I’m not someone who has always written fiction. Lots of successful writers are and I used to think that it was too late and I would never make up the lost ground. I have always been an avid reader and I’ve always wanted to write but writing a novel seemed like an impossible thing that happened to other people. In the end I decided to have a go as I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t try. I’ve managed to finish two books now so you’re in the same position as I was, I’d urge you to just sit down and do 500 words a day or whatever you can and keep going – getting to the end is the best feeling. I’m looking forward to reading your book!
I’ve always had a creative urge and I have tried a lot of things with mixed success, including painting, dressmaking and music - writing is definitely the best fit, though, and it feels the most like magic to me because you don’t need any special equipment or extra money. And you don’t have to be young or good-looking, which helps.
I have terminal wanderlust -- I want to do too many things all at once, such as different jobs and living in different places. Writing helps with that because in a small way you can experience lots of different things at the same time.
I try not to write too directly about my own life but another fun thing about writing is you can collect lots of little keepsakes - if you see something strange on the street or someone says something that catches your imagination, you can stash it away and stick it in a book in a different context. It’s a way to always remember it.
I also write for my day job as a freelance writer - writing about technology in smart cities as well as aerospace. I enjoy shaping stories there too on a smaller scale and meeting a wide range of different people. I find that in some ways the two jobs do inspire and inform each other. My day job is also another chance to exercise the writing muscle and be as concise and precise as possible.
If I wasn’t doing what I do now my dream job would be to write for TV, especially soaps. The pace and skill of keeping hold of all the historic threads is fascinating and I also think soaps have a fairly unique opportunity to tackle contemporary issues in a very timely way. I also really admire the work of people like Lynne Ramsey and Shane Meadows. In the future I hope to try and learn more about scriptwriting for TV/film (see note above on trying to do everything at once!).
When choosing plots and characters I try to mine for the things that really catch my fascination. In my first book, Reported Missing, this was what it’s like to be left behind when someone is missing and how you deal with loving someone who is accused of something unthinkable. In my second book, Her Best Friend, I wanted to explore our sometimes-uncomfortable interest in true crime (my own included), whether the ‘truth’ should always out and how the way we curate and frame the past can create many different versions of the same event. I am interested in the grey areas between guilt and innocence and how you move on, or don’t, from a flashpoint moment in your life. Other simmering obsessions include cults, satanic panic and plane crashes so watch this space.
I grew up in Yorkshire and I have lived in Newcastle for the past 15 years. I love to read and watch fiction with regional settings and my background strongly influences my writing. Non UK readers have reported sometimes being confused by some of the dialect in my books but I try to balance this with celebrating the things which make places unique and diverse.
So far, the fictional settings of my books – Shawmouth in Reported Missing and Conley in Her Best Friend have been inspired by real places but in the end are hybrids of lots of different locations. I don’t want to get bogged down in having to get the details of real places exactly right and I want to control the setting to best suit the story.
I am just getting started on my third book and I am working on some short stories. It doesn’t get less daunting and I still feel as much like I don’t know what I am doing as ever – if you’re an aspiring writer, don’t wait for everything to get lined up because it won’t. Just start. Good luck!