Author and Scriptwriter

'Among the most important writers of contemporary British horror.' -Ramsey Campbell

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Lowdown with... Emily Cataneo

Emily B. Cataneo is a writer and journalist currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from magazines such as Nightmare, Interzone, Lackington's, Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts, and The Dark. She was long-listed for John Joseph Adams’ Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016, and her debut fiction collection, Speaking to Skull Kings, is forthcoming on May 19 from JournalStone. She is a graduate of both the Clarion Writers Workshop in San Diego and the Odyssey Writing Workshop in New Hampshire. She likes hats, dogs, crafts, and historical research.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 

--I didn't study creative writing in school, instead opting for a journalism degree. I've spent the bulk of my professional life working in that field, writing for papers like the Boston Globe and Financial Times. Working as a reporter actually changed my personality. I was a very shy person for the first twenty years of my life, terrified to make phone calls or approach people, but journalism jolted me out of that. Once you've stormed into a city police station with a stack of court documents demanding confirmation that one of the officers there committed a crime, it becomes much easier to telephone a pizza place and order takeout.
--For several years in my early twenties, I dreamed of moving to Berlin, Germany, although the logistics of moving to Europe seemed like an impenetrable mystery. Finally, when I was 25, I decided to just go there and see if I could make it work. And so I flew across the ocean with no job, no visa, no German skills, and few friends in the city. Looking back this was a rather large gamble, but I managed to find a writing job, get a visa, learn German, and write my first novel while there. I ended up living in Berlin for two years, and I actually met my now-husband there too.
--Last fall, I moved into a new apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and didn't realize for several weeks that I had subconsciously organized my bookshelf into "Favorite Novels," "Favorite Short Story Collections," and "Victorian Gothic Literature." If a book has a haunting on the moors or a creepily overbearing housekeeper in a spooky manor, then I will probably (re: definitely) read it.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
My first published story was "The Desert Cold Oasis and Spa," which appeared in the online journal "The Colored Lens" in 2013. The story was inspired by a road trip my best friend and I took through Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington in 2012. One evening during that trip, we wandered into Zzyzx, an abandoned mineral springs and health spa in the Mojave Desert that was started by a radio evangelist in the mid-twentieth century and eventually shut down due to tax evasion. I'm always on the lookout for atmospheric locales that might inspire my writing, and this place had more than enough atmosphere: abandoned rowboats listing in the sands, peeling decayed signs from the failed spa, fan palms and Joshua trees and other vegetation that appeared alien to a New England girl who'd never set foot in the desert before. I knew I had to set a story there.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
Of my published writing, I'm proudest of "Evangeline and the Forbidden Lighthouse," which appears in Interzone this month. This story takes place on the New England coast--a place where I've spent much of my life--and tells the story of an intense friendship between two girls, one of them a vacationer to a seaside community, the other one a year-round resident. It's about the ocean and fate and class and female friendship, and I put a lot of myself into writing and crafting it. I hope everyone likes it as much as I do!

4. …and which makes you cringe? 

Luckily none of my published work makes me cringe, but there are definitely some documents on my hard-drive that I'm quite grateful never saw the light of day.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
My writing schedule recently changed a lot. From 2014 through 2016, I was working as a freelance nonfiction writer and journalist. This allowed me to structure my days as I saw fit, although there always seemed to be myriad distractions and temptations taking me away from my desk ("I MUST have Halloween spider lights for my porch! Now!" was a typical thought). Now, though, I'm working fulltime at a wonderful online feminist historical archive, so I've had to become a lot more strategic about structuring my writing time. I typically wake up early so that I can write for two hours before work (no mean feat for a sleep addict such as myself!) and try to spend at least one weekend day writing with two friends of mine in a cafe somewhere in Cambridge. Having accountability partners really helps.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
I would suggest "The Lily Rose," which appeared in The Dark in February 2017. It features spooky New England, a group of girls, ghostly events, characters grappling with loss, and Russian royalty--all common motifs in my stories.

7. What are you working on now? 

Right now, my big project is working on the fourth draft of my aforementioned first novel, The Elephant Girl Gang, which takes place in Germany during World War 1 and follows the story of four teenage girls who accidentally unleash a death omen curse and must destroy it before it destroys them. It has castles and female friendship and the Great War and socialism and smoky dance halls and messy magic and visits to the land of the dead and spiritualism and-- and you can see, I'm very excited about it, and can't wait to share it with the world. I'm also working on various short stories; collaborating on a novelette with the author Gwendolyn Kiste; and gearing up for the release of my collection, Speaking to Skull Kings, which I am also quite excited to share with the world!

Friday, 7 April 2017

The Lowdown with... Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy is a writer and musician. He also runs a halfway home for injured or ill feral cats and dogs as well as abandoned domestic pets. He lives in Bangalore, India. His chapbook, A VOLUME OF SLEEP, will be release by Dunhams Manor Press later this year.

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
I’m a left-hander. When I first learned to play guitar I used to play a right-handed guitar upside down, without the strings changed.
My paternal grandfather and my father were both voracious readers. Although we never talked about him, interestingly each of us read Algernon Blackwood at some point, so I have editions of some of Blackwood’s works from the 1940s, the 1970s and more recently. Is this the curse of the Satyamurthys?
My father ran a bookshop in the ‘80s. This helped me read a lot of great stuff, including issues of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run and that remarkable all-text issue of Howard The Duck.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
Fiction? A very, very short piece called ‘stone rider’ for an issue of ‘Bust Down The Door And Eat All The Chickens’, a bizzaro magazine, even though my story wasn’t bizzaro.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
There is a story in my second chapbook for Dunhams Manor Press, out later this year, called ‘a place in the sun’ that I think is my best thing yet.

4. …and which makes you cringe? 
Nothing, yet. Ask me again when I’m really old.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I usually get most of my writing done in half hour bursts between the hours of 7 AM and 4 PM.
That’s when I am writing at all. I don’t write everyday, only when I have a story idea that seems worth pursuing. If a story isn’t shaping up after three days of work I usually put it aside. At my best, I’ve written a 6000-word story in a single day in two or three sittings. I love it when that happens. I find that the less I have to struggle the better the story comes out. If I’m still rolling a rock uphill after 2000 words, it’s not going to work out. At least not in this particular form.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
I think the easiest way to check my way out is online - look for the story The Ouroboros Apocrypha on the Lovecraft eZine website. But ideally, try and get a copy of my first chapbook, Weird Tales Of A Bangalorean, because that will give you a deeper dive into my fiction.

7. What are you working on now?
Trying to get my mojo working again. It’s been 4 months since I last completed a story and longer since I wrote something I really liked.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Things of the Week 5th April 2017: Interview by Louisa Rhodes, New The Feast Of All Souls review, The Adventure of the Orkney Shark

Photo by Vicky Morris.
A few things to announce this week...

First up, there's this really cool interview done last month, after my half of the Hive Writer's Day Workshop with the brilliant K.T. Davies. Louisa Rhodes, one of Hive's young writers, fed me questions about horror, writing and spaghetti, typed up my rambling responses and made them look reasonably intelligent. So here's the result. Louisa did a fantastic job, and was a pleasure to talk to.

The Feast Of All Souls has a new review, over at RisingShadow, in which Seregil of Rhiminee describes it as "one of the best horror novels I've read in recent years... entertaining, thrilling... ambitious and well-written. Excellent British horror fiction!"

Many thanks to RisingShadow, and to Seregil!

And finally... Simon Clark's anthology Sherlock Holmes's School For Detection is out now.

It's 1890. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson return to Baker Street after a night pursuing a vicious criminal. Inspector Lestrade is waiting for Holmes with a proposition of national importance.
Lestrade tells Holmes that a school of detection has been formed to train a new breed of modern investigators that will serve in Great Britain and the Empire. Most students will become police officers. Some, however, will become bodyguards and spies. Holmes begins instructing his decidedly curious assortment of students from home and abroad. He does so with his customary gusto and inventiveness.
Scotland Yard, in the main, allocates crimes to solve and Holmes mentors his students. Occasionally, he shadows them in disguise in order to assess or even directly test their abilities with creative scenarios he devises. Certain crimes investigated by the students might appear trivial, such as the re-positioning of an ornament atop a garden wall, yet it will transpire an assassin has moved the ornament to create good sightlines in order to commit murder with a sniper's rifle.
Other mysteries are considered outside the domain of the police. For example, the inexplicable disappearance of a stone gargoyle, which is linked to an ancient family curse. Or a man suffering from amnesia who discovers that not only has he acquired a secret life but also gained an implacable enemy, too. Holmes, with the ever- trustworthy Doctor Watson in his wake, is kept busy with his students' cases, ranging from minor to serious, sometimes rectifying their mistakes and saving them from a variety of disasters.
These eleven wonderful new adventures and intrigues include tales such as 'The Gargoyles of Killfellen House', 'Sherlock Holmes and the Four Kings of Sweden' and 'The Case of the Cannibal Club'.

The anthology also features my story The Adventure Of The Orkney Shark. Other contributors include Cate Garder, Paul Finch, Alison Littlewood, Carole Johnstone... and many, many more.

The Adventure of the Orkney Shark is set in 1927. Lieutenant-Commander Noel Atherstone, recalled from retirement in Australia for the Imperial Airship Scheme, is given a top-secret mission: to assist Sherlock Holmes in investigating the mysterious disappearance of ships in the North Sea. Fishermen blame the gigantic and voracious Orkney Shark - but as Atherstone, Holmes and Holmes' reluctantly-acquired pupil Mr Blacksmith search the seas in airship R.36, they discover a threat far deadlier than any sea monster...

There,” said Blacksmith, pointing from an open starboard window.
Where?” Holmes and I ran to his side, peering out – but we had already passed over the spot.
Reduce speed,” I told Church. “Mr Potter, bring us around. Mr Hunt, maintain altitude.”
Slowly the airship turned. It wasn’t a quick process; R.36 was six hundred and seventy-five feet long from nose to tail, and almost eighty wide. But in the end, she cruised back the way she had come, at a more sedate pace.
What did you see, and where?” demanded Holmes. Blacksmith pointed to an area of swirling water between two flat, tabular skerries.
There,” he said. “It does not move.”
I see nothing,” said Holmes.
Nor I,” I said. “Just rock, weed, barnacles…”
Barnacles, yes. There are none elsewhere on these shoals.”
He was right, now I considered: for whatever reason, the tiny shellfish didn’t appear on any visible part of the rocks and skerries. They lay only in this one area, in a long wide cluster. As we drew closer, I saw its outline was distorted by the water’s churning, but there was something about the shape – a regularity, a symmetry.
The barnacles had not grown here; they had grown somewhere – or on something – else. Something that had spent a great deal of time in other parts of the sea, more conducive to their survival.
Blacksmith was right: I saw it now. A great mass, encrusted in barnacles and weed, in the shape of a huge fish – a long teardrop body, but with fins, almost like wings, jutting out from its sides, and another, a thin sharp triangle, rising from its back. But it was larger than any fish – four hundred feet, if it was an inch...

You can buy the anthology here.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Lowdown with... James A. Moore

JAMES A. MOORE is the author of over forty novels, including the critically acclaimed Fireworks, Under The Overtree, Blood Red, Blood Harvest, the Serenity Falls trilogy (featuring his recurring anti-hero, Jonathan Crowley) Cherry Hill, Alien: Sea of Sorrows and the Seven Forges series of novels. He has twice been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award and spent three years as an officer in the Horror Writers Association, first as Secretary and later as Vice President. Never one to stay in one genre for too long, James has recently written epic fantasy novels in the series SEVEN FORGES (Seven Forges, The Blasted Lands, City of Wonders and The Silent Army). He is working on a new series called The Tides Of War. The first book in the series, The Last Sacrifice, is due out in January. Pending novels also include A Hell Within (a Griffin & Price Novel) co-written with Charles R. Rutledge and an apocalyptic Sci-Fi novel tentatively called Spores. Why be normal?

1. Tell us three things about yourself. 
I’m a prolific writer. On a good day I break 4,000-5,000 words. My best single day was 11,700 words, edited twice, in 8 hours.
I’m a widower.
I am an exceedingly violent pacifist, which is probably at least half of the reason I write.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 
The first professional sale was a comic book script for Clive Barker’s Hellraiser issue number 15, a story called “of Love, Cats & Curiosity. The first thing ever published was a review of White Wolf Games’ entire World of Darkness (at that point about seven books in the Vampire: The Masquerade game) for Game Shop News.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 

Dude, that like asking which of your children you love best. I did a story called “Spirits,” for a book called Four Ghosts, that came out from Cemetery Dance Publications. It’s a ghost story with no ghosts, I wrote it very, very quickly and it actually worked out the way I wanted it to, which makes me very happy. My other answer is, whatever I just finished, but that part tends to fade.

 4. …and which makes you cringe? 
Of my writing? The very first novel printed was called Vampire: The Eternal Struggle: House of Secrets. I haven’t even read it since I wrote it. I’ve heard it’s actually okay, but I just can’t do it. I have no idea why, seriously. Also, when I was fourteen I wrote 472 pages of a fantasy novel with absolutely no plot and the most pretentious writing ever. The evidence has long since been destroyed.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 

I work a full time (sometimes part time)job as a barista, so first there’s the day job and heavy levels of caffeine, then I take a break for about an hour. Then 3-4 hours of writing, a break for dinner and TV, then back to writing for a few hours That also includes handling correspondence, phone calls, and social media.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
 I’m going to go with SEVEN FORGES, which I’ve had several people tell me is some of my best work.

7. What are you working on now? 
I just had THE LAST SACRIFICE come out in January and that’s the first in a new series called TIDES OF WAR. I’m about two thirds of the way through the first draft of the sequel, called FALLEN GODS. I’m just reaching the cackle stage, which is when I’ve set everything up and I can get to some serious reactions and carnage.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Things of the Week 20th March 2017: Popping Up For Air

[singing] "We all bang together..."
Hello, everybody.

Well, it's been a while since I've blogged (other than the Lowdown), so I thought I'd just stick my head above water long enough for a quick status report (for those of you who give a monkey's! Get over yourself, Bestwick...)

The new job is... well... not too bad, actually. The people I work with are okay, the job itself is fairly undemanding, and it pays enough that I can contribute to cost of living here at Castle Bestwick while keeping some pocket money. (Not that I have any objection to being a kept man, but Cate probably would.)

The only downside are the hours - lengthy shifts that can include weekend working. I have today off after having had shifts on Saturday and Sunday, and this is the first day off where I've remembered/been sufficiently compos mentis (as opposed to compost mentis) enough to say anything much.

Things are happening, anyway. I've managed to settle into a new working schedule which means I can usually get work done on whatever the main project is (currently the second draft of Wolf's Hill), and if the shift starts later, can work on other stuff too. This involves getting up at 4 am, something I'd have filed in the 'You Must Be Joking' category till not so long ago.

Another fringe benefit of the job is that employees are allowed to have loose paper and pen at their desk between calls. I've never, in the past, been able to write two projects concurrently. Never. Write one while editing another, yes. But working on a novel, say, and then working on a short story alongside it? Like the whole 4 o'clock thing, I would have told you, a few months ago, that it was impossible; to write a new story, I'd have to take a break from the novel-writing. And yet now? What started out as writing notes for a story turned into writing the thing itself. I'm only rewriting Wolf's Hill now, but wrote the first drafts of two new stories while completing the first draft of the novel.

So the weirdest thing about going back into employment after being a full-time writer is... I'm actually more productive.

Trouble is, according to Cate, this means I should work full time for the rest of my life so she can quit her job and I can support us both single-handed. I remain deeply unconvinced by this argument, and any assistance in refuting it would be gratefully received.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that my blogging has ended up taking a backseat, even the Lowdown became a bit fitful. So I'm now back to running two a week: once the current crop of interviews (plus a few last ones I'm soliciting) are exhausted, I may have to put it on hiatus for a spell. Hopefully not too long.

Elsewhere - life is good, married life is great, Wolf's Hill might actually not be utter pants and a couple of cool things are bubbling under, which I'll hopefully be in a position to say more about before too much longer.

In other news, I pottered home through the park near our house on the way back from an early shift the other day, to find a full-scale frog orgy in progress. Spring, I guess, has sprung. Weirdest thing is, the little beggars sounded like a motorbike starting several streets away. Luckily, Rupert the Bear was nowhere in sight. ;) (Thanks to Tracy, aka The Seamstress, for providing photographic evidence...)

So anyway, have a good week. I'm off work today, as I said, but I'm usually not, so it only seems fair to end the post with this song...

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Lowdown with... Joolz Denby

Joolz Denby in her own words: "Professional writer, artist and tattooist. I write poetry and novels, paint, illustrate and design to commission, and am a fully trained tattooist with my own deluxe custom art tattoo studio, Studio Bijoux in Bradford UK."

1. Tell us three things about yourself.  
Three? Only three? Shit. Er. I can't sleep because a giant cat keeps jumping in my chest at night: that's actually true. Um. My day job is tattooing at my own studio. Argh....I can swear in at least 6 languages at least one of which is dead.

2. What was the first thing you had published?
Oh that was in the school magazine - I was at Belmont-Birklands Independent High School For Young Ladies - it was a four page epic poem about the fall of Atlantis and contained the word 'harlot' twice. I thought it meant the type of girl who smokes in the street. There were a number of complaints from parents. However via my English teacher, who was a friend of his, Ted Hughes critiqued my poetry. I was eleven. No pressure.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?  

Billie Morgan. It also has the benefit of getting up the most peoples' noses for being 'harsh'. They miss the funny bits because they're too busy being outraged. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize but rumour had it the organisers were so horrified at me - tattooed, Northern, loose cannon in their eyes - they privately insisted I didn't win lest I bring the Prize into disrepute... and I didn't despite being the Bookie's Favourite. Cheap bastards didn't even give us authors a new phone. Shockin'.

4. …and which makes you cringe?  
A poem I wrote aged 15 - I was taking a lot of Valium but it's no excuse - comparing my heartbreak at being ignored by a boy I fancied in the Montmatre Café to my new Biba nail varnish: 'The reflection of my tears in my blue nail polish'. Indeed. No excuse for that.

5. What’s a normal writing day like?  
Get out of bed at 10.30 am. Put on huge black fleece dressing gown. Feed Giant Cat and his adopted uncle. Make toast & tea. Take it back to bed with laptop. Type furiously for two hours. Bathroom. Coffee. Edit. Type furiously for another two hours. Coffee. Get dressed. Eat. Draw. Watch telly. Drink tea. 1.00am - go back to bed. Pretend to 'just check' writing. Type furiously for an hour. Fall asleep.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?  
Billie Morgan. Or they could listen to one of my albums - Crow is the latest. Henning Nugel did the music. It's all very Game Of Thrones. Crows, glitter, death and God.

7. What are you working on now?  
Midnight At the Rat And Roses. A modern version of the Orpheus myth involving the Russian mafia, a dead artist and karma. It will never be published.

If you enjoyed this Lowdown, you might want to check out a longer interview I did with Joolz for This Is Horror in 2013. One of my prouder moments! Part One is here; here's Part Two.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Lowdown with... Stephen Hargadon

Born in London, Stephen Hargadon now lives and works in the north of England.
His short stories have been published in a number of places, including Black Static, Structo and Popshot magazines, the Irish Post, and on the LossLit website. His non-fiction has appeared on (including a well-received article on the joys of secondhand bookshops).

He has recently finished a novel.

1. Tell us three things about yourself.

i) These are the objects on my desk: a watch with a black face and orange hands; a brown leather wallet; a white notebook containing a short story set in Stockport and the beginnings, perhaps, of a novel; a tape dispenser in the shape of an audio cassette (must buy some tape); a lamp; a small black notebook (unused); an ovoid paperweight with purple spiral motif, bought from an antique shop in King’s Lynn, a pleasingly chaotic warren of a place, overseen by two old ladies, where I also found an attractive edition of Angus Wilson’s The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot (as yet unread); a passport; scissors; coffee stains; two memory sticks; a wooden cigarette box incised with geometric patterns; a paperclip; a twenty pence piece; a white pen.

ii) I like watching films. Who doesn’t? I’m not quite as hardcore a cineaste as Marshall Tito who, I believe, watched a film every night. I used to like finding films by accident on TV. I saw The London Nobody Knows as a child. It quite gripped me – James Mason was an attractively menacing presence – and I wanted the film to go on forever: the filth and decay, the street drinkers swigging purple meths, the men ruined during the Depression, the grotty yards where the Ripper performed his foul operations, all this lingered in my memory (although for some reason I mistakenly rechristened the film The Secret Places of London). Later in life, the glib omnipotence of the internet led me from the film itself to the books and drawings of Geoffrey Snowcroft Fletcher. (His atmospherically illustrated works, including Pearly Kingdom, London After Dark and his masterpiece, Down Among the Meths Men, are well worth reading.)

One of the increasingly rare pleasures of watching TV is to stumble on an old film, a film you’d never seen before, an oddity, a treasure. I remember seeing an American film, The Baby, late one night on the BBC – perhaps the last thing before the screen was plunged into darkness. Such a bizarre, creepy film – with a sickening twist. It stayed with me. I’d look at the listings for years, hoping that The Baby would reappear, if only to convince myself that it hadn’t been a ghastly, half-drunken hallucination. Of course, it wasn’t. And I now own the film on DVD. You can look up everything on the internet. Instant information. Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush – a kooky 1960s coming-of-age drama set in Stevenage – was another film that thrilled me when I first saw it by accident on late night TV. The second time I watched it, a few years later, I couldn’t see what had occasioned my excitement. It was just another vaguely zany 1960s romp, albeit one with an alluringly mundane setting. I now have the DVD, of course. I can watch it whenever I want, which is hardly ever. There’s a good scene in it where Denholm Elliot’s character is describing wine at a dinner party. He’s plastered. He sloshes the liquid around his gob, then says: ‘It greets the palate like an old friend …’

iii) At the moment I’m reading August is a Wicked Month by Edna O’Brien. It the first time I’ve read O’Brien. I think I’m in for a treat. The opening chapter is a perfect thing – it could stand alone as a short story, ambiguous, funny, sharp. I’m looking forward to the rest of the book.

2. What was the first thing you had published? 

‘World of Trevor’ in Black Static 40.

3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of? 
 I can’t say that I’m particularly proud of any one piece over another. Yes, I have a residual affection, perhaps, for certain stories. But I don’t feel pride. I very rarely re-read my stuff once it’s found a home: I tend to see faults and blemishes, wrong turnings, botched gambits, although occasionally I’m surprised by a phrase or image, as if it’s been put there by someone else. I have a soft spot for old Trev because it was the first thing of mine to appear in print: a thrill, for sure. I wrote successive drafts in longhand. Then I typed it up, revising, refining. ‘Through the Flowers’ (published in Popshot Magazine, issue 14, with a brilliant illustration by Kate O’Hara) is another story for which I have a certain fondness – at least that’s how I think of it in the cosy saloon bar of my memory. Should I be forced to read it again right now I might well shake my head in dismay, or at least flinch every second sentence. And there’s ‘Just Browsing’, an essay on second-hand bookshops, which was my first venture into non-fiction, a mode I’ll certainly explore in future.

For me, the finished thing, the completed text, is not as interesting as the act, the process of writing, the way in which words spark more words. Once it’s done, it’s time to move on. I can only hope that the reader enjoys what I’ve produced, that he or she experiences the same strange, complex thrill that I’ve feel when reading a good book, a kind of yesness. I suppose my deepest loyalty is always to the last thing I’ve written or to the thing I’m working on at any given time. The important thing is to finish the wretched thing before it becomes a bore to write (and probably to read).

4. … and which makes you cringe? 
All of it and none of it.

5. What’s a normal writing day like? 
I spend many days in an office, among voices and computers. It’s not too bad. I suppose I’m always writing. There’s always a section of the brain working on something. Everything is material. Every moment, every sensation: floating spores of thought, the pollen of memory. (Careful, look out for that lamp-post.) I carry around a small notebook (it bears the logo of the Monk Bridge Iron and Steel Co Ltd, Leeds, 1922) and the slimmest pen imaginable, a Japanese marvel, thinner than a matchstick. The problem with notebooks is that I have so many of them. They multiply. They hide in bags and pockets. They lurk on shelves like awkward, scruffy adolescents among proper books, books with the author’s name on the spine, books that were perhaps once notebooks themselves. My notebooks refuse to give up their secrets when I need them most. They contain odd lines, quickly caught, my handwriting stretched and loosened to the point of indecipherability, flattened by the speed of thought. There are snatches of dialogue, obscure epiphanies, many dark doodles, emphatic squiggles and underlinings, sinuous arrows pointing at words that mean nothing to me now. In some respects I’m not very organised. But it’s worth making notes: sometimes, when I skim through my notes and can’t find what I think I need, I’ll find something else that I’d forgotten about, a bright fragment, a useful quip, a callous aside. I’m not too fussy about where and how I write. I started a recent story on the morning train next to a fat businessman who was scrolling through inanities on his phone. The first line just came to me on the platform, in the milky blue of a suburban dawn. I didn’t know if the line would turn into a story. I still don’t – it’s not finished. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of catching the voice. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. A writing day is nothing special. You sit down and write. You get on with it.

I need peace and quiet if I’m editing or re-writing. It depends. Sometimes I listen to music but mostly I prefer the sound of the world around me, its creaks and sighs. There’s no routine. A mug of tea or coffee. I switch between keyboard and longhand. The change can freshen things up. I try to write something every day. I always start a new piece with pen and paper. It’s the only way. Often, it’ll be a snatch of dialogue that sets me off, less often an image. I don’t tend to plan things in minute detail. No graphs. No spreadsheets. No diagrams or intricately engineered story arcs. I need room for things to develop. That’s part of the fun. The words spark and fizz as you write. For me, there is no other way. Sometimes a story can die in my brain once I know the ending. If I don’t finish the thing while it’s still fresh and new, I could lose interest, I’ll roll off and fart. After I’ve put a fair amount of ink on paper I switch to the screen. I work on a basic laptop. I don’t use anything like Scrivener. I am a one-fingered percussionist. I bash the keys. I’ve got it down to an art, I can go at a decent speed. I don’t have a daily word target, although I keep an eye on how much I’m churning out. I might aim to get to the end of a chapter or to work out a scene. But I’ll stop when the writing becomes sluggish, when the connections don’t quite work: that’s when I’m tired. I write during the day. I don’t burn the midnight oil. Although sometimes I wake up and jot down a thought or two.

6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first? 
Well, I suppose the best place to start is to find anything that’s been published, online or in print. There’s not exactly tons of stuff out there: my published works are not likely to buckle your shelves. Go to my website: you’ll find a few stories there. Most of my published stories have appeared in Black Static, so that’s a pretty good place to start. People seem to like ‘The Bury Line’ (Black Static 42) and ‘The Visitors’ (Black Static 45). I like ‘The Mouse’ in Structo 15.

7. What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a novel. Now I need to find a home for it, which is a job in itself. I’ve a couple of stories on the go – I’ve always got a story on the go – while others haven’t yet found an outlet. In fact, my notebooks contain about 20 stories in various states of disrepair. A novel is stirring. It is set in Manchester. I’ve written a few sections. It’s like tuning a radio. There is feedback and interference. The neighbours are making a racket. But mostly the new novel remains a possible world of certain images and unresolved dialogue. At this stage, it’s no more than a flavour, a smell, a feeling, a dream, a portly man with desire in his eyes, a man who sits next to you on the train. There will be dirty carpets and brick walls. There will be pale faces and whorled turds, chicken sandwiches and an impossible love affair. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to work.