Can I have two? The books that have had the most inspiring and lasting impression on me were written by Mark Helprin and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. They both write so colourfully. Their styles are very different but they both have a tendency to spiral off along some wild tangent before snapping back to the story. I just love the untamed richness of their writing.
How did you develop your writing?
At first I only showed my short stories to a select few friends, and relied on their feedback. The problem with friends being that they don’t want to hurt your feelings of course, but overall they were a good gauge of how well-written a story was. Then I started posting them to small online communities and relying on their (more brutally honest) feedback, and also reading other stories. There’s an absolute ocean of talent swimming online, and I was blown away by some stories, which only made me want to up my game and hone this thing until I could write something like them. Then someone recommended a short creative writing course near me, and I took it. They were impressed with my stories and told me to write a novel – thankfully the course was geared toward novel-writing, so I took all that I learned and ran with it.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
A lot of my stories came from dreams. Everything is so fluid there, it’s just a world of ideas and pure feeling, and somehow that makes a story more clear and solid when I wake. Something felt so strongly needs to be unleashed, and it’s especially potent when combined with intense feelings from waking life. Both of my novels and some of my best dream-stories were written after my mother died, while the trauma of being with her at the end was still strong. It’s important to experience things to their fullest, without hiding from them, no matter how unpleasant, and channelling that into writing is a productive way of dealing with things that would otherwise be overwhelming. Not to say that all my inspiration is from horrific life events, or that I see bad things as an opportunity, but for me, writing is more about feelings than ideas. Anything inside me that’s fierce enough can be transmuted into its own idea and used as fuel for inspiration.
Do you find it hard to share your work?
In the digital age there seem to be many writers like me, who will show their writing to hundreds of complete strangers online but refuse to let anyone in “real” life see it. When I attended a short creative writing course, I took my stories but asked someone else to read them, I was so shy about them. I don’t even tend to mention what I’ve written or what I’m working on to my family or most of my friends. There’s something intensely vulnerable about finally exorcising something very personal onto paper and then watching people peer into you that way. It’s easier to post it online and not have to look anyone in the eye when they give out feedback.
Do you plan to publish more books?
Definitely. If I could, I’d like to churn out a new novel every year. They’d be the bricks and short stories would be the mortar. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to be that prolific at the moment, but another novel and a possible short story collection are in the works already.
What else do you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full time…
I actually work full-time as a web programmer, expanding and maintaining a big back-office system and client database for a medium-sized company. I get to work from home, but it’s still frustrating to have eight hours of the day taken away, it leaves very little room to settle down and just write. The upside is people think I’m clever when I tell them what I do.
What other jobs have you had in your life?
I started out as an early-morning cleaner in a local bookshop. I actually enjoyed it, as I was largely ignored and left to read books and magazines whilst vacuuming the floor. It’s also where I discovered Neil Gaiman via his Sandman stories, so I have only good memories of the place.
If you could study any subject at university what would you pick?
I think I’d actually pick one of the sciences, either maths or physics. I’d love to work on the cutting edge of something, inventing, creating new things and pushing boundaries. I once approached my physics tutor when I was studying for my end-of-school exams, and showed him a schematic I’d drawn up for an ion drive, and he said he’d never seen anything like it before. In retrospect, that probably said more about him than me, since ion thrusters had already been used by NASA for decades based on the very principles I’d “invented”, but I still maintain that almost-inventing one at age 15 wasn’t bad going.
September, 2013: When the summer ended, so did the world.
Staggering under a volley of meteorite hits, cities the world over are evacuated by the military as violent earthquakes, floods, storms and fires rage across the planet.
The journey unfolds through the jaded yet childlike eyes of Silas Stanley, a recently escaped psychiatric patient who must travel hundreds of miles across a devastated Britain to find his dying daughter before the world ends. Through ruined and deserted cities, flooded countryside and burning fields, Silas makes his way from an evacuated London all the way to his old home town in the Lake District, all the while startled and amazed by the world around him. En route he must avoid the strict martial law that is in force, and steer clear of the huge nuclear explosions being set off by the military in a last-ditch attempt to correct the earth’s faltering orbit.
On a world knocked off course and brought to its knees, love for his family finally forces Silas to face the enormity of his own past with just as much bravery as his uncertain future.
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Genre - Apocalyptic fiction
Rating – PG