The Book Dragon Interview 

Tell me about yourself as an author - when do you write, how do you write and where do you write?

I’m an independent author who was born in the North of England. My first full-length poetry collection, White Knuckle, was released in 2020. It’s an autobiographical report on the reality of life growing up in a poverty-stricken, drug and violence-fuelled environment. Since its release, it’s been a runner-up, a finalist, and shortlisted for various book awards. It’s also the recipient of the Indie’s Today Five-Star Recommendation Badge.

When it comes to my schedule, I’m convinced I do my best writing from around midnight onwards. Is it due to brain chemistry changes or because of fewer distractions? I’m not sure. All I know is, I throw some classical music on top of it, and the muse appears for me time after time.

Most of my work is done on a tablet using a portable keyboard. I rarely use a pen and paper. I understand the romantic appeal, but I prefer the benefits of writing on a computer. Although, I still carry a pen with me in case of emergencies. For instance, last Autumn, I was walking in Ciutadella Park, and the line, The walls of hell are built with the bricks of regret, flashed through my mind. When I sat down to write it, I discovered my tablet’s battery had died. So I scribbled it down on the only thing I had on me, a box of cigarillos. Of all the lines I’ve lost, that was one I’m glad I saved.

These days, I tend to write anywhere and everywhere. After travelling around a lot over the past few years, I’ve become accustomed to writing on planes, in parks, and cafes. But, for me, nothing beats having a writing desk of your own. Somewhere that becomes familiar with the act of writing and editing. Now that I’m settling in Barcelona, I hope to have that luxury again.

Can you describe your writing journey? What inspired you to start writing and when did you start? What challenges have you faced along the way and how have you overcome them?

As a teenager, I never wanted to be a writer. Between Shakespeare’s esoteric cudgel and an English teacher who told me I’d never amount to anything, I wanted nothing more to do with literature.

It wasn’t until my late twenties, bouncing between unemployment and warehouse jobs when I knew I needed something to pull me out of that quiet life of desperation. One night, I recalled hearing Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart in primary school. And I thought, what if I wrote short horror stories. So I got out of bed, switched my old computer on, and, in total ignorance of the craft, spent the night writing. When the sun came up, I had my first short story titled Chimaera.

Not long after that, I signed up for a creative writing course at my local community center. When the course finished, the tutor, Frank O’Neill, recommended that I apply for the MA in Creative Writing at Teesside University. However, my school grades were terrible. I thought there was no way I’m getting into university. But I would rather apply and suffer rejection than not apply and always be thinking what-if. Plus this was the first time anyone had given me any encouragement. So I sent the application along with a short story, and I got accepted. In 2018, I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing.

From there, I went on to write and refine my first manuscript, White Knuckle. I sent it to some publishing houses in America and England. In the end, I rejected three offers to publish my collection and committed myself to the independent route. I decided that total creative control was more important to me than the prestige of traditional publishing.

Where do you get your ideas from? Where do you look for future ideas and what tools/resources have you found most useful to support your writing?

The truth is, ideas seem to find me. I never go looking for them.

As for resources, there’s a great Facebook group that posts submission calls for competitions, magazines, and anthologies. I also check Submittable now and then. But apart from that, it’s the usual spell-check programs and the occasional visit to the dictionary website.

I also receive a ton of support from Gosia (my wife). The best support for your writing, I think, is to have one person say they believe in you.

Please tell us about your work - what is your favourite book you have written and why?

Well, that’s an easy one. My debut poetry collection, White Knuckle, because it’s the only full-length book I’ve written. Although, I must say that I’m having more fun writing my next book.

Do you have a favourite genre to read, and what author do you most admire and why?

I don’t have a particular genre favourite. I tend to read a lot of poetry, classical literature, and short stories. My favourite poem is Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, my favourite classic is Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, and my favourite short story is Anton Chekhov’s The Bet.

My admirations for authors are many and broad. It would take me a long time to list them all. But if I had to choose one, I would say Ernest Hemingway for his brevity.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer and why? How about the worst?

I like what Raymond Carver said, Get in, get out. Don’t linger. Go on.

Why bore the reader with irrelevant details or unnecessary elements. The story must always be propelling forward. I always have that in mind whenever I’m writing or editing.

As far as the worst advice, nothing springs to mind.

What 3 pieces of advice would you give a new writer?

Read, read, and read.

Devour the works of great authors, awful authors, and as much as you can on the craft.

As an author and a reader, what matters most to you when reading a review? What would inspire you to read another author’s work?

Reviews are extremely important for authors, especially the good ones. They promote the book and help readers decide if it’s worth their time. But I tend not to read reviews anymore. I find them to be an unnecessary distraction. Although it’s great to hear when someone enjoys your work, my job is to write, not contend with opinions.

As a reader, I also don’t read reviews. I prefer to step into a book with a fresh and open mind.

What future work have you got coming out?

At the moment, I’m working on a second poetry collection titled Caffeine. I’m hoping to release it in August of this year.

It’s also my departure from poetry. Two collections are enough for now. After that, I want to put out a collection of short horror stories.

When you’re not writing, what are you doing?

If I’m not writing, I’m reading, visiting art galleries, museums, cafes, and researching my family history. Recently, I discovered that my second great-grandfather died at sea in a torpedo attack during the First World War. I’m also learning to speak Spanish.

Other than that, it’s long video calls to my brother and picnics in the park with my wife.

Original Interview Source:  The Book Dragon