Thanks everyone for a brilliant Reddit AMA

I did a Reddit AMA over this weekend, and it was a brilliant experience. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, it’s sort of like getting interviewed by hundreds of people all at once. The positivity and curiosity I received were quite overwhelming.

Some of the more suspect questions included ‘what appendage would you lose?’; ‘are you single?’ and ‘what’s that thing in the corner?’ – but others asked about the research required to write River of Ink, about how they can balance writing with the exigencies of daily life, and the best ways to construct plots and characters.

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Book Review: River of Ink by Paul M.M Cooper

Lovely review from!


River of Ink

At a time when the world seems at times to be descending into chaos, and with writers, artists and activists imprisoned, and persecuted, a story about a poet whose written words change the world and fight injustice is exactly what the doctor ordered. It was a real treat, therefore, to review River of Ink, the new novel by British author Paul Cooper.

Within this novel, mediaeval Sri Lanka is vivified – it lifts itself from the pages and chapters and engulfs you, utterly and completely, in the real, lived intricacies and complexities of the mysterious and intriguing world Cooper weaves for us. It is a world of steaming jungles and dust-covered streets, of stamped okra fingers and pink rambutan skins and, of course, of spat betel juice – a continuous feature of this world we encounter again and again, until we start looking for it in our own homes…

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Galle Literary Festival 2016: What I’m looking forward to


I’ve always loved the Galle Lit Fest, with its eclectic mix of writers from across Sri Lanka and India, and authors from around the world jetting in to exchange ideas and speak about writing. The old Dutch star fort with its iconic lighthouse is the perfect setting for a literature festival, and the waves of the Indian ocean are always lapping on its beautiful beaches. Look south: there’s nothing that way until Antarctica.

This year Galle has an amazing mix of workshops, film screenings, panels and readings, so I thought I’d put together a list of the things I’m most excited about in the coming days from the Galle Literature Festival 2016.

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My 6 months of being haunted by Russell Hoban

My relationship with Russell Hoban began a little like one of his novels might: in a disordered room in Fulham, piled high with boxes and files.

Anyone who has ever seen the inside of Russell’s inner sanctum knows that it’s like stepping into his mind. Suddenly you’re surrounded by all of the motifs that he wove again and again, with a composer’s persistence, into his work: sculptures of lions lounge on every shelf and surface, a cackling Punch puppet sits on the mantelpiece, and an antique poster for the premiere of King Kong lies rolled up on the desk. An enormous map of Kent fills one whole wall, and books are piled in shelves that reach to the ceiling. Continue reading “My 6 months of being haunted by Russell Hoban”

Why the Spread the Word campaign matters

I recently came across an amazing charity called Spread the Word, who work to improve access to literature for homeless people in the UK. They build libraries in homeless shelters and encourage people living on the streets to read.

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Magha’s Shishupala Vadha: The most complex poem ever created?

The Shishupala Vadha by Magha might just be the most complex and beautifully-wrought poem ever written. So why hasn’t anyone heard of it?

“Oh! Infinite is the variety of language, even though it is made up of only a few letters, just as music, though it is made up of only seven notes.”

                                – Magha’s Shishupala Vadha, II. 72

The Shishupala Vadha, an epic poem written in Sanskrit in either the seventh or eighth century, is undoubtedly one of the most complex and beautiful poetic works ever created. This masterpiece of Sanskrit poetry follows the story of Krishna as he marches to Indraprastha, on his way to attend the great sacrifice held by his friend Yudhisthira, who is being crowned the King of the World.

This story from Krishna’s life, taken from an episode of the epic Mahabharata, begins with a brilliant light descending from the clouds, and all the people of the world pointing and marvelling.

“The townspeople watched, amazed, all saying ‘the path of the sun is horizontal. Its fire burns from on high, as we all know. But this light spreads itself in all directions, and falls to earth. What is it?’”

This light is the great sage Narada, who descends from heaven in order to warn Krishna that the terrible demon king Ravana, the grand evil of the Ramayana, has been reborn as a man. His name is King Shishupala, and his evil deeds are already known throughout the world. Continue reading “Magha’s Shishupala Vadha: The most complex poem ever created?”

Our attention spans aren’t getting shorter, and that’s bad news for the short story

There’ve been a lot of pixels spilled lately about how the Internet and technology are shortening our attention spans. So shouldn’t this be good news for short story writers?

It seems you can’t throw a stone these days without hitting an article bemoaning the decreasing attention spans of the reading public. Due to the pernicious effects of the Internet, commentators say, young people today (and just about everyone else) can hardly focus on a page long enough to get through the inciting incident of a novel, and start yawning about 100 characters into a 140-character tweet.

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