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.

Continue reading “Thanks everyone for a brilliant Reddit AMA”


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.

Continue reading “Why the Spread the Word campaign matters”

Matthew Francis and Singing a Man to Death

Just a quick one. In January I interviewed poet and author Matthew Francis for New Welsh Review about his upcoming short story collection, Singing a Man to Death. He told me how he attempts to recreate ‘the chaotic pluralism of modern culture’ in his work, and about his early flirtations with surrealist literature (‘the idea of it liberating, the practice usually disappointing’).

His collection weaves together a truly staggering breadth of settings and influences. Did you know, for instance, that the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary was a mythical tiny sheep once thought to grow from the stem of a plant? I know. Now.

Like Michael Ondaatje or Anne Michaels, Francis’ background as a poet (he was named as one of the Poetry Book Society’s ’20 Best Modern Poets’ in 2004) has given him a prose style that is at once spare and energetic, and an impressive eye for detail makes his new collection an enchanting read. Maybe worth an amazon one-click.

Sex, Drugs and Semiotics: a review of Jeffrey Eugenides’ ‘The Marriage Plot’

For some time now, we’ve been watching for what Jeffrey Eugenides will do next. He has cultivated a reputation as one of the safest hands in modern fiction, and his new novel, The Marriage Plot, topped international best-sellers lists and won the 2011 Salon Book Award. It is in many ways an impressive book. It follows the lives and loves of three students in their final year of Brown University in 1982, and pursues them through their first year of graduation.

Madeleine, a somewhat naive English major, has been sucked into one of the biggest crazes to sweep Brown University in the early 80’s. Is it toga parties? Ecstasy? No, it’s semiotics, the new, byzantine study of sign and signification. Continue reading “Sex, Drugs and Semiotics: a review of Jeffrey Eugenides’ ‘The Marriage Plot’”

Tim Leach – a new book and a new blog


The creative writing degree at the University of Warwick ends its third year with a dissertation-style 12,000 word creative piece. To help us out, the University brought back an old MA student, Tim Leach, to offer critique and advice. He’s a great guy, sincere and full of passion. He was also the one to turn me on to Atlantis Books.

I was excited to find out he’s got a book coming out in Spring 2013: Croesus – The Last King of Lydia. It was picked up by Ravi Mirchandani over at Atlantic Books, who called it ‘an exhilaratingly confident first novel’. It sounds pretty ossm.

Inspired by the writings of Herodotus, this book is a fictionalised retelling of the story of Croesus, the half historic, half mythic king whose rise and incredible fall from power shook the ancient world.

Yeah, I’m on board already. He’s started blogging about his burgeoning career – meetings with agents, a sample of the query letter that landed him an agent, and why the Paris Review is like crack. His blog is very much worth a read for aspiring writers and history buffs alike, and I’m looking forward to reading his book when it comes out.

David Morley Writing Podcasts

A former tutor of mine, the poet David Morley, ran a great series of podcasts on the art of writing, writing challenges. Titles include ‘Murder you Darlings’, ‘Conflict and Crisis’, and ‘Dreaming a Fictional Continuum’. David works with his gypsy heritage to write poetry with one foot in English, one in Romany. He’s a great guy, a good poet, and continuously maintains a strange sort of hermetic childlike joy that is frankly infectious and inspiring. He also spits truths the way he sees ’em. Go check it out.