I live on the coast in the north east of England, and I’m a mix of Highland Scot with some Hebridean thrown in for good measure, plus northern English, with a good part of that being border reiver.
So, highlander, islander and thief, I guess.
I began reading at three: kiddies’ stories, folktales, comics, ancient myths, anything with a story, and my desire to write came from that simple love of stories – I wanted to tell stories too.
I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my twenties, and when I did start writing I had no skill or ability, I just kept at it until it looked right to me, and some of those stories were good enough to show to people.
My favourite writers include the usual suspects – Dickens, Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and so on – but I go through phases: a few years ago I read the various Virginia Woolf/Bloomsbury stuff, while lately I’ve read the entire output of Joe Abercrombie, and questions such as ‘is Caul Shivers is a good man?’ still bother me. And I’ve just completed John Buchan’s Dickson McCunn novels.
I like anything that tells as story.
My inspiration come from a desire to tell stories, combined with a lifelong habit of observing people, listening to them, picking things up from anywhere and everywhere, and then saying to myself… “what happens next?”
I enjoy rewriting myths and running with characters from other stories too, playing around with characters and archetypes, reframing them and sitting back to see what occurs. I’ve also written stories based on people I know. An early novel, The Heaven Field, is based on a friend of mine who over a period of time became a very bad man, and I thought, what would happen if one day he decided to give up being a bad guy and become good? How would he redeem himself? And how would the universe respond?
Some stories such as Down By The River or Plot are autobiographical – they’re just episodes from my own life. Some stories come from dreams: Zippo came from a dream, as did When You Cry You Say Goodbye.
Workwise, I’ve done all the things that would-be writers tend to do: barman, postman, labourer. I taught English, which paid the rent but now I’m only doing a little tuition. I spend a lot of time reading, every Friday I do some busking, most days I walk my border terrier Angus.
I’ve written a couple of commercial books which are really different in tone from my novels and short stories, but writing short stories is probably my favourite thing to do. That and reading.
I plan to spend the next few years completing the stories that I’ve started, some of which will appear in due time in the In Progress page. Then I’m going to stop writing altogether.
And then I’ll just read.