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Let It Burn

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Pam watched the dorm burn. She stood with the crowd of onlookers, phones and tablets held up to capture how the flames licked at the windows, vomiting black smoke, thick from the feast of plastic it had found in every room.

Theresa came over, weeping in a way which Pam found unsightly. The histrionics of someone who saw the world through a filter of utter solipsism. She reached out her thin arms and threw herself into Pam’s arms.

Pam patted Theresa between her shoulder blades, perfunctory gestures interpreted as awkwardness but were about her distaste for physical contact. Pam had built herself an ideology which avoided the messy business of sex through a seething bolus of gender variations. The likes of Theresa challenged her but tonight her drama would prove useful.

‘Who’s done this?’ Theresa said.

She devolved into a series of wet, rough brays before Pam shushed her and kept on patting her back as though it meant anything.

Pam watched the crowd. A news van had parked at the end of the row and she turned Theresa around without speaking. Theresa sniffed and wiped her face.

The Dean of Students, bleary-eyed and grimacing made his way through the crowds. His silver hair stuck up from his head in soft tufts like dandelions, which offset the melancholy raptor features of his face, furrows from a perpetual frown and thin, pale lips. He taught American Literature before accepting the Dean’s position and Pam imagined he would press lots of old white authors upon them. He had changed into a white shirt and sweater, smelled of cologne as he saw her.

‘An absolute tragedy, Pam. I’m so sorry.’

Pam collected apologies from authority figures. This one was not up to the standards of the soft drink manufacturer or the best-selling author of the young adult trilogy but it was a good start.

‘Thank you, Dean. I have prepared a statement.’ Pam said.

He frowned and looked around him.

‘The fire’s not even out, Pam. Give yourself time to process this.’ he said.

Pam’s lips drew back over her teeth before she caught herself. She pushed Theresa aside.

‘Acts like this demand an immediate response.’ she said.

She had practiced it in the mirror, perfected the lift of the chin and the slight turn of profile.

The dean sighed and gave a short, terse nod.

‘But I would argue the use of the word act. It has connotations.’ he said.

Pam pointed to the blazing dorm, fighting the urge to give into her emotions, not from fearing their impact but because it was too early.

No one was watching.

‘The only connotations I see is an old white man playing down an act of ethno-gender terrorism.’

Pam enjoyed how he shuddered.

‘Now I think you should -‘

Pam’s heart leapt in her chest, higher than the flames in the dorm room.

‘You think, Dean. What should I think?’ she said

She raised her voice. People turned, their phones already ahead of them.

The news camera pointed at her. Its lens was a shining white disc, a medal for her sacrifice.

She started into her monologue. The firemen in the background added just the right note of disaster to proceedings. Her face was lit from within, eyes aflame with self-righteousness and the joy of wounded victimhood. In the weeks afterwards, she watched it a hundred times.

Protest footage with clusters of students marching and holding placards.

Aggressive scenes in the library, earphones snatched from ears and snarling challenges into the pinched faces of other students.

An investigation. The arrest.

Her trial.

Pam in orange prison clothes, her face slack with acceptance.

When the dean collapsed with a heart attack, Pam would have celebrated but she was too busy fighting off a bull who wanted to get romantic without having to memorise Pam’s preferred pronouns during pillow talk.

Before sleep, she remembered the orange glow of the flames and the desire to stay and watch it burn away her privilege..

The memory kept her warm. Whether there was enough to see her through ten years remained unknown.


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Cycles of Ambition

Louise slid the envelope into the mailbox outside the town hall, surging with triumph before walking inside. Her appearance was no accident, the smart, glamorous appearance offering a great deal but promising nothing. Her makeup was war paint and she thought of herself as someone determined to advance her position by any means necessary.

The paperwork was the last feint in the duel. A hasty gathering of signatures to support her candidacy and even that was not without its difficulties. David had taken his time in deciding, putting up a litany of excuses but Louise had circumvented that by studying the gestalt of his signature and signing his name. She trusted in the ambition that had taken her from intern to candidate and used that velocity to power her upwards.

It was better to ask forgiveness than permission.

She caught her reflection, pleased with her appearance. Pretty but not soft, which meant that the right people wanted her but were afraid to cross that boundary by virtue of a single hard stare. She could take or leave sex, but power or the chance to grasp it, made her shudder with a deep and profound want.

She walked up the stairs to the town hall, hoping to catch Nigel or Paul around to share her good news. The clip of her heels on the stairs was pleasing to her, a warning that real power was entering the premises. The future held the warmth of sunlight on bare skin, and she was pleased to accept its burdens.

‘You’ve done it already, haven’t you?’

The voice was a broken, mechanical wheeze, too many cigarettes and screams for too long. Louise blinked in shock as the woman came towards her. Her hair was a fallen angel’s halo of white roots and poorly applied dye. Her face was disfigured with a thick, gelid scar along her jawline and a left eyelid that drooped like it had fallen asleep on duty. She carried the thick, condensed odour of unwashed flesh and sour milk. She wore a faded grey t-shirt and jeans that hung too low, revealing a fringe of wrinkled, off white stomach.

Louise grimaced and looked around for assistance.

‘Please Lou, have you sent it in?’

Louise looked at the other woman and realised she was not another at all.

Older yes, but beaten with the club of hard years and missed opportunities until what stood in front of her was an insult made tangible.

‘Oh fuck off, you can’t be me.’ Louise said.

Louise held no truck with weakness and here, was its avatar wearing some of her features like hunter’s trophies.

The elder version cackled with bitterness and put her hands in front of her. Louise noted the yellowed nails, packed with dirt.

‘No, it’s me. I mean you. Just tell me you’ve not sent the paperwork in. Or at least that you didn’t forge the signatures. Please?’

Louise’s skin rose in gooseflesh, she darted her expression around to make sure no one was in earshot. Voices travelled in the town hall, and someone was always listening. She sneered and swallowed the knob of nausea that was stuck at the back of her throat.

This could not possibly be her. She would never have let herself look that bad.

The older woman smiled and revealed an abandoned graveyard of teeth.

‘You stupid bitch. You have, haven’t you?.’

Louise started to back away, holding onto the polished oak banister for support as her world collapsed in on itself.

‘David had no idea. They won’t check.’ she said.

Louise heard the pleading in her voice and hated herself for it. She wanted to ask who this version of her was, where she had come from, what she could pass back to her.

‘They will when David and the others tell them you faked their signatures, you stupid cunt.’

The girl from the Barracks was never that far from the surface and she pushed forward, steeling herself against the barrage of foul, bacteria-strewn breath that peeled a layer of skin from her face.

‘No, this is bollocks. I don’t know you are but -‘

The woman’s arms shot up, clamped onto Louise’s shoulders and she smiled in a way that suggested pity and beneath that, a terrible and complete madness.

‘No, and unless I fix it, you will know me. Every time you look in the mirror.’

She shoved Louise hard and she toppled backwards. The back of her head hit the lip of the stairs with a wet crack that was loud in the solemn air of the town hall. A final riot of her broken brain revealed the woman standing over her, already beginning to fade into translucence.

‘It’s better this way, love. We can always try again.’

The world went away and Louise, thwarted and confused, went along with it.

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Writing Update

I finished the second draft of Lawful Evil yesterday. 435 pages. 79,904 words. It is not finished in the respect that it will need another draft or two before I am happy with it, if I ever am. The more that I learn, the more nuanced my appreciation is and so I drive myself a little harder each time out. The process allows me to gain courage and reach further for each new piece. It is a mixture of relief and regret to finish a project, and from there, where to go next.

I cannot control whether a publisher will pick up a submission but what I can control is the quality and depth of the work I do. If I study, practice, commit to the work then I know that I am doing all that I can and taking pleasure in it. I love what I do, and have written with that in mind. I do not wait for inspiration but keep working until she shows up, and enjoy the look of surprise that I have things to show her.

So next up is either starting the second draft of Stranger Lights or an entirely new piece that I have percolating called YOU KNOW WHO WE ARE. I believe in remaining productive and present with my craft, and sometimes it is not about finding an idea for a book or story but which one to choose from. It is the same with the short fiction and poetry, all sourced from within me, reflecting thoughts and feelings at any given time and not always presented here. Chris Rock characterised the difference between a job and a career as there never being enough time for the latter, which is true for me.

I have a process and an approach that works for me, which is why I seldom give writing advice. There are no shortcuts for you as an individual artist, even if you take on every single piece of wisdom offered to you. Life throws up external and internal obstacles to us all, and it is how we negotiate them that defines us. I am not pretentious about what I do, proud and dedicated to it, yes but the same approach applies to a lot of things in my life. Discipline, focus and passion underlying the principle of it being about the work and what it offers rather than me. I call it my purpose because it is, and the more that I have aligned my life around it, the happier I have become.

Thank you for reading this, your likes and comments are important to me as they let me know that someone is reading my work and relating to it. I work towards the point where there are tangible pieces of my work in the world for you to buy and share, and when that point comes, you will be the first to know.



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The train sat, a dying king over a ruined kingdom, scarred with a million journeys and covered in a mosaic of graffiti, each one the manifestation of a singular intention.

Mostly to be seen, but other intentions were captured there.

Now, look at this one. Looks like it was done for practice, but if you see the lines here and how they converge into those curlicues, you’re actually looking at something far more interesting.

No, don’t touch it. Trust me.

There are roughly sixty-three thousand homeless people in New York. A chunk of them are families, which always makes me call bullshit on the idea that people choose to be there. There are those who see it as an opportunity, their own self-interest merging with the pretense of indignity and finding a mutual benefit.

It isn’t hiding out on a tropical island, or a bunch of papers with your face but not your name. It is however, one of the most effective ways for someone to disappear and remain that way.

So, this my padawan, is the work of Veronica Imogen Cathcart. She had eighty million dollars in offshore trusts but chose to live on the streets. She framed it in the context of a ritual sacrifice when Odin hung upside down from the tree to gain hidden wisdom. It was mostly for the shock value though when some testosterone flushed asshole tried to intimidate her and she would give him a verbose tongue lashing or deliver a curse in fluent Enochian that would send him straight to the psych ward. She owned a lot of the streets she slept on.

Now, this one next to it is interesting.

It is a ward designed to counteract the effects of Vic’s strike. That is reflected in the interlocking colours used. Someone had studied the impact of astrology, which the consensus determines as bullshit, but there’s power in it, so they made this at roughly four am on March 31st. Aries. So it’s designed to push back against whatever’s sent against it.

Now let’s go back to Vic’s work?

Yeah, Vic. Not in Victoria, but in her initials. Veronica Imogen Cathcart.

So look at it again, defined by what opposes it. It is not a collection of lines and curlicues; it is a statement of will. Intention focused into a single point and then driven.


Straight into someone’s heart.

Now the ram here is the work of Pyotr Davidovitch. It wasn’t his real name, anymore than Vic’s was. You never reveal your true name to anyone you’re unsure of. It’s like giving your heart over to someone who is careless with it. Or cruel.

Yeah, six months now. Why do you ask?

Ah, smart ass here. Excellent, means I won’t have to explain the dry stuff.

Now duels like this and it was a duel, conducted with the dry familiarity of ritual have to be carried out in secret. You know how people like that English kid with the glasses and the scar, expelli-something? Yeah, now those people, if it was explained to them that there was an entire school of physics with real world, tangible applications, they would be screaming in the streets.

Stake burning.


You’re with me so far? Now, that lends us all a kind of power. Power is not money in the bank or property, or influence. It is the ability to move, to make decisions without considering their impact. It is about the ability to impose your will however you see fit.

Add that to the things that we already know how to do.

Now see why some people choose to live off the grid entirely?

Ugh, no. I like Netflix and a good wireless connection. I like restaurants and shoes without holes in them too much to pursue that path. I do pretty well with what I have.

Pyotr and Vic were too much alike to see how they were reflected in one another. When siblings fight, normally it’s sort of pathetic.

It’s sad, really. They really did bring out the worst in one another.

So, you’re thinking, it was over money?

No. It was about a book. Of all things, a fucking book.

It was translated from the Sumerian tablets by an entire monastery in Bruges. Once it was complete, two things happened to it.

One it was bound and covered with the skin of the last monk to translate it. It was sent to the patron who commissioned it after it had been cured and tanned to the consistency of leather.

Once word had been received, then every single person in the monastery committed suicide.

Now, who wouldn’t want a book like that, huh? Dangerous equals powerful.

Pyotr got word of its arrival in the US first, started bidding for it with his share of the family money. Vic got wind of it, initially concerned at what her accountant told her.

Yeah, I know. Imagine the amount of air freshener she had to use afterwards. Probably put another hole in the ozone layer.

Then she started to bid for the book herself. They had words. Not a conversation because these words were vandals at play in the physical world. Their arguments broke windows and set off car alarms eight blocks away.

Nothing was resolved and both of them continued to bid for the book.

Then Vic sent an elemental to steal it. Pyotr banished it and took the book for himself.

He would have said it was his plan.

Which was when Vic challenged him to a duel. WIth the prize being the book.

The loser, well you figure it out.

It went on for five years. Some people think it might have contributed to the financial meltdown, all that back and forth fucking with bystanders on a psychic level. Prescriptions of anti-depressants went up twenty percent and the crime rate soared in any area that their work featured.

So, these are marks of a personal, bitter war between two people who shared blood with one another.

Now, it’s inside that we see the final outcome.

Yeah, no matter what they use, the smell never really goes away.

That stain there, looks like an oversized Rorschach blot?


That might look like someone spilt a quart of crude on the floor there, but if I told you that said stain was worth eighty million dollars, you would nod and agree, yes?


They met here, having grown frustrated with the perfect interdependence of their magic and their antipathy towards one another. They would have had tattoos made, I think, judging by the force of the respective blows.

Sad, isn’t it?

The book? It’s not that exciting. Would probably make a good movie if you got the right director. Guillermo Del Toro or Nicholas Winding Refn.

Now, let’s take photographs and bounce.

Photographs? Yes, because we are going to use these for our own purposes.

It’s an election soon.

(Thank you for reading this far. Please like and comment)



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Trials lie in wait

On every corner

I hold within

A spark of purpose

I am earth, air, fire, water

And all things

Within it


By anything

Beyond will

And purpose.

Each quiet hour

Before dawn

Pen makes

Love to paper

Fingers seduce

The keyboard

If you would

Find me anywhere




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So often
Tattered rags
Costumes worn
To uninvited parties
Disguised as
Nonsense spoken
With solemn expressions
Is not eloquence
And there are those
Who call for no
Power from
Fear of acknowledging
Their own powerlessness
But I have
Found my dominion
A battle within myself
A purpose.
A path
The struggle
Is only in
With who I
Was yesterday
Always training
To defeat
The man of tomorrow
And you’re welcome
Only if you
Understand the path
Leads further than you
Might have the strength
But you’re welcome
To keep up
And in the pauses
When my attention
Turns to you
Ravishing you
With the force of
My self
A man about
his purpose
A beast of
The field
Who knows what
You want
And within that
Gives it
Until you’ve
Been broken
Beneath it
Beautiful in surrendered

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Always striving

Never complete

I make art

In so many ways

With a focus

That robs you of breath

If you let yourself 

Consider what it is

That you might

Be it’s inspiration

Come to me

Every ounce of courage

Hold nothing back

You might settle

Out of fear

But here in unknown territory

You might find

Beauty marks your soul

When seen through my eyes

And you will be a stronger

More passionate woman

For the experience

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Two Pages (05/11/16)


I shifted to a lower gear this morning, five pages against the previous sessions of ten, although I might get back into it this evening.  I’m now into the second act, which is where I really start to put my protagonist through the wringer. We test our characters because in adversity, we find out who they are.

You can get away with any number of sins, if you avoid boring the reader. I read a great deal, and if I find myself starting to drift into the dance of my words, I take a step back and look at the grid, see if there’s something missing that can drive it forward. When I used to write from a single idea, then I would, if stuck, look back and see if there was something unresolved that can generate tension in the work.

So, I’m 54 pages into Strange Lights now, and it’s a challenge, a balancing act between trying to capture what I like about the culture and aesthetics without it feeling too blunt and curated. It’s fiction, not based in anything other than an idea about the culture, allied to a strong story. I hope. We can never tell whether anything we’ve written is any good.

I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s short fiction books, which is always an education and a revelation. There’s fantastic imagery and ideas, but they’re always welded to a knowing, melancholy awareness of people. I’ve said before that in terms of fiction, monster can be metaphor, and Gaiman does that better than a lot of other writers in the genre.

I’ve got another collection of Joyce Carol Oates to enjoy, and a bunch of fiction to plough through. After Pynchon, everything feels faster than normal, but I will ramp up my interest. I read so often because it feeds the writing, grants a courage and eloquence that can easily get lost in the focus on task. I haven’t heard back from the agent about Until She Sings but as soon as I do, I will let people know. I’m ahead of the curve in terms of my workload but that’s part of my whole approach, to have work to show people who are interested in it. I work at my own pace, but it’s constant and consistent.

Thank you for reading.



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Just Like A Pill


Pooh, Tate’s cousin sat in the oversized chair lighting cooking matches and dropping them into the glass of beer. He glared at Tate and I sat on the couch, tried to look small. He kept the roll of notes turning in his hand, flexing his fingers as he fought the nerves, chemical and real that whipped through him.

Dogs barking in another part of the house. A rotten monastery to a god made of chemicals. If we made the deal, then we would be high priests in the church. Tate would be talking it up, but I knew the chemistry.

‘So, it’s not even illegal.’

Pooh pretended to be dumb but he had left school with a masters in business studies, decided that there was money to be made in the game now. He liked to play gangster, and out here, he could. It was supposed to be a good place, but you could do bad things here and get away with it.

Make good things, too.

Tate nodded, the adam’s apple in his throat bobbing in a mechanical loop as he reached slowly into his leather jacket. It had been one of the first things that made me ache for him, that and the shy little smile that he gave me when no one was looking. There was something terrible about the effect he had on me. I understood it, the uptakes and inhibitors, how my entire world would be descended upon by imaginary storms of experience, created by my neurology and chemistry. To know it was one thing, but to experience it was quite another.

I worked with the printer, from blueprints that I drew up myself. I got the inks from the lab, and I wrote everything down then put it up, had a swarm of people from Alaska to Zimbabwe working out the kinks and sharing it until we almost got religious with it. Pia perfected MDMA and sent the blueprints to MAPS. We were helping people.

Out here though, Tate and I needed money. The patreon was doing okay, but we gave as much as we got, most of it on inks when I needed more quantities than I could steal. We told people we were buying a house which was true.

Bisbee was a long way, away. Some nights, when I couldn’t sleep, I would go downstairs, look out the window and whisper it to the night. Tate would come over and we would quietly fuck on the couch then we would talk about the simple life we would have. Keeping chickens, fresh eggs every morning and sitting on our own porch. Practicing to get old while we were young enough to enjoy it. The technology came to us, and we did what poor, bright people did with it.

We were making the best of it.

‘An’ I’m buying, what, a blueprint.’

He spoke through his nose, thought it made him sound like B-Real but he’d been part of the debate club, you know. It was embarrassing but he had started to get a little too into the cartoon. So. I decided to move things along as Tate clearly had not grasped the urgency of this. I loved him, but come on, you know?

‘If you give us money, then we give you the blueprint, and in addition, we give you money to buy the inks that you need-‘

Tate pointed to me and nodded enthusiastically.

‘So then you cut us in for what you make off it.’

Pooh sneered and blinked heavily, whatever he was doing clearly had started to kill off things that you didn’t really want dead.

I should have gone to college. This town though, hell when you’re smart and it’s a wasteland to cross to get to college now. Strange thing was, people were disappearing, taking their 3DPs with them, able to print off whatever they needed. Tools, food, and if you were careful, solar panels. America was going from being a place to a dream again. We really didn’t need one another, anymore.

Pooh clicked his fingers, gestured towards himself and clapped his hands.

‘I have to try it first, yo.’

I took out the bottle, we found a bunch of them when we cleaned out my mom’s private bathroom after she’d gone. We had put out testers, had our protected twitter feed blow up with requests, and not all of them spam. It was God in pill form, and if he started putting it out, he would be rich and, hopefully so would we.

I tossed it to him, he popped the lid off and poured it out. One 8mg pill would introduce him to the experience I had been created.

We sat there, looking around the room and beginning to smile in a lazy, easy way. It didn’t take long. He stared into space, breathing hard as he orgasmed in his underwear, young and perfect, all the systems waking up and turning your body into an aerial for the signal of the universe.

We called it L’Esprit De’scalier.

He asked someone to get him water. That was all, though until he drank it down in a single gulp and passed the glass back, even said thank you.

‘How much do you have?’


I handed over the cash, held in my Hello Kitty backpack and Pooh took it from me, opening it up and starting to count it. Tate grinned at me, with shiny teeth and eyes that darted around the room like the thoughts in his head had started to riot inside the prison of his skull.

‘It’s all there, Pooh.’

I shot a Tate a look of pure ‘shut the fuck up.’ but Pooh sat there, lost to the storm of chemical enlightenment. Pooh nodded and put the backpack down at his feet. No one spoke, and outside, we heard the faint wail of sirens and the pop of gunfire. I wanted to be away from here, so badly that I could taste it. We had done it, no need to stay and shoot the shit anymore. Pooh had taken the Pepsi challenge, and liked the taste.

‘So, we’re good?’ I said.

I spoke slowly, to hide the fear in my voice. Pooh grimaced and put his palm against the temple. Tate asked him if he was okay and he shook his head. When he looked up, there were tears streaming down his face and his lips were pulled back over his teeth, a predator suddenly afflicted with the worst handicap that a street hustler couldn’t abide.


Tate asked him if he was okay. I went to get to my feet but my legs didn’t work, my endocrinology going into panic mode. Pooh made his hand into a fist and punched himself hard in the temple, openly sobbing now. Tate reached for his cousin and tried to comfort him.

Pooh had gone into the third stage, and kept punching himself in the temple, over and over, pushing Tate away with the other hand.

‘I’ve been bad.’ Punch.

‘I’ve been bad.’ Punch.

I said Tate’s name but he ignored me.

Pooh wasn’t one to spend any amount of time alone. He ran the business along the lines of a frathouse and his brothers would be back soon. I knew how they’d react to this, and it wouldn’t be good for either of us.

I stood up, and watched them both. I started to reach for Tate, to pull him away, knowing that Pooh was stuck into this psychoactive loop for another hour or so. Or until he’d punched himself into a coma. Neither of which were options that you wanted to discuss with a concerned group of white trash with guns.

‘Come on, man. We can’t be here.’

He looked over his shoulder and hissed at me.

‘Fuck, girl, he’s my cousin. I can’t just leave him.’

What I loved about chemistry was the logic to it. The study of action and reaction, all available and yet open to mystery. I took a step from myself and appraised the situation with the same care that I typed in code to the printer.

I put my hand on his shoulder but he shoved me away. In his efforts to comfort Pooh, the backpack was kicked in front of my feet. I looked at it, worked out that it was enough to get me out of town. 

I picked it up and Tate didn’t even look back at me. Pooh was wailing now, a baby without a nipple to feed on and I heard the thump of amplified bass coming down the street. Three Six Mafia or something, and it disturbed me that I still picked up on things like that.

Outside, the night air was thick and I darted across the overgrown lawn, in the opposite direction as the car, trusting to the broken street lighting to render me indistinct.

When I heard the shouts, I picked up my pace.

When I heard the scream, I started to run.

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Two Pages (28/10/16)



I am making good progress on the new book. It took a little adjustment but the changes in setting and language have allowed me to develop in ways that surprised me this morning. It is a balance between serving the story, avoiding cliche and not doing service to the culture that I am using to give colour and texture to the story.

Fortunately, I know where I am going with this, and although there is room for exploration, which I always allow myself in order to give a maximum amount of expression to the work, the path is clear and I walk it each day, two pages at a time. I know that I am wilfully vague about the details, but it’s been my experience, that if I tell you what it’s about, then I lose the incentive to write it.

It is important that the work I do, reflects the influences and person that I am at that particular point. The amount of reading I do influences the quality of it. I do not plagiarise, because it is pointless and too easy. I feed off the reading that I do, see how a particular writer goes about achieving an effect or works out a sequence and then look at it in the context of my own writing. The old maxim of ‘write what you know’ is oft-discussed and misinterpreted, it can be an effective block of the creative impulse but I think that it’s a nuanced discussion.  I write whatever is in me at the time, about the things that can sustain interest for an entire book. I know who I write for, and that allows me to focus on the simple act of turning up each day and doing it.

Thank you for reading.