What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you?
I began writing about twenty years ago. I don’t recall being inspired to write at all. A relationship had ended and I was devastated. I remember sitting at home in my front room feeling so awful that I could have howled like an animal and just scribbling lines on a piece of paper. Not with any thought of it being proper writing, just to relieve the pain. I think my dark days of writing lasted the best part of a year during which time I produced some vicious, malicious and unpublishable poems. I then joined a creative writing class in north London, began to recover and realised that I’d found something that I enjoyed and was quite good at!
How often do you write? And how do you manage to fit in writing among other commitments?
I write something most days, even if it’s just a series of thoughts that I think could be developed further. Writing is my full time, poorly paid but generally highly enjoyable job. My ‘other commitments’ are performing stand-up comedy and running creative writing workshops. Particularly the stand-up can often feed into the fiction I’m working on at the time and vice versa. If I’m not gigging or seeing friends I write in the evening. When working to a deadline I don’t care how late I work or how early I start, I’ll sit at my computer till it’s done.
In which genre do you most enjoy writing?
From a genre point of view, I am associated with comic fiction. However I just enjoy writing and it doesn’t have to be funny at all. As a child I had to listen to my mother for hours at a time every day so I’m a good and interested listener. If something in what I hear stands out, throws up a question for me, makes me curious, I’m often prompted to work it out via fiction. For instance, I’ve written masses about my neighbour, Les – ranging from funny, through affectionate to malevolent. I allow myself to be much darker when writing short stories but my novels and articles I hope, have a strong comic base.
What draws you to write in that genre?
My paternal grandmother, my father, my brother and I, were all funny, but possibly not as funny as we thought ourselves. When I initially began to take writing seriously, I had the idea that I wanted to turn my back on trying to make people laugh. Because that quality had been with me since childhood, it didn’t seem as if I would be doing ‘proper writing’. It would be more like taking the easy option.
After a couple of years concentrating on doom, death and despondency, a friend said, ‘Your unique selling point is being funny.’ This friend was always rattling on about unique selling points, crunching numbers and smelling coffee so initially I ignored her. However, her words did have an effect on me and eventually I came to respect my ability to amuse and consider myself fortunate.
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
I am working on my fifty novel, ‘Mr Oliver’. I began this book nearly twenty years ago, adding to it from time to time. For me, the extraordinary revelation is that leaving the manuscript to marinate has allowed me the chance to gain more insight into the behaviour and personalities of the characters, to develop them further and to have more sympathy with their various plights.
I also hope to continue to write articles for The Lady Magazine. I do about two a month and enjoy the rigour of getting humour, poignancy and some information into a thousand words.
What are your writing plans for the future?
I shall be writing and performing an hour-long show on three evenings at the Pink Fringe in Brighton in 2013 and also taking it to Edinburgh in the summer. It will be comedy, title as yet undecided.
I’d like to put together another short story collection which would include a rather dark novella but that may not be ready till the following year.
Where can people find out more about you?