What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you?
I don’t have a formal writing background at all really. I come from Hull, which isn’t known for its literary talents. I started writing at a very early age but I never told anyone. For some reason I was always quite ashamed that I held ambitions other than “Thou Shalt Work at Reckitts or Smith and Nephew”. I read a lot as a child and I was quite insular. I spent my teenage years in my loft scribbling prose rather than chasing girls and drinking cider. Then at the age of sixteen, within in the space of about two weeks, I bought Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh and The Holy Bible by The Manic Street Preachers. The way that both Welsh and the Manics lyricist, Richey Edwards, could use words to disturb and upset people appealed to me for some sadistic reason. Over the course of the next fifteen years, I would consume the works of George Orwell, JG Ballard, Nick Cave, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Tom Waits, Knut Hamsun and Cormac McCarthy. My favourite author of all time is Charles Bukowski, and the one single book that inspired me to write myself was Ask the Dust by John Fante.
How often do you write? And how do you manage to fit in writing among other commitments?
I would love to be one of those people who treats writing as a 9-5 job but I can’t do it I’m afraid. I write intensely and rapidly when I have an idea but ideas hit me so rarely. 18 Days took me five days to write, in five ludicrous sessions from midnight until 4am, loaded up on coffee and wine and listening to Orbital. I won’t be able to do that anymore now that my daughter, Gabbers, is at the age where she can run around and smash things up at half seven in the morning.
In which genre do you most enjoy writing?
Good heavens, I’ve never thought about it. My publishing house warned me that 18 Days might not sell too well due to the fact that it evades any sort of classification. If anything, I’d say I prefer writing in a cinematic, descriptive way. A stream of consciousness rather than a storyboard. My editor calls it literary fiction.
What draws you to write in that genre?
I’m into the idea that environment fuels one’s output. On so many occasions, I’ve skulked round non-descript local areas for hours in the drizzle with the intention of incidentally noticing something that will inspire me to fire off five hundred words. As I say, it’s not a genre as such, more a technique. If Marlon Brando’s ghost will pardon me, I’d call it method writing, if that’s not too pretentious (which it is).
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
My main project at present is the website I’ve been setting up with my long-time writing partner, Martyn, with whom I’ve recently got back in touch with after a huge period of absence. It’s called Sitting on the Swings and will contain articles of satire, iconoclasm and conjecture.
What are your writing plans for the future?
I’m working with a very talented writer called Andrew Ware on a play called Paradise: A Story of Shambolic Failure, which we’ll be hoping to stage by this time next year. I’m also working on a crime story called Dick, which will hopefully be my first full novel, and I’m writing an essay titled Why Philip Larkin’s Poems are Utter Shite.
Where can people find out more about you?
Please follow my Twitter accounts @ManicOwl & @eighteen_days
My Facebook page is here www.facebook.com/manicowl
My website is www.sittingontheswings.wordpress.com
- Allen Miles’ ‘In the Booth with His Book: This Is How You Disappear’ interview can be read here.