Monday, 10 October 2011


This actually is quite exciting for me. I don't know how writer/actors etc manage not to read reviews. How can they hold themselves back? I am way too self-preoccupied not to look, and this time it was okay. It's not as painful being reviewed for non fiction as it is for fiction in any case, you don't have that feeling of having pegged yourself naked to a washing line. But nevertheless, my overall reaction is a. Phew. And b. Gosh, really not too bad at all...

Here's the link:

And here is the cover... does what it says on the tin.

And that's quite enough shameless virtual self promotion to be going on with.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


A writer's weekend:

Cappuccinos consumed: 3.2

Large slices of carrot cake wolfed down: 0.87

Money handed over to teenage son: £10.00

Rows with teenage daughter: 1.6

Sections of  Saturday Guardian read: 0.003 (Pointless interview with Rob Brydon.)

Period spent in bed fully-dressed-in-deepest-gloom-and-despondency: 47 minutes.

Idea for killer thriller plot - one.


Friday, 7 October 2011


A writer's life... arguing with teenage partyperson. Needs beer, space, hair conditioner. Refusing taxi, prefers to teeter past street drinkers carrying her stash of Carlsberg.

So much more wholesome in my day, Number Eights and Strongbow.

Thursday, 6 October 2011


When I got my first book published, I thought that I would now be be living The Writing Life. This had something to do with being languid and bourgeois, I felt, ascending to a higher plane than that which I had previously occupied. (And which involved scraping yogurt off small children, watching X factor, wearing dodgy leggings etc.) I'd be the parallel version of myself that had never seen the light of day before, the one that didn't get The Worst Perm in the School in 1977, the one that went to Cambridge, not Goldsmiths, the one that dated Hugh Grant, not some bloke from Halifax who ended up being a racing tipster. And so on.

This proved not to be the case. My life as a reasonably crap person carried on, reasonably uninterrupted. I still wadged about in a horrible dressing gown, read Hallo magazine in the queue at Sainsbury's, still knew far too much about celebrity cellulite. And my eyes still glazed over when I tried to read the works of Proust, Dostoevsky or Paul Auster.

This seemed wrong at first. When was I going to turn into Edna O'Brien? But of course this was extremely naive. Ms O'Brien would have been beautiful and fragrant whatever career path she had chosen, and it is my fate to a lower middle class person from the middle of England with appalling eyesight and fairly average levels of charisma.

And that is fine - as long as someone publishes my goddam novels...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


How do you become a writer?  You write, of course. But how much? And how often? And what kind of writing does a writer write? Shopping lists? Unsent letters? Mad rants? Weird, unpublishable musings? Oddments of anorakish research, of interest to one man and his dog? All of the above, of course. There is no good writing without bad writing. Bad writing is essential. Bad writing is raw material. If you try and get it right first time, as if all the genius was just waiting to pour out, you will drive yourself crazy.

As for how often, every day is the answer. As for how much - if 500 words was good enough for Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene then 500 words is good enough for me....

Portrait by Anthony Palliser, from

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Doing Writing, Teaching and Learning sometimes seems like way, way too much, especially when Commuting and Early Starts are factored in. I spend a lot of my time on South West trains, out cold, mouth open, crossword akimbo. Really, really not a good look.

But on days like to today - sun shining, PhD novel out in the world, thesis humming along nicely... I feel almost like a proper writer. Still slept on the train, though, slumped over G2 like a mad lady.

Monday, 3 October 2011


Cheekily wondering how many people who voted for "Great Expectations" in the Guardian poll have actually read it, and how many are really thinking of the David Lean adaptation. Not that it's not a fantastic novel.... etc etc. Sometimes a book makes an impression in people's minds which is not the actual book, but a sort of facsimile of the book. And Pip bumping into Magwitch in the graveyard at the beginning of the Lean film could provide just such a facsimile. Not to mention Jean Simmons as Young Estella. Or Martita Hunt as cobwebby Miss Havisham. Just saying...

Sunday, 2 October 2011


One month before my new book is due to hit the book shops - that it, if any of them are still open in November. Will people want to read advice about How to be a Writer in the current dire market for fiction? Who knows. What strikes me as pretty ironic now is that it is full of apparently wise words about how to stay motivated and On It at all times, when in reality I am as jumpy as hell and prone to mood swings which would do a Red Bull fuelled teenager proud.

The writerly personality is NOT phlegmatic, patient or well adjusted. The writerly personality is weird, introspective and given to unleashing the power of its negativity. People don't write because they have words of wisdom to impart, or because they know any more than anyone else, or even because they are any better at writing, but because if they don't write they will go bonkers. By which I mean, slightly more bonkers than they already are.
And then comes the really weird bit... that you wouldn't exchange this state of being for anything.