First of all I’d like to thank lovely Lizzy for inviting me to waffle on as part of the two year anniversary of her fabulous My Little Book Blog. So, where shall I start? Hmm . . .
I began writing only seven years ago. It had never occurred to me that I might be able to do it. Writing was something ‘other’ people did – people much cleverer than me. I was an artist – a painter, mainly. It was desperation that made me start writing. I’d moved away from my friends to a place I hated, a grey place with no sky, surrounded by dark and gloomy mountains. Living somewhere too dark to paint, I became bored and lonely. (I believe boredom is absolutely vital in developing creativity, by the way. One of my hobby horses)
Although I hadn’t written anything since university, I had always made up stories, acting them out with friends when I could talk them into it, or even alone (lots of talking at walls, where I imagined characters stood – ha ha!). I think Mesmeris was nurdling (I know it’s not a word, but it should be) in my mind for most of my life, certainly since the age of about fourteen. When I couldn’t find the book I wanted to read, I finally thought I’d have a go at writing it myself. I haven’t touched a paintbrush since!
My writing process is haphazard to say the least. I’m very ill-disciplined in every way (if you saw my messy house, you’d know) but I do try to write something every day, even if it’s a few pages of scrawled notes. Getting the story in my head first thing in the morning, ideally before thinking of anything else, and definitely before getting out of bed, is vital. Once I begin faffing about on twitter, or checking emails, I’ve had it unless I’ve already started writing. I also have a dreadful habit of feeling there’s no point in writing anything if I have something unusual planned for later in the day or even week!!! It’s utterly ridiculous and I’m doing my best to rid myself of it.
The influences for Mesmeris are, well, pretty much everything: books obv (Brighton Rock, A Clockwork Orange, The Wasp Factory), music (Bowie, Nirvana, Muse, Smashing Pumpkins, Death in Vegas, Billy Talent). I’m not a big fan of TV or film, although there are some I love, of course. Generally their influence is minimal.
A huge influence was my time in school. My family moved about the country a fair bit, so I had the dubious pleasure of experiencing for myself how different schools can be. I went from a girls’ grammar that was more like a private school, with a super-expensive uniform and high expectations, to another girls’ grammar, which was more like something out of Jane Eyre, where bullying was rife and the only thing that mattered was keeping your head down and trying to fade into the background. The most influential of the schools I attended though, must be the comprehensive. It housed some fascinating characters. It was there that Tipper’s gang was born in my head.
As for my reading, I like all kinds of stories, as long as they’re not too slow (I have a mega-short attention span). My particular favourites as a child were myths, legends and fairy tales. As I grew older, I tended to read classics – the Brontes being my favourites. I loved (and still do) Agatha Christie, although Crime in general is not one of my favourite genres. A bit too real for me. I like a bit of weirdness in my stories.
Books would be handed down in our family from my book-obsessed grandmother, to my mother, and on to my sister and myself. Historical fiction was my grandmother’s favourite, and I still enjoy the occasional reread of some of those stories. They feel to me like a warm pair of slippers – comfort reading. As unlike a pair of comfy slippers as can be, was Dennis Wheatley. My mother was scared witless by The Haunting of Toby Jugg, and so, of course, I sneakily read it, followed by all of Wheatley’s black magic stories. Although I doubt I’d cope with the old-fashioned writing now, at the time they were forbidden and so, of course, I loved them. Also loved my dad’s thrillers by Hammond Innes and Alistair Maclean. A book doesn’t have to have a love interest for me. In fact, I prefer thrillers without, unless it’s an essential part of the story. Nothing worse than a love scene being stuck in for no apparent reason – gah!
I thought I’d end with my top ten reads.
1 Brighton Rock. Graham Greene’s my hero. I would love, love, love to write like him. Brighton Rock is seedy and grim and, well, just brilliant.
2 The Wasp Factory. Iain Banks. An odd story, sad and cruel and barbaric at times, but also funny. I don’t know how Banks did that, but it’s genius.
3 Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte. The first book I truly, truly loved. The first book that made my hair stand on end. Not a love story. Much darker than that. A story of obsession.
4 Nineteen Eighty-four. George Orwell. Perhaps more relevant today than ever before. Wonderful!
5 Black Swan Green. David Mitchell. This book gave me an insight into what it’s like to be a sensitive male adolescent. Quite an eye-opener for me.
6 East of Eden. John Steinbeck. Not one of my favourite writers (ducks), but this story is amazing. I have a penchant for characters who can’t win, no matter how hard they try, and Caleb is just my perfect character.
7 The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy. Brilliant. Witty and clever. Could read it again and again.
8 Ethan Frome. Edith Wharton. Adored this story. Set in the bleakness of snowy New England, the whole tale simmers with unspoken emotion. Brilliant!
9 The Outcast. Sadie Jones. Contains a wonderfully tragic, damaged main character in Lewis. Love the stiff-upper-lip Britishness of it. Fabulous!
10 The Go-Between. L P Hartley. A corker.
Thank you again, Lizzy. Wishing you loads of success for the future.