what is your name?
how would you describe what you do?
I write stories. For the most part short stories, though I have written two novels. The first has to be in the running for ‘worst book ever written’ – it should be used to teach people how not to write. It’s truly awful. The second never got past first draft. I used to write a lot of flash fiction and micro-fiction but, for no reason I can think of, that doesn’t appeal to me so much now.
what are you currently working on?
I always have several short stories at one stage or another. At the moment I have two at the planning stage, one almost completed, one in rewrite and one in final edit. I’m also working on something longer but I don’t know exactly what it will be yet. It may turn out to be a novel or a novella – or it may get slashed to pieces and end up as a haiku.
what has had the greatest influence on your work?
Reading. Seeing how it’s done by the greats.
Art. I used to spend a lot of time in Kelvingrove Art Galleries, getting story ideas from the paintings, people watching for characters, gathering conversation snippets, enjoying the quiet stillness of the place (except when there’s a school party dashing about pointing and sniggering at the paintings of nudes).
Music. A line in a song can spark a whole story, or just the mood of the music can influence how a piece will go.
what is the greatest misconception about you or your work?
About me – that I’m lazy. I’ve heard it so often that I end up believing it. About my work – that if I can do it, it must be easy.
what do you see as the main strengths and weaknesses of the medium you work in?
You have such freedom with writing – anything goes, there are so many genres, so many forms, and you can do it anywhere. You don’t even have to physically write things down; you can be writing in your head and no one around you knows. Everywhere you go, everyone you meet can trigger stories, or single lines, or a poem.
Weaknesses It’s a solitary activity, so it’s easy to become disillusioned and disheartened. Sometimes, when inspiration is lacking, panic can set in and you convince yourself you’ll never write another word.
how has technology impacted upon the work you do?
My handwriting is atrocious, so using a netbook has made a huge difference. I can write anywhere and can understand what I’ve written when I look back on it later. My phone has also become a great asset. I use the memo function constantly. No more scribbled notes on pieces of paper that are frustratingly indecipherable when I gather them together to turn them into a story. That’s especially true of night time notes. I used to wake up in the morning and look at what I’d scrawled in the middle of the night and have no idea what was written there. Granted, even with phone, I still sometimes wonder what the hell I was thinking. One memo just said, “Something bad happened.” Excellent – someone alert The Booker Prize – I think I have a winning idea here.
The internet has brought ezines – new publishing outlets are always welcome. And, of course, it has also made self-publishing easier but I tend to see that as a double-edged sword.
On the downside, I do faff about on the internet far too often. A tiny piece of research can turn into hours in a Google maze where every new search seems to throw up bizarre or fascinating information that draws me in until I’ve completely lost the thread that would lead me back to my story. I’m very easily distracted.
what’s the greatest piece of advice you would like to pass on?
My favourite is one of Elmore Leonard’s If it sounds like writing, rewrite it
And from John Steinbeck If you are using dialogue, say it aloud as you write. Only then will it have the sound of speech.
where can we find you online
I’m not very good at self-promotion and having an online presence. I’m on Facebook, occasionally on Twitter and I started a blog but could never really get into it the way some people do, so it’s been gathering dust for over a year now. You can read some of my published work at these places
what are you reading at the moment?
Room by Emma Donoghue. I’ve just started it but it has me completely hooked. I love when that happens and it’s becoming increasingly rare.
what are you listening to at the moment?
The very noisy fan my netbook sits on, commentary from a football match coming from the TV in another room and how loud my nails are on this keyboard. Must cut nails.
anything else we should know?
I always like to have at least six pieces of work submitted to competitions, publications at any one time. I need to have a goal to work to, otherwise I really would become lazy.
I love salsa dancing. That has absolutely nothing to do with my writing – I just love it and think everyone should do it for health and happiness.