What was it like for you growing up ,what inspired you and when did you first find out that you were interested in writing stories?
I was very close to my mother and I remember she bought me the Story Teller series of magazines and cassette tapes which came out in 1982 when I was 4 years old – they were a collection of the most vivid, funny and poignant stories imaginable and stayed with me for a long, long time. I started writing a short story collection when I was 7, and by the age of 14 I had written about seven novels and a poetry collection. I was always compelled to write; it’s how I make sense of and deal with the world.
What preparation do you do before you start writing a book and what do you think the keys things are when writing a good book?
Like children, every book is different and requires a different approach. There are certain things that I’ll always do in the same manner, such as crack the spine of a new Paperblanks notebook (they’re gorgeous) and jot down ideas, fragments of dialogue, and character traits, or lines of poetry. The key things for writing a good book? I think you have to be utterly compelled to write the story. It has to be your story – not a story in the style of [insert famous author here] or which you feel appeals to the market. That’s the job of the marketing team – it’s up to you to write your truths.
What are your favourite books .who for you has been the best story book character ever made and which authors inspire you?
Wow – that’s a lot of questions in one. Favourite books – I have many, but we’ll go with Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly and The Aeneid by Virgil. Hamlet is probably the best character ever. Authors that inspire me: Sharon Olds, Galway Kinnell, WB Yeats, Ovid, Mary Oliver, David Nicholls, David Mitchell, Zadie Smith, Charles Dickens, Homer.
What music and television are you into and do you use them for inspiration?
Music-wise, I’m very eclectic – Hans Zimmer, Karl Jenkins, Rachmaninov, Debussy, Ravel, The Killers, Andre Desplat, Classic FM, Tori Amos, to name but a few. I believe strongly in using music as inspiration – the ending of The Guardian Angel’s Journal was written while I listened to the theme tune of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly on repeat. I don’t have time to watch TV, though when I do I’m partial to Grand Designs…
What hobbies do you have and what other things do you like to do in your spare time?
I play piano, take photographs, bake cakes like there’s no tomorrow and am usually involved in a home improvement project of sorts. My priority is my kids, though, so they get all my ‘spare’ time.
Can you tell us about your latest book and what are the main reasons why people should read it?
The Boy Who Could See Demons is about a little boy overcoming a lot of things about his childhood. I’m interested in writing about characters who have huge obstacles to overcome – I believe in the resilience and capability of the human spirit. Likeminded readers should enjoy this book!
What is the best character or plot you have ever thought of and is there any ideas you have rejected which you wish you’d have used?
The plot for The Guardian Angel’s Journal blew me away; I knew I had to write it, but I was scared at first because (a) I didn’t have any free time to speak of and (b) I felt I might be overwhelmed by the amount of ‘rules’ I’d have to set up for the spiritual world. But then I just got on with writing the thing. I’ve learned over the years not to abandon any idea – let it sit for a while, as long as it takes to rise back up in your subconsciousness in a form that works.
For anyone thinking about going into writing what advice would you give them?
Read everything around you. If you want to read novels, read the current frontlist (ie. The books that everyone’s talking about), as well as the classics. Read as if you’re being paid a pound for every syllable you read. Then write. Don’t waste time worrying about what you’re writing, just write. If your notebook ends up covered in scribbles and scored out passages and drafts, good. That’s what it’s supposed to look like.
What would you like to say to the people who have either bought your books or are thinking about it?
I get emails from readers all over the world, and I treasure each one. So write to me!
If you had to describe yourself and your writing style to someone reading this who didn’t already know you, what would you say?
Expect something a little different, a little poetic, a little playful, and a little profound.
What are you up to at the moment and whats next for you?
I’ve just finished the edits for The Boy Who Could See Demons and then I’m writing poetry for a month. After that, I’ll be on to my third novel.