1. You write novels, screenplays and TV drama, I think. Which do you prefer, and why?
Now that’s a tough question. I’ve always made up stories, and tried to put them down on paper, and I guess they were short stories way back. Aged 9, I got given a toy theatre my Grandpa made me (Granny made the curtains for it), and I wrote plays, and put them on on Sunday afternoons to an audience of family and friends.
In those early years I tried my hand at everything: novels, poetry, radio plays, theatre. Then during the sixth form and college years I had a run of cool ideas for television drama (coupled with an idea that it might be easier to get something made on tv than in the cinema (you can see synopses for The Dream Life, dreamscholars, Flight of Fantasy, and euroJournal over in words. It was whilst writing euroJournal that I started playing with a filmic approach to writing novels, and I later adapted this to Flyht – my first novel (and based on Flight of Fantasy) – and this style, modified over time is what I have continued with in all my subsequent novel writing. It’s quite a challenging style for the reader because it’s very visual and cuts between action very quickly – sometimes half a dozen scene changes in the course of one page, but it seems to work.
So in answer to your question, I don’t think I do have a preference for genre. It really depends on what the current story is that I want to write.
2. At what point, if any, would you consider self-publishing your novels? Should writers carry on regardless even if they’re consistently rejected by publishers/editors?
Should writers’ carry on regardless? No. Even if you keep your writing an absolute secret until you’re happy with, at some point (if you intend to have it published) it has to be read. If everyone keeps coming back with comments that it doesn’t work (for whatever reason) then you have to look at it again. You have to pick the people you show it too, and listen to their thoughts, however hurtful you might at first take them, after all as a reader, if they feel that way, and they are making the criticism constructively then they do have a point. The chances are it’s not ready for publication and you or any publishers would be a fool to publish it if that’s a case.
As regards self-publishing… Everyone knows that to be published is an extremely difficult thing. We’ve all heard the statistics. And to get an agent is equally difficult. Part of me would therefore like to self publish. However this said, I would not simply have some copies printed and then flog round bookshops and try and sell them. I would still want my book to go though an Editor, and to have tested the book out on as many people, so that I have fixed the problems. I guess I want to be the publisher, publishling not just my own books, but those by talented friends or others…
3. Which writers (or other creative people) have most inspired you?
Diana Wynne Jones (and in particular her book Fire & Hemlock) always inspires me, as does the work of Alan Garner, or Swallows and Amazons. More recently, David Almond and his books are so deftly written they cannot fail but to inspire you. In film Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours trillogy (in particular the final Red) inspire me greatly. Also Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and TV’s The Storyteller and Press Gang are terrific if disparate influences. Lastly my middle school English teacher, Mrs. B – Olivia Batterbee or OJB ecouraged me greatly, and was a huge influence in that respect.
4. Would you describe yourself as a political person?
Kind of. I have an interest in politics at a general level, and I would like to think that I have a better average understanding, but I would never enter politics. I’ve never been on a demo (although the anti-war demos of last year fired me close to doing so. I would say that I have a very idealistic and radical approach to politics. If I had my way, we would stop tinkering around the edges of systems and processes and ideas that have had extras bolted onto them over the years to the point of them being unrecognisable, tear them down, and replace with something new, simple and fair.
Of course at a practical level I understand that, for example, the real reform of the education system that’s needed, will never happen, because politics is short term, and real reform would involve saying we are going to three years working out what needs happen, another couple putting everything place. Twenty years after then when the first lot of kids graduate from college you’ll see the results.
5. Finally, do you think one is born with talent or can it be created through hard work and practice?
Both. I do think that people are either born with talent, or born with the drive to seek it out. This said, I don’t think you can sit down one day and write a best selling novel in a month without having worked at it. That work might be years of writing and revising, or might be years reading, and thinking, and researching. It’s probably a bit of both. I do think one is born with some form of talent or not, but it’s what you do with it. You also need the ambition you use that talent.
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