Interview – Palatinate

There are those who might or might not see the city of Durham and its University reflected in the pages of Bug. I couldn’t possibly say, of course. However after a wonderful launch in November of the book at Durham’s St Mary’s College (where I worked), the Durham student magazine Palatinate interviewed me about writing. Here’s a part of what’s just been published.

What do you think are the first steps to becoming a writer?
Don’t get it right, get it written (after James Thurber). The most extraordinary things come out of your subconscious. I think it’s about allowing yourself to write from your emotions and your gut, and not write what you think you ought to write. Writing from the gut meant that I would be sitting at my laptop and suddenly I would realise ‘is that what was happening, that makes complete sense!’ – it happened all the time with BUG. Because I myself must be on a journey as the writer, I must be on a voyage of discovery as well, letting the story emerge organically. If you try to manipulate it, it doesn’t work. It has to flow.

For the rest, go to:

Orkney novel excerpt

Here’s an excerpt from my second novel, very much a work in progress. 

Something shifted, as if the needle of a record player had jumped from one groove to another, changing the music to a mournful lament. She hadn’t yet learned to read the signs, but she felt the tiny alteration in the direction of the wind and saw the subtle change in the intensity of the light. Afterwards, when she remembered, the sensations were so vivid that it seemed that there was something more than her memory at work, as if her brain had saved a movie film, and once the switch was turned, all she had to do was to close her eyes and watch it happen.

A summer night and a breeze from the south wrinkles the sea. The water is silver, like molten metal, and above, dark clouds move steadily across a pale sky. Across the Sound the neighbouring island is silhouetted against a shimmer of pink; a luminous halo, the colour radiates from behind the farmhouse. Four cattle on the crest of the hill are like shadow puppets. In single file they float just above the skyline. A flock of oystercatchers screech their warning call. The eider and his mate set sail, pretending indifference. There is the grating sound of a boat being dragged up the slipway.

Some force propelled it into her room, and at the time there was no indication of the struggles ahead. If she had known then what she knew later, she would have made more of an effort to avoid that first meeting.
‘I should have guessed,’ she would scold herself. ‘What child of seven accepts the sudden arrival of Death like an old playmate. I was completely fearless, I should have guessed.’

There was a strange shadow on the wall. She wondered if the dog had crept into the house from its kennel and jumped on to her bed, but even half-asleep she knew that it felt strange. She wriggled down under the covers and pushed with her feet. Something moved. It was solid but somehow also weightless.