What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you?
I began my writing career twenty-five years ago at a newspaper. I started out as a proof-reader and worked my way up to page editing and reporting. I later became a journalist for an international non-profit organisation. I also wrote advertising.
At the newspaper, I learned how to build a convincing story out of sentences and paragraphs; the importance of a hook, of story flow and logical, smooth transitions between ideas. Advertising taught me how to write in a compelling way with simple, sexy words. I also came to understand the importance of being concise, of selling an idea in a playful, convincing manner that teases or lures the reader. I learned discipline and speed in both jobs but the best lesson I received was not to be precious about my text. There is always another and probably better way to put something in words.
When I gave up writing commercially to focus on novels, it was as if I had sprouted wings. For years I had been writing for other people, compromising content and quality according to project or client requirements. Suddenly, I could write anything I wanted, create people and histories, make up anything, play and experiment. It was magic. Ideas and words poured out of me. Of course, I had to edit it all like hell later but that first year as a novelist was an awakening.
How often do you write? And how do you manage to fit in writing among other commitments?
I write every day. I get up early and get stuck in. I do my best work before 9 am. Those early hours are gold. They are when I produce my most original ideas and focused text. I continue to write and edit throughout the day but it is the hours between 6 and 9 am that mean the most. Right now, I am a full-time novelist and thankfully don’t have to do other ‘work’.
In which genre do you most enjoy writing?
I write comic fiction. I think humour is a wonderful vehicle for carrying the reader over the rough terrain of a novel. There’s always something serious going on in my books alongside the funny business. My first novel, ‘Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar’, is about a young gay man in small-town Tasmania. We follow Julian as he encounters rejection from his father and physical threats at school and in the workplace. This is all quite serious stuff but the book is, if you believe the critics, laugh-out-loud funny. Julian is a liar and an endearing buffoon.
What draws you to write in that genre?
I come from a large family. They’re all storytellers with a love of the absurd. From an early age, I learned the importance of a punch line. In my family, if you were going to tell a story or a joke, you had to make it compelling and you had to leave the listeners enthralled. My siblings were brutal critics. They still are, the buggers. So it was natural for me to write with humour, to use it as a sweetener, a lure and a reward for the reader. I love to entertain people and was a dreadful show-off as a child. Now I do it in print. I get a genuine thrill when readers tell me that they love my work. A reader review can move me more than a press review. It’s so immediate and personal. I had one man track me down on Facebook to tell me that he’d never read a book in his life before ‘Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar’. He loved it.
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
I am working on my third novel, tentatively titled ‘The Enigma of Don Cheeseman’. I say ‘tentatively’ because I’ve just come up with another title that might work better. I’ll decide on the title according to how the story unfolds. I am working on the third draft but the main character is still playing fast and loose with me. They do that, characters. You start out with an idea for the book you’re going to write and as you put it down on paper the characters have ideas of their own. I do work to a detailed outline but I also allow myself to try out new possibilities, to experiment, to play.
‘Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar’ is currently in pre-production as a feature film. I’ve just read the screenplay written by screenwriter/director Mark Herman (‘The Boy in Striped Pyjamas’, ‘Brassed Off’) and am thrilled. The producers are Sarah Radclyffe (‘My Beautiful Laundrette, ‘The Edge of Love’) and Marian Mcgowan (‘Two Hands’, ‘South Solitary’). It’s going to be a cracker.
What are your writing plans for the future?
I would like to keep writing novels that bring some thought and a little sunshine into people’s lives. I’ve also just finished writing a sitcom script with a well-known British comedian. It was exciting to do something so different. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of learning a new skill. It’s an experience I might just do again.
Where can people find out more about you?
I’m also quite often to be heard on BBC London radio.