writing Scotland 40 & other publications.
Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?
I wanted to tell a story set in the East-End of Glasgow, where I grew up, with working class voices – the type of which are seldom seen in literature (with a few notable exceptions, of course).
What came first the characters or the world?
I want to say the characters, although given I’d decided it would be set in the Shettleston district of Glasgow – both, I suppose. In terms of the overall narrative arc though, it was very much character driven initially. I had to understand who the characters were and what their situation was before I could explore further their journey. It was very much an organic process, in that respect.
How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?
It wasn’t as difficult as I’d feared it would be. I’d been lucky enough to have some extracts published in a few places so I think that may have helped slightly, if not from the publisher’s point of view, then mine. It gave me the belief to send it out into the world.
How long did it take to write?
A couple of the early chapters had existed, at least in an earlier form, for quite a bit. I’m sure I was twenty-nine or thirty when I wrote them. They’d languished on a flash drive for the intervening ten years. There was more but I wasn’t happy with it and had written the story into something of a cul-de-sac. With the arrival of the Covid pandemic and associated lockdowns, I dusted it off, keeping the aforementioned two chapters, introduced some more characters and wrote what is now, Liberties in around a year.
Do you have a writing playlist? If so, do you want to share it?
I tend not to listen to music when I’m writing. I get too invested in it (the music, that is).
How many publishers turned you down?
Again, I consider myself quite lucky in that respect. I think two, maybe three publishers rejected it, with it still being on submission with another three before Rymour took it on and I withdrew the submissions. I only sent it to independent publishers. Given I don’t have an agent and it’s predominately written in contemporary Glaswegian Scots, I didn’t see the point trying with the big publishing houses. It’s a closed shop.
What kind of reactions have you had to your book?
The reactions I’ve had so far have been encouraging, with some writer friends saying nice things. Still, it’s early days (ha ha).
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
I couldn’t single any one reaction out. As I said, they’ve all been very encouraging.
What can you tell us about your next book?
I’m currently writing short stories with a view to putting a collection together. I’m not averse to writing a novella either and I think I may have an idea that would work well in that shorter form.
Do you take notice of online reviews?
I think everyone likes validation of their work and a review, I’d suggest, is that. Be it good or bad, it tells you that people are engaging with it, at least.
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
My preference as both a reader and writer, is literary fiction and I’d prefer to continue in that vein, but you never know.
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I’m a Health and Safety Advisor.
Which author(s) inspire you?
Fairly Alba-centric in that regard. I’ve been a massive Iain Banks fan since I read The Wasp Factory in the nineties. Also, James Kelman and Irvine Welsh for being champions and propagators of writing in Scottish working-class demotic.
I like a lot of the American greats too, guys like Steinbeck, Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
Which genres do you read yourself?
I tend to gravitate towards literary fiction for no other reason than relatability to real life: what drives us, what elicits emotion – the human condition.
What is your biggest motivator?
To hopefully contribute in my own small way to the answer to the previous question.
What will always distract you?
How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?
Ian Spring of Rymour Books, my publisher, designed the cover and after some very brief discussions came up with it, which I’m happy with.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I wouldn’t say prolifically so, but I read my fair share.
What were your favourite childhood books?
Roald Dahl was the governor as far as I was concerned.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
The Gallery Bookshop in Glasgow kindly hosted the launch for the book, so they’re top of the tree currently.
What books can you not resist buying?
I prefer my books to be character driven as opposed to rollercoaster plots.
Do you have any rituals when writing?
None really, other than leaving my mobile phone in another location, out of reach.
How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?
The amount correlates directly to how many bookshops I’ve been in recently. Put it this way, it’s never depleted to under half a dozen.
What is your current or latest read?
I’m reading Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing at the moment.
Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?
My finger isn’t on the pulse as much as it probably should be in that respect, I’m afraid. My Twitter buddy, Drew Gummerson’s, Kuper’s Tube (Bearded Badger Publishing) is due out in November and I’ll be buying that.
Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?
None, other than to continue writing and see what manifests itself next.
Any events in the near future?
Nothing in the diary right now but, ‘have novel, will travel’.
and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?
To give a voice to the kind of characters that are grossly marginalised in literature.
Liberties is published by Rymour Books https://www.rymour.co.uk/liberties.html