The general idea of this blog chain is that you find out a bit more about me and my writing, and get the chance to follow the links back and forward to other writers so you can discover new stuff. Sound good? Excellent!
I got tagged by science fiction guru Keith Brooke, whose latest book, alt.human, was shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award. Keith also writes a cracking short story, and pens YA fiction under the name Nick Gifford.
So to kick things off, here are three things I don’t write:
- Stories I would have avoided as a kid
When I was younger, if you gave me a choice between reading a book and playing on the PlayStation, I would have chosen the latter every time. I associated books with school and work, and I didn’t want to be doing work at home. It didn’t help that a lot of books felt like work when I tried to read them. It took a truly remarkable story to show me how enjoyable books could be. But even now, I’m an overly picky reader—and I can totally understand why a lot of boys aren’t reading. Too many books are slow or boring or formulaic. Too many don’t have enough “cool factor.” Books have to compete with video games and movies, and video games and movies are awesome. Whenever I think up stories, I ask myself if this is something I would have wanted to read as a kid. And if it is? I know I’m on to something. If it isn’t, I can’t get excited about it.
- Traditional fantasy
Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE to write a big, epic fantasy. I’m obsessed with Game of Thrones, and I’m a huge fan of Tolkien. But stereotypical tropes like elves and dwarves and big dark lords feel stale. Fantasy worlds that have mountains and lakes and magical forests all within spitting distance of each other have become a bit boring. I can’t see myself writing about elves anytime soon. Although, who knows? I thoroughly enjoyed Philip Reeve’s Goblins book, which took familiar fantasy concepts and twisted them in a humorous way. The great thing about writing is that you never really know what you’re going to write. Stories and characters can run off in all sorts of directions, and ideas can pop into your head out of thin air.
Vampires have been done to death (or should that be undeath?) and it’s hard to see how to make them fresh again. I think someone needs to come along and make them properly scary, but it may be a while before that happens. Perhaps they’ll be sparkly forevermore…
And now for three things I do write…
- Magical realism
The stories I enjoy most are those set in the real world, or a world very much like our own, only one that has some strange twist about it. In Harry Potter there are wizards living among us. In The Graveyard Book, an ordinary baby gets raised by ghosts in a graveyard. In Skellig, a normal family encounters a strange angelic being. I enjoy reading these hints of magic, so it’s no wonder I enjoy writing them too. My debut novel, Stonebird, is set in the real world with real characters and real problems—but there’s also a mysterious gargoyle that comes alive and flies through the night.
- Stories with heart
I think the greatest thing any story can do is linger in your mind long after you’ve finished the final world. How do they achieve this? With heart. I will always try and write stories with heart. I think it’s a bit much to say, oh yes, if there’s one thing my stories have, it’s heart. It’s enough to make you run off feeling faintly sick. But it is something to aim for: to try and find the story within the story, and bring it out as much as possible. To ensure there is meaning there, something to engage with and remember and, hopefully, cherish.
I didn’t realise that I write horror, but I do—even when I don’t know I’m doing it. Horror is a very personal thing, as people’s fears are unique. One person might be terrified of clowns, whereas another might quake at the thought of disease or zombies or insects. I don’t write the kind of horror you get in jump-laden movies, but I do dig deep inside and write about things that frighten me, because to do otherwise wouldn’t be fair to the reader. Stonebird is about many things, but at its core is the theme of dementia, and that is a very horrific thing indeed. If you think about it, most stories have an element of horror in them, and mine are no different.
Passing it on…
So now it’s time to tag some other writers and send you in their direction. I’ve chosen three very talented chaps, whose words (and indeed art) I’m sure you’ll love. Be sure to check back in a few days’ time to see what three things Simon P. Clark, Dustin Hansen, and Cory Cone write about – and three they don’t…