Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord: Jessica Bell

If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big robust circles, to tiny stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.

Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely-flavoured writers tick.

My guest this week is multi-talented author Jessica Bell.

Hi Jessica, thank you for agreeing to take part in the Literary Smorgasbord. Please tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m an Australian writing and publishing coach, novelist, poet, and singer/songwriter/guitarist who lives in Athens, Greece. In addition to my novels, my poetry collections (including Fabric, which was nominated for the Goodreads Readers Choice Awards in 2012), and my bestselling pocket writing guides (Writing in a Nutshell series), I have published a variety of works online and in literary journals and anthologies, including Writer’s Digest and Australia’s Cordite Review. Additionally, I am the Co-Founder and Publisher of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and coordinate a variety of writing workshops worldwide.

Where did you grow up?

Melbourne, Australia. But I also spent a lot of time on an Ionian island called Ithaca in Greece as I have a lot of family there from my step father’s side.

What were you like at school?

Shy and quite eccentric, until I hit my mid teens. By then I was no longer shy (mostly by pretense), but still quite an outcast. I seemed to have accepted that, though, and was proud to be different. I was bullied a lot. Especially in primary school. I remember very clearly one ‘out of uniform day,’ I was wearing a funky pair of stockings covered in an exotic fruit pattern. The kids called me ‘fruit loop’ (which is a cereal), then somehow invited me to play hide and seek. Of course, I was ‘it’ which resulted in me shutting my eyes, counting, hearing lots of giggles, and discovering that everyone had run off and left me. In my first year of high school, everyone called me ‘Mum’, and flicked their hand forward. Apparently I made such a gesture when I talked. I’d never noticed it, to be honest, but it became a really big thing that I was teased about incessantly. Of course, I made an effort to never make that gesture again. Now in my adulthood I’m often told I’m not very ‘feminine’. Haha!

On your website you ask, which Me would you like to meet – writing and publishing coach, novelist, poetry and short story writer, musician, book cover designer?  Who is the real Jessica Bell?

Haha! I’m just a woman who loves to be creative, loves to help the underdog, and like most creative types, often experiences Imposter Syndrome. I also feel weird calling myself a ‘woman’. I’m 35 years old and I still feel like a shy little girl who doesn’t really fit in anywhere.

Have you ever experienced an identity crisis?

Oh yes. I’m going through one right now to be honest. I’m not sure what I want from my career from this point onward. As much as I adore my work and creative endeavors (it really does bring me great happiness to accomplish all the things I do), I often fantasise about packing everything in, buying a campervan, and travelling the world. But it’s ME we’re talking about here (I’m a terrible workaholic), so what will most likely happen is, I’ll continue to do all the things I do WHILE travelling the world in a campervan. I guess I’m going through a pre-midlife crisis. Questioning what it is in life that truly matters the most. Not a bad thing to be pondering, I’m sure.

Do you have a preference for one kind of writing over another?

Not at all. My mood dictates what I write.

How has your writing evolved?

I started writing poetry, so I think over the years I’ve really learned how to master ‘plot’ and not overwrite, which I think poets tend to do.

Are you inspired by any writers in particular?

Marilynne Robinson, Rebecca Miller, Margaret Atwood, Anne Lamott, Raymond Carver, Milan Kundera, to name a few.

What are you working on right now?

Speculative fiction with the tentative title, Anima.

What is it about?

Here is a piece of logline I’ve been playing with. It’s not perfect, but it’s something of a teaser, I guess: Icasia must find the way to ‘die happy’ so that the deceased can live happily ever after.

How much research do you do?

Pretty much nothing until I write about something I know nothing about. Then I’ll make a note of it in my manuscript and get the facts straight during the second draft.

How long does it take you to write a book?

There is no simple answer to that. Sometimes more than a year, sometimes less than a week. Depends on my stamina!

Best writing moment so far.

When I was possessed with the idea for The Book, I called in sick at work, and wrote the entire first draft in three days without taking a breath. Was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had, and I very much doubt that will happen again as I’m usually a very very slow writer. I have never had words pour from my fingertips like that. I was almost like an out of body experience.

What are your ambitions, writing wise?

Back to my identity crisis. I’ve reached my writing goals and I now need a new one. Worldwide fame? Is that possible? More realistically, though, I’d love to win a legitimate award. It would give me a much-needed confidence boost. I just found out today (Sept 1) that White Lady is a Finalist in the Kindle Book Awards. Very exciting. I’d also love to be able to write full time. Isn’t that what we all say?

What is your writing routine – do you have a favourite time of day for writing?

I have no standard schedule, but I often set myself a schedule for each project. And it changes all the time. I’m a freelancer and so I need to be flexible with my hours. If I’m desperate to get something finished, I’ll usually challenge myself to finish something within a particular time frame, which results in me writing something every day until I’m done, no matter what time of day I do it.

Favourite time of day? Spare time? (Wishful thinking.)

Do you have a set amount of writing to do each day – if so, how is it measured – pages, words, lines, time…?

As I said above, there is nothing set. But when I challenge myself, I usually measure by word count to be sure I fulfill my self-inflicted deadline.

How do you manage your time – are you ultra-organised, or do you take it to the wire?

Super-duper organized. I juggle a lot of things: my own writing, book cover designing, my day job (editor for Education First), Vine Leaves Literary Journal, music …

I have a whiteboard and a diary. I usually write things on my whiteboard that I need to be reminded about every day, otherwise I’m likely to forget. This interview was one such thing!

Do you have any particular writing habits?

Procrastination.

What inspires you to write?

If I haven’t written anything in a few weeks, that will usually flick the guilt switch. I don’t get inspired by nice scenery, etc. When I’m in a nice place, I don’t want to be inside writing! Music often inspires me. Reading a brilliant book by a brilliant wordsmith. Boredom. There’s nothing like boredom to make me pull out my notebook.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Stop trying to do this quickly and enjoy the writing process.

Learn the rules, then break them intelligently.

Find something else that you love to do instead of writing. At some point you’re likely to burn out and you’re going to need something to turn to that stimulates your brain in a different way. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that relaxing and doing nothing does not rid a creative mind of woes. Our minds need distraction to get a decent break. It’s when we stop thinking about writing, that the biggest breakthroughs occur.

What are you reading right now?

Dear Life, by Alice Monroe.

Is there any one book you would like to have written?

Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson.

A few quick questions to finish with.  Favourite book?

Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson, Jacob’s Folly, by Rebecca Miller

Author

Marilyn Robinson, Rebecca Miller

Drink

Strawberry smoothie, Margarita

Food

Anything vegetarian (though I am not one)

Film

The Hours, The Shawshank Redemption

Television programme

Fringe, Dexter, Grey’s Anatomy

Radio programme…

That still exists? 😀

Music

Anything by PJ Harvey

Where can readers find out more about you?

You can Sign up to my newsletter and receive Book #1 of the Writing in a Nutshell series, Show & Tell in a Nutshell, or Muted: A Short Story in Verse, for free.

Website: jessicabellauthor.com

Twitter: @MsBessieBell

Facebook: facebook.com/jessicabellcreative

Thanks for taking part in the Literary Smorgasbord, Jessica.

Jessica Bell

Jessica Bell

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord: Aoife Lyall

If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big robust circles, to tiny stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.

Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely-flavoured writers tick.

My guest this week is poet and winner of The Irish Times Hennessy Poems of the Month, Aoife Lyall.

Hi Aoife, thank you for agreeing to take part in the Literary Smorgasbord.

What were you like at school?

I loved school.  It is fair to say I was pretty competitive, and loved getting involved in art, drama and sport alongside the academics. I was lucky to have my twin sister and a solid group of friends looking out for me, and I got on well with the teachers.

What has been the evolution of Aoife Lyall, the poet?

I have been writing poetry I could take seriously since about 2012, but at that stage it was very sporadic.  A long-term family illness and bereavement forced me to turn to writing as a way to get my head around things.  A lot of my early work focuses on that experience.  Since then, I keep an eye out for ideas and write down everything.  Now my work is balanced between personal experiences and ideas that come to me randomly that I want to play around with.

Why do you write?

I have always enjoyed playing with words and poetry lets me do that in a way I find difficult with other forms.  There is a big pressure to formulate, regulate and systemise things- poetry is where I get to introduce a little chaos.

How deep do you dig when you are writing – how much of yourself do you expose?

My earlier writing was heavily influenced by my circumstances so I was dealing with myself, but the emotions were right there on the surface and decidedly raw.  My newer writing is not so much a chance to make sense of me, but to understand how I make sense of what’s around me.

Are you inspired by any writers in particular?

I love reading Billy Collins, Liz Lochhead and Roger McGough. They have a way of seeing the fantastic and wonderful in everyday life that I think is just brilliant.

Best writing moment so far.

When my husband made fun of me for being a poet- that’s when I knew I had something!  I had tried writing other pieces before- which were just horrendous- and I was so precious about them he had to be really careful not to offend me.  When he made fun of me?  That was a big push – he knew I had it in me.  Later that night I recieved an email telling me I had been awarded a commendation in the Neil Gunn Writing Competition: the first competition I entered, with the first poem I had written.  That double-affirmation was a big boost.

What are you working on right now?

A collection based on my experiences as a teacher.  It is in the early stages so I won’t go into anymore details.

What are your ambitions, writing wise?

To have writing at the centre of my career- creating, mentoring, teaching, lecturing.  The actual path it will take- who knows? This last year has taught me that it doesn’t do to plan too far ahead- the important thing is to DO and see where it takes you.

What is your writing routine – do you have a favourite time of day for writing?

Early morning- even though I struggle to get out of bed the rest of the week, roll on Saturday and Sunday and I’m wide awake at 6:00am, ready to work away in the true silence you only really get at dawn.  I tend to do my best revision work at this time of day and usually work on four-six different poems over the morning.  I find this helps keep each poem fresh and stops my attention wavering.  If I know something isn’t working, I move on to the next poem, then come back to the original later.

Do you have a set amount of writing to do each day – if so, how is it measured – pages, words, lines, time…?

I’m a full-time teacher so mid-week I tend to just jot down ideas.  At the weekend I set myself aside a block of five hours either Saturday or Sunday morning, sometimes both.  Some of that time may just be spent organising my files or reading- the point is that the time is an opportunity to focus on writing, and all that comes with it.

How do you write – longhand, laptop, typewriter, quill and ink?

Ideas and beginnings of poems are written in a lined, yellow notebook.  From there, the work is typed up on the computer and printed.  I rework the poem from the printed page using pens, pencils, highlighters, arrows and asterisks, then edit on computer print and repeat until the poem is done.  The drafts are all kept together in polypockets and folders.

Any writing habits – music, particular place to work?

I now have a writing desk at home that is solely mine. I think it’s worthwhile to have a space you can call yours- whether it’s a full room, a coffee shop or a spot on the couch.

What inspires you to write?

Pure curiosity.

Any advice for aspiring poets?

Start writing! For every piece that is worth developing you could have dozens that go into the scrap folder.  Learn to critique individual pieces of work- not yourself.

If there was one person – contemporary, historical or fictional – you could spend a day with, who would you choose and why? How would you spend the day?

 Anne of Green Gables – someone who is amazed by the everyday world.  We would spend the day eating apples, reading and talking about everything.  There would probably be a brook and scones involved at some point too.

A few short questions. What is your favourite book?

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Author…

Roald Dahl

Food…

Pizza

Drink…

Tea

Film…

Night at the Museum

Television programme…

The Simpsons

Radio programme…

Top 10 at 10 MFR

Music…

Ludivico Einaudi

What are you reading right now?

Roger McGough’s collected poems.

Thanks for coming on the Smorgasbord, Aoife.  It’s been great talking to you.

eIMG_0200b

Aoife Lyall

Find out more about Aoife at her blog.

The Irish Times Hennessy Poems of the Month.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord: Peter Urpeth

If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big, robust circles, to tiny, stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.

Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely-flavoured writers tick.

My guest this week is author, blogger, poet, musician… Peter Urpeth.  Peter, who is also the Writing and Publishing Director of Emergents, has answered all questions in an entirely personal capacity.

What were you like at school?

I disliked school, almost every day of it, and spent a great deal of time just daydreaming. I think I had a kind of unspoken pact with most of the teachers. I’d not bother them or the class and they’d kind of leave me to my own devices. My school, in the mid 1970s, was rough. A violent place with plenty of bullying to be had. Due to my catholic upbringing, I was ‘excused’ RE lessons, which were CofE, and instead spent that time (about two hours a week) in a remedial class (as they used to call them). This had a big impact on me as the teacher, Aubrey Pope, was a leading figure in the emerging Friends of the Earth. He used to spend the lessons talking about saving the whale but never in a preachy manner, always to start a debate. I respected him hugely and every week there would be a small line of pupils queuing at the staff room door waiting for Mr Pope to deliver copies of the FotE newspaper to us. I left school at the first opportunity and with no qualifications, and even now have a hatred for that time. I was recently contacted via Facebook by a contemporary from my class with the usual ‘friend request’. I refused.

I think I was lonely as a school boy, never really made friends whilst everyone else had a kind of gang to hang out with. Maybe that was because I failed the 11 plus type exam for entry to the local catholic grammar school that most of my primary class mates went to, so I went on my own to a secondary school up the road that had only that year been converted from a grammar school to a comprehensive. The five years of posh, educated kids above my year, aiming at Oxbridge, whatever that was, simply could not comprehend the new intake of Oiks, and the mistrust was mutual. Even the teachers found this change too much to handle and seemed to exude a sort of cynicism about the young unwashed in their midst. Occasionally I got to play the pipe organ at the daily assemblies. I played the school anthem, Jerusalem, at such volume it cracked the varnish on the hall floor.

In my primary school I acquired the duty of ringing the Angelus bell at midday in the church. This would ring out around the neighbourhood. It was supposed to be in a pattern of three and fours and then a long twelve beat sequence. Sometimes I’d vary this depending on my mood and whether I thought any of the convent nuns were listening. Subversion is always possible in a system of seemingly tight rules.

This was also the time of the growth in the National Front in the east end of London, and a number of my school contemporaries got sucked in to that kind of stuff. Racism was everywhere in London in that period, or at least it seemed to me to be like that back then. It was on the TV, too, in the guise of some kind of mainstream humour, and I despised the entire white suburban young male culture that seemed to be about at that time, at least in my school. That led to trouble and further distance from my contemporaries. I supported Dagenham whilst the bone heads seemed to support Romford FC. Until they went bust.

In your role as Writing and Publishing Director of Emergents, you are frequently the bearer of bad news for emerging writers.  How do you deal with the emotional impact your words will carry?

Well, I don’t deliver bad news! The process is entirely developmental but with the caveat these days that the writers we work with must have projects that are broadly commercial in nature.

Do you ever feel yourself being sucked into the lives of the writers you work with?

Not really. Writing is a deeply personal activity and at times a complex one for individuals to manage in terms of such things as their time and family life, their creative and professional frustrations and other negatives that can make it difficult. So my work, meeting writers and their projects on their terms, does inevitably from time to time engage on a quite deep level about all these things and many others. But the relationship is always solely and entirely a professional one in nature with the boundaries that implies and requires. This is what I do for a living, That sounds a bit heavy given the context. The reality is that I am very lucky in my work. I meet a large number of amazing, creative people, who are tenacious and work hard on their projects. We all know it is not easy to make a living as a writer.

Have you ever had to deal with any bat-shit crazy writer behaviour?

Other than my own, no.

Has your work with Emergents impacted on the way you approach your own writing?

Indeed, mostly around the issue of finding any time to do any writing of my own at all!

What are you working on right now?

A fantasy thriller novel in the form of a post-vampire blood-fest set in a cold place and featuring possibly the coolest cast of pot-smoking, fashion-savvy undeads to ever walk a page after dark, and the biography of an avant-garde British jazz musician.

What is the Pete Urpeth writing method?

Make it up as I go along, generally. Then edit. Maybe weep a little, then edit again.

I read a lot of my work out loud as I go as I think that the intensity of the writing has to be contagious and immediate. That is a kind of rhythm thing, and the best test of that, for me, is the way words work when spoken. Anything awkward or jarring, or misshapen, can’t hide in the blind eye of the writer if the words are spoken out loud.

Do you have a favourite time of day for writing?

Early morning, when the unconscious mind still seems to have a slight grip on the woken self.

Are you a planner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?

I plan the seat-of-the-pants thing. By that I mean, I construct conditions of productive work but that is always spontaneous in nature. That said, I do a lot of research.

How much of the real Pete Urpeth do you reveal when you are writing?

None. Who wants to know that stuff?

What has been your best writing moment so far?

Not sure, but generally it reads something like this…’Dear Editor…I attach the finished article and my invoice as requested’ (repeat as many times as possible).

What are your ambitions, writing-wise?

None, just to do what interests me.

Are you inspired by any writers in particular?

Yes, but it is a quality of my own rapidly cooling bones that most of the writers that inspired me to start with are now, sadly, dead. Some of them were dead at the time. But the inspiration now comes from many places. Campaigning journalism and crap cutters in general, inspire me. Screen writing inspires me, especially Jonah Nolan and David Mamet. John Green is an astonishing narrative communicator, his relationship with his readers and viewers is inspiring.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Oh great, the trite license – and I’m going to cut it with the kryptonite of succinct glibness – write as much as you can, freely and without any external concerns about form, culture, morality, writerly myths et al – and a closing maxim from the fabulous Thomas Howalt of the National Film School of Denmark – ‘shit is manure’.

Is there any one book you would like to have written?

The Moomin series.

What are you reading right now?

A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music by George E Lewis

If you could spend a day hanging out with any one person, past or present, who would you choose and why? How would you spend the day?

I’m answering this from the daft section of the spectrum, and I’d say Thelonious Sphere Monk. I’d spend the day in his flat, listening. Maybe later we’d take a walk in a park. It is a warm, late afternoon, and hopefully we’d just stroll about aimlessly, passing the time. I’d want the day to be genuinely, mildly awkward as I think TSM in his modesty would share my bafflement as to why I was there, bothering him. We’d part at about 8pm, and I’d find a bar and try and suppress passing frustrations about all the things I wanted to ask him about but forgot because I wanted the day to be normal not an interview and I’d made the mistake of wanting him to like me.

A few quick questions to finish with. Favourite book?

It doesn’t work like that, the entire point of narrative is its endless expandability.

Author…

I refer you to the note above.

Drink…

A pint of Bitter & Twisted in Sandy Bells, or a pint of Maldon Gold in The Pride of Spitalfields.

Food…

Any combination of lamb, aubergine, dried fenugreek, garlic and chilli.

Film…

The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1928)

Television programme…

For all sorts of reasons, Katie Morag

Music…

Gnu High by Kenny Wheeler.

Great interview Pete, thanks for coming on the Literary Smorgasbord.

Peter Urpeth

Peter Urpeth

Peter is the author of Far Inland.  Find out more about him at his blog, Other Words.  

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord: Leila Eadie

If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big, robust circles, to tiny, stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.

Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely-flavoured writers tick.

My guest this week is author, Leila Eadie.

Hi Leila, thank you for agreeing to take part in the Literary Smorgasbord. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Career-wise, I stayed in education as long as possible, collecting degrees, then worked as a medical writer and editor for a few years before returning to academia as a research fellow at University College London and then University of Aberdeen. I’m currently working at Aberdeen’s Centre for Rural Health in Inverness, investigating the use of ultrasound as an ambulance-based diagnostic tool, which we hope will be particularly useful for people living in remote and rural areas far from a major hospital. I write dark speculative fiction: horror, fantasy, sci-fi. I’ve had lots of short stories published in magazines, anthologies and online, and now I’m trying my hand at novel-length fiction. I’ve also started writing theatrical plays in the last couple of years, and have had a few short pieces performed in Inverness.

 What were you like at school?

A brainbox! I was one of the kids vying for top marks in every class. But having said that, I spent many classes writing stories in my notebooks. I wrote ‘choose your own adventure’ stories for my friends, which we dived into at break-times, but I wasn’t always kind to them – they suffered many wonderfully gory deaths!

Tell us about the evolution of Leila Eadie, the author.

I was always a writer, filling spiral notebooks with my stories. These were just for myself and my friends, and I didn’t send anything to publishers until my mid-20s. But then my short stories found homes at various venues, winning small competitions, and so on. When I finally (reluctantly) left full time education, my fiction writing slowed because work took over, but I was working as a scientific writer and editor, so I was still writing, just a different type of thing.

More recently I’ve been working on a few novels, partly thanks to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, an annual challenge to write 50,000 words in November), which has helped provide motivation and word count targets to work with. I have a couple of pieces at the redrafting stage, and one with a first draft almost finished. And finally, I’m also interested in writing for performance: stage, screen and radio.

I joined the playwriting group run by Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, which has been wonderfully supportive and helpful, providing feedback and opportunities to have my work staged. So I now have a few short plays written, and a full-length play that I really should send to theatre companies…

 What is your style of writing?

Dark, disturbing, funny. I love writing brilliant bad-guys and anti-heroes.

 Why do you write this way?

Therapy? Maybe it stops me acting out all the strange stuff myself…

 Are you inspired by any writers in particular?

Oh, there are many who have inspired me. I would love to write with the same power to suck a reader into the story that Stephen King has. The complexity – yet humanity – of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novel series astounds me and makes me try to reach further. China Mieville and Charles Stross remind me it’s okay to be clever and strange in my worlds and plotting. John Scalzi writes serious stories that are full of comedy. I love Neal Asher’s sci-fi vision of a techie future. I could go on… On the other hand, meeting Catherine Webb, whose Matthew Swift books (writing as Kate Griffin) I completely adore, was not so much inspirational as a source of envy: she’s so smart and so young – and a brilliant writer!

 What are you working on right now?

I’m finishing an initial draft of a dark comedy novel about evil geniuses. It started out life as an idea for a television series, but I think it works much better as a book. I love the characters; I think there’s a fun mix of comedy, action and mystery.

 How much research do you do?

Quite a lot; I like to be accurate when dealing with real things that people can check on. But I also like writing about futuristic technology and alternate worlds where I can make my own rules. The key is not letting research distract me from writing. The internet is a wonderful source and a massive time-suck.

 How long does it take you to write a book?

Way too long. Once I have a draft, I put off redrafting. Books sit around in limbo interminably. I’m afraid I fall prey to the common problem where bright new ideas are more fun than old ones that need polishing up.

 Best writing moment so far?

Winning a writing competition that involved finishing off a short story started by Mike Carey, who’s written some great books and graphic novels. I submitted the story, then later received an email recommending I go along to a specific book festival. That was a clue that my story had probably been shortlisted, but when I met Mike at the festival and he said such nice things about my contribution… well, it was lovely to hear that from a writer I respect so much!

What are your ambitions, writing wise?

I would like to publish the novel I’m currently working on – I think it’s good enough to entertain people. And I would like to see my full-length play performed. But really, I write because I enjoy it. It’s a great bonus if others like it too.

 What is your writing routine – do you have a favourite time of day for writing?

Afternoons work best for me, through to evenings.

 Do you have a set amount of writing to do each day – if so, how is it measured – pages, words, lines, time…?

No. I probably should. It would definitely increase my productivity!

 What is your writing method?

Most of the time I approach a project with a hook and only a vague idea what’s going to happen; I let the characters dictate the bulk of the plot. This has worked out quite well, but my most recent novel was written from a detailed outline, which really helped me achieve the NaNoWriMo word count on time. So I’m happy to use both methods.

 Do you have any particular writing habits?

Not really, but I always use my laptop (or my phone/tablet if I’m travelling) rather than long-hand, and I generally have some music on while I write.

What inspires you to write?

Ideas! Wonderful scenes appear in my mind, leading me to ask questions about the characters, the situation, the way forward… Science and technology innovations also inspire me, as do oddities of the natural world.

What are you reading right now?

I usually have a few books on the go at any time, both paperback and e-book, for different reading opportunities. At the moment, I’m reading End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Kill the Dead, part of the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey and Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch.

 A few quick questions to finish with. Favourite book…

Hmm. I could give you a favourite bookshelf-full, but just one – impossible. However, books I recommend to others include: The Risen Empire by Scott Westerfeld, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay… (there will be lots of others worthy of a mention that have slipped my mind!)

Drink…

Non-alcoholic: milkshake!  Alcoholic: Swedish cider

Food

Something Italian, or a lamb roast. Or jelly sweets, of course. Surely they’re a writers’ staple?

Film…

The Prestige, Bladerunner, 13 Ghosts

Television programme…

Game of Thrones, Suits

Radio programme…

I enjoyed the recent adaptation of Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman)

Music…

Industrial metal, EBM; rocky things like VNV Nation, Covenant, NIN, Blue Stahli

Thanks for taking part in the Literary Smorgasbord, Leila.

Leila Eadie

Leila Eadie

You can follow Leila on Twitter and find out more about her at makingstuffup.co.uk 

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.

Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord: Robert Smith-Hald

If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big, robust circles, to tiny, stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce.

Thrillers With Attitude is on a mission to find out what makes these weirdly-shaped and strangely flavoured writers tick.

My guest this week is singer-songwriter, Robert Smith-Hald.

Hi Robert, thank you for agreeing to take part in the Thrillers With Attitude Literary SmorgasbordPlease tell me a little bit about yourself.  What kind of child were you?

Hi Lorraine, it’s nice to be asked, so thank you.  I was an artistic child, always drawing and when I was able to-playing music on whatever instrument that was available, with a focus on composing.  Mostly lyres and, recorders (Camphill had a lot of lyres and recorders lying around) but we also had a piano.  My parents didn’t like that I played the piano so it was locked, and musical instruments hidden or put under lock and key.  I managed to scrape together money from deposit bottles along the roads outside the compound and bought harmonicas with that money.  These I played in the woods, teaching myself songs and also making up songs.
I also loved to work on the farm and took part as much and as often as I could, milking the cows by hand, feeding, shoveling manure, taking the cows to pasture and making hay, to name a few.  One of my favorite things was when we made maple syrup.  We tapped the trees by hand and collected the sap from each bucket and boiled it down in a good old fashioned wood fired sugar house. So I was a kind of hard working, artistic, imaginative child. A strange mix I guess. Now I write songs and make beer, and I work hard at it.  It reflects my childhood in every way.
What has been the evolution of Robert Smith-Hald, the writer?
Since my parents and the general Camphill community endeavored to quash my love for music and playing instruments/composing I kind of internalized that musical composer side of myself. I think that’s the main reason why I became the type of introverted yet personal songwriter I am today. Also, I’m pretty strong-headed about my music and take control of all aspects, from the writing of lyrics and music, to arranging and recording.  When we moved to Norway I was allowed to have and play a guitar finally, (just not electric and definitely not a steel string western guitar) and I started writing songs as soon as I learned three chords.  The songs sort of wrote themselves and I was just thrilled and decided to just go with it.  I’ve pretty much done that ever since, although some songs are pure storytelling.  I have a rule – when I find a cool chord I write a song with it as the main pivotal musical point.
Do you define yourself as a writer, and if so, when did that first happen?
I do.  I write text driven songs.  The music is of course equally important to the song as a whole, but for me I think of a good song as having meaning.  So I work hard at finding songs that say something about this condition we all exist within, the human condition.
What makes you write?
I don’t know.  I used to think it was an obsession.  I’ve come more to terms now that it’s just me.  Who and how I am.
How deep do you dig when you are writing – how much of yourself do you expose?
I go all the way really, every single time.  And to tell you the truth, I never know what the song is about until I’m done, sometimes halfway, if I’m lucky.  Some songs are pure stories though, like Jesus.  I just had to write that story down in a song, just as it had happened.  Also The Easter Bunny Is Dead song was a story me and my son made up about some terrible neighbors we used to live next to.  Recently I’ve been writing songs from the perspective of life changing events, but I still never know what the angle of the song is until it’s done.  I like to say that I “find” the song, or it finds me.  I just write it down.
What is the hardest thing about writing? 
Time.  Getting in the zone. I need to be able to shut the door.  It has to be a real door.  A physical door.  And when I close it, it can only be opened again by me.  Since that door usually was the kitchen, that could prove problematic, obviously.  I have a music room now, my own space to disappear in. Time to stay there.
And the easiest?
Letting it happen when you’re in the zone.  You’re just a bystander, an observer.  It just happens.  Some songs are written in a shorter time than it takes to play them. Literally.
Are you inspired by any writers in particular? 
Stephen King funnily enough.  I love his language and storytelling skill.  I learned a lot from his book On Writing which was the first book of his I read.  John Lennon and Bob Dylan, of course. Carl Perkins. I love his simple straight forward lyrics. I just got into Phillip Meyer.  He’s amazing.  And of course John Steinbeck.  His book East of Eden inspired my song Thou Mayest from the album of that name. As soon as I put it down I wrote that song.  It’s my short version (the live version is about 9 minutes long) of the essence of what he was writing about in that book.  That life is what you make of it and that you have choices.  Thou Mayest, as opposed to Thou Shalt.  There’s a helluva lot of Thou Shalt in the bible.  John Steinbeck’s opinion was that the translation went awry, it should have read Thou Mayest.  There’s a difference.
Best writing moment so far.
There have been so many.  Every time I write a song I experience it as pure magic.  Every time. But writing Kissed By The Sun, which was just released on iTunes still stands out as a pivotal moment for my evolution as a writer and songwriter.  Since I write by letting it all just happen/stream of consciousness I don’t really know what a song is going to be about or how its going to be, or come out/sound.  But life gives you pretty strong indicators sometimes, and with this one had a strong feeling.  My wife had just been through a terrible time and had to deal with serious illness.  She did and came out the other end better and stronger.  So in a way she got a second chance and took it and went with it.  That’s really what the song is about.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on songs inspired by life changing events.  We all have them.  From childhood but also in our day to day lives.  How we react to these events defines and evolves who we are. But as always, I let the songs just happen.  They come to me.  My job is to let them.  I’m grateful for every one that floats down into my lap.
What are your ambitions, writing wise?
I try to keep ambition out of it.  I just try and do my best and stay true to my craft.  I just want to write a good song.
What is your writing routine – do you have a favourite time of day for writing? 
I get a lot of text ideas throughout the day. I used to write them in scrapbooks and bits of paper.  Now I use my iPhone.  My ultimate time to work is between 1000 and 1300, but my day job still demands my presence so I get most of my work done of an evening and on weekends.
Do you have a set amount of writing to do each day – if so, how is it measured – pages, words, lines, time…?
No. I measure it more in terms of good songs about to come or coming.  If I get a good one I go with it and don’t stop until its finished.  Usually in the one sitting.  Sometimes though, I get halfway through and realize it needs time to mature or I’ll mess it up.  Then I record it as it is, and go back to it after a period of letting it develop. Sometimes that means a couple of days.  Other times it can be years. I’m working on one right now I started in April 1983 or 4.  This time I might find it.  We’ll see.
How do you write – longhand, laptop, typewriter, quill and ink?
I write longhand, in a ledger. I write as fast as I can to capture the ideas and my handwriting is really messy and downright illegible.  So I have to write it down better when the song is finished. I used to type them out afterward on a typewriter, then a PC when that came around, and collect them all in folders.  But now I kind of just fill up ledgers with songs.  The illegible one on the left, the legible one on the right. My latest ledger is a black leather one, with really nice thick paper.  It was a gift from my wife for songwriting.  She keeps track of my piles of ledgers and loose reams of work.  I’m a bit of a mess-pot when it comes to keeping order in all my songs. She’s also my main barometer.  She’s brutally honest and does not mince words.  She says it’s crap if she thinks it’s crap.  And it always is.  But she’s also my biggest fan and support.
Any writing habits – music, particular place to work?
A nice room with good acoustics and a door you can close.
What inspires you to write?
The human condition.
Any advice for aspiring songwriters?
Work hard at your craft.  Study others, particularly your inspirations, both musically and lyrically.  Find your own voice, and write about what you know.  Don’t listen to naysayers and be wary of yaysayers. Be true to yourself.
Is there any song you wish you had written?
Yes.  The next one.  It’s always the next one.
A few short questions to finish.  What is your favourite drink…
I love beer. I love whisky too, especially single malt, Laphroaigh and Glenlivet among my favorites. But my day job is as a brewmaster.  I run a microbrewery in Bergen, Norway and I make new beers every 2-3 months, year round. It’s kind of like songwriting.  Something new every time, using the same, basic ingredients.
Television programme…
My wife and I love movies and TV series.  I get loads of song ideas from a good story- whether it be a good book, movie or TV show.  We watched a fantastic series called Deadwood some years back.  It was a kind of a drama meets mockumentary of sorts of how a town grew in no-mans land in the Dakotas (before statehood) in the gold rush era.

What are you reading right now?

Stephen King – The Shining and Phillip Meyer – The Son.  I’m fascinated by the language in The Son. I also just finished your book Erosion and before that Each New Morn.  I loved them both but particularly the latter.  You’re writing is creative and alive and the pace is pulls you in.
Thank you, Robert – glad you enjoyed reading them.
Robert Smith-Hald

Robert Smith-Hald

Listen to Robert’s new single, Kissed By The Sun on YouTube.  You find find out more about Robert Smith-Hald at robertsmith-hald.com.  His music is available on iTunes and Spotify.

Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord: Gary Little

If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big, robust circles, to tiny, stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce. Some of the nicest people around are writers, but some of them truly are mad, bad and dangerous to know.

I have undertaken to meet up with a few of these weirdly-shaped and strangely flavoured writers, some well-established, others emerging, so that you, dear reader, can find out more about them without endangering body or soul. Welcome then, to the Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord. My guest this week is comedian, Gary Little.  

Hi Gary, thank you for agreeing to take part in the Literary Smorgasbord. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
A 51yr old Glaswegian. Since 2003 I’ve been doing Stand up Comedy for a living.
What were you like at school?

Most of my report cards probably had chatterbox written on them! I was the class clown, trying to impress my pals.

You have a colourful life story, some of which you refer to in your stand-up, but what has been the evolution of Gary Little the comedian?

I was always trying to entertain people at parties. The guy you thought was funny, or an arsehole. Or both. Someone had seen me a few times, and suggested to someone who ran a comedy night, to give me a shot. I eventually gave it a shot. Then The Stand comedy club had a competition, along with the Daily Record. I was one of the finalists.

I caught your act when you were in Ullapool – it was a cracking night, but what really struck me was the way so many of your stories stayed with me days, and even weeks afterwards.  I think this had something to do with the truth in your act.  You seemed to be laying yourself bare on the stage.  How deep do you dig when you are writing material for your act – how much of yourself are you exposing?

I like telling stories. I feel more comfortable talking about things that are true. I think people can identify with stuff that I’m talking about. Depression, death of my mum, being in jail. All the good stuff! Fortunately a lot of bad stuff has happened in my past, and that’s always funny for other people! Nobody wants to hear good stories.

Can you tell me something about the process of writing a stand-up routine?

For me, most of my stuff will come to me when I’m out walking my dogs. I then just go over it in my head,again and again. Only when I have a show coming up ,will I write it down. Even then it’s not all there.

How do you get a feel for what’s going to work?
I try the new stuff every week at new material nights in Glasgow. No matter how funny I think it is,only doing it live will tell me if it works.
Have you ever got it badly wrong – as in tumbleweed moments?
I’ve never had total silence! Had a lot of gigs where I never enjoyed it as much as the audience.
When crappy stuff happens, do you ever think, brilliant – material for the act?
That’s my whole set!
Have you ever written, or considered writing, fiction in any form?
I’d love to write something,but I keep thinking I’m kidding myself on. While in prison I wrote a short story that ended up in the book Days Like These. It was all short stories by people who had never been published before. Mine was called The King And I. It was about how I felt when I heard Elvis died.
Are there any writers or comedians who inspire you?
Loads of comics I admire. Charles Bukowski is a writer who makes writing seem easy. Maybe he will inspire me.
Is there a particular story you tell that works every time, or does it depend on the room?
Probably the dog in the park routine. Everyone likes a dug story!
Any favourite stand-up moments?
Playing the Kings Theatre in Glasgow.  Supporting American comic Bill Burr. Performing in New York.  And any audience that is laughing at me is a favourite!
What about the worst?
I played a club in Leeds recently. I knew before the gig started,that it wouldn’t be great. I was right.  That was painful to the ego.
What are you working on right now?
My Edinburgh festival show. I’m at the Stand 9.30pm every night.
What is your writing routine?
I don’t have one. I just talk to myself when I’m out walking the dogs.
What advice would you give the young Gary Little?
Look after your teeth. Learn a musical instrument. Don’t get caught!
I’d pay to watch the film of your life story, but who will play Gary Little on the big screen?
Matt Damon!
A few short questions to finish.  Who is your favourite author? 
Charles Bukowski
Food…
Fish
Drink…
Wine. Red or white
Film…
Cinema Paradiso, Blade Runner, Once upon a time in America… Too many to list!
Comedian…
Billy Connolly,who made it okay to just tell a story. Chic Murray. Loads of club comics who I see every week on the circuit.
Music…
Loads of stuff from Smiths, Joy Division, Scott Walker, to club music.
What are you reading right now?
Ian Banks The Quarry.
It’s been a pleasure having you on the Literary Smorgasbord, Gary.
Gary Little

Gary Little

For tour dates and to find out more about Gary, check out his website.
You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord: Alison Napier

If you have ever been anywhere near a writing group or book festival of any kind, you will know that writers come in all shapes and sizes, from big, robust circles, to tiny, stabby stars. They come in different flavours too, from cool, classic vanilla, to eyeball-exploding, triple-hot chilli sauce. Some of the nicest people around are writers, but some of them truly are mad, bad and dangerous to know.

Thrillers With Attitude has undertaken to meet up with a few of these weirdly-shaped and strangely flavoured writers, some well-established, others emerging, so that you, dear reader, can find out more about them without endangering body or soul.

Welcome then, to the Thrillers With Attitude Literary Smorgasbord. My guest this week is author, Alison Napier.

Hi Alison, thank you for agreeing to take part in the Literary Smorgasbord. Please, tell us a little bit about yourself.

 Well now – I am a cool, age-fifty-something Scot who lives in Perth at the moment where I work for a social enterprise called CheckIn that supports folk with disadvantages getting into work. I run and cook for a lunch-club every week with some of them and I also supervise social care students and I live with my very tolerant partner Susan. I am a social worker by trade and have so far left the profession three times. My email inbox usually has a mix of YouGov surveys and library overdue book reminders but at the end of May I was very excited to get an email telling me that I had been short-listed for the Dundee International Book Prize for an unpublished novel. Which means in the top ten out of five hundred entries. Five hundred! So very thrilled indeed and regardless of what happens next I feel very proud of this achievement and of my novel, Take Away People.

What were you like at school?

School? Oh dear. Well at primary school in Fife I was in a wee gang and we pretended we were in an Enid Blyton novel and invented scary houses and sinister shady men. By secondary I was living in Tain where I was a bit of late developer and while my peers were drooling over boys and stuff I was stealing planks from a building site and constructing split-level tree-houses. I also played the oboe in the county schools orchestra which I loved because I had a crush on a gorgeous flautist and I blame her for the fact that in later life I became a radical lesbian feminist separatist anarchist peacewoman living at Greenham Common a few years later, and getting my badge of honour criminal record.

What has been the evolution of Alison Napier the author?

Like lots of folk I wrote highly embarrassing diaries as a child and adolescent. Early examples include ‘Had mince for tea and went to Brownies’ and progressed to ‘Had mince for tea, all is lost and what is life and who am I.’ Standard stuff. My dad used to send articles to the Scots Magazine and so I knew the system and later I sent a few of my own non-fiction to papers like the Scotsman and New Internationalist and was astonished when they were accepted. And I got paid for them! So I had quite a lot of non-fiction published. I also wrote other things that I did not believe fell into any category until I joined the Lairg Writing Group in 2008 run by the very talented Anne Morrison and I discovered that my writing was in fact fiction, albeit somewhat unconventional… This was huge for me – suddenly I had found the thing I did that defined me like nothing else did. I sent off some stories and they were immediately accepted and I just aimed higher and higher. I also got placed in the Neil Gunn competition twice and shortlisted for Fish. My most recent short story is published in Out There, an LGBT anthology (Freight 2014) edited by Zoe Strachan where I am between the same covers as Jackie Kay and Ali Smith. Blimey.

Do you define yourself as a writer – if so, when did that first happen?

I think I do but it comes and goes. A massive rejection makes me feel I must be a crap writer. The Dundee Book Prize shortlist makes me feel like a real writer. In between these two extremes I think I do think of myself as a writer but I would not introduce myself as that or claim it as my occupation. Writing is such an odd mix of the intensely personal and private, and the public.

What is your style of writing?

I am not sure my style has a name. I write a few words or a paragraph and from that a whole heap of new ideas get sparked, some of them based on word association or a play on words, some of them just the weird places that my mind goes. Descriptions of my short stories often contain words like ‘bleak’, ‘challenging, and even ‘gloomy’. This is not a description I recognise as often they seem quite upbeat to me and shot through with darkish humour. I can also honestly say that I never know what the end of a short story will be until it is finished. And it was the same with my novel Take Away People. I like mixing things up and just telling a story, or a tiny episode, in a way that keeps the reader jolted awake. It’s the BOO! school of literature.

Why do you write this way?

It is the only way I know. I once bought a black plastic box full of small lined index cards because I thought I should be more organised. But it didn’t work so I use them for shopping lists now. In 2010 I completed an MA in Creative Writing at Exeter University. My tutor was Booker shortlisted novelist, Philip Hensher, and he was incredibly supportive of and enthusiastic about my writing style so that was a huge boost. The MA made me wonder if my writing should be more technically structured but then I just thought heck no. I also studied writing for radio and screenplays which was a great help with dialogue. My early stories don’t have any dialogue at all!

Are you inspired by any writers in particular?

Ali Smith is glorious but my favourite short story writer is Lorrie Moore. I feel that both these writers gave me permission to be myself. Lorrie Moore has a short story where her character is laughing hysterically, and Moore covers an entire page with ha ha ha ha ha ha ha… all the way down to the bottom of the page. Fabulous. Learn the rules and then break them all.

What are you working on right now?

Well it is still mainly in my head right now apart from what I call random jottings but it is a novel. Unless it ‘fails to thrive’ as we say in social work in which case it will be a short story. And I am also working on my regular book review for Northwords Now, something I also love doing.

What is it about?

Lorraine, I wish I knew! I will start with a few spices and hope they end up as a glorious vegetable biryani worthy of the Mughal dynasty.

How much research do you do?

For Take Away People I was lucky to have some time not in paid work when I lived in a caravan in Lairg and just wrote. I went on day trips to a clearance village in Strathnaver for basic things like ‘can you see the river from the hill’ and ‘is there really somewhere to hide a moped’, details like that. I check facts on Google but I am not one for copious and meticulous research otherwise I’d end up with a PhD. Far easier to make it up. It is fiction after all. Oh and I did try a lot of fish suppers for the novel so that counts as research I guess.

Do you plan your books, or are you a seat-of-the-pants writer?

See above – Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

How long did it take you to write Take Away People?

It took me from 2008 to 2012, but then it wasn’t a forty-hour week. Months passed without touching it. The redrafting took ages and the synopsis was probably the hardest part as I had to decide what it was really about. Short stories take anything from a couple of hours to six months.

Best writing moment so far?

I think it was when my fiction was first accepted by a very credible publisher and editor [Sharon Blackie of Two Ravens Press]. Suddenly the stories leapt from my desk drawer into the public domain and people liked them. And of course the shortlisting for the Dundee Prize is a huge boost for me personally. In 2012 I had a 30 minute session at the Ullapool Book Festival where I read three pieces to a very full room [I was there – LG]. That was great and I wasn’t nervous as I was totally in my comfort zone.

What are your ambitions, writing wise?

I would love Take Away People to find a publisher but perhaps it will not happen in which case I want the next one to be published. I also have a short story collection called Mirror Signal Manoeuvre which I am going to start sending out to the world. Apart from that I just want to keep on writing and getting better and better. Fame and fortune are unimportant. (Fiction – don’t you just love it?)

 What is your writing routine – do you have a favourite time of day for writing?

I seem to write best in cafes, and JD Wetherspoons are always a safe bet being cheap and open all day and never too busy. I do struggle to write when there are other people around in the house so a wee caravan out in the woods would be ideal.

Do you have a set amount of writing to do each day – if so, how is it measured – pages, words, lines, time…?

Nothing so organised I’m afraid – I wish I was one of these people who sets the alarm for 0500 and rattles off two thousand words before breakfast. Instead, I write when I feel like it, when there is a deadline coming up such as a submission for an anthology. And that is one of the great things about a writing group, because there is always a piece to write for the next meeting. So I might write three sentences a day or three thousand words. (Are you seeing a pattern here…?)

What is the method?

An equal balance of discipline and disarray.

Do you have any particular writing habits?

I write best at a desk, on an A4 lined pad, in pencil, on one side only, numbering the pages as I go along and tearing them out and making them into a pile. With a pencil sharpener, a rubber, a bottle of water or mug of tea, silence, a view, and no access to the world wide web of distraction.

What inspires you to write?

An intense experience, good or bad, often triggers a need to write a short story. But often I have no idea where they come from and they just evolve as I write. I do find it easier to write when I am unhappy, perhaps because raw feelings are much closer to the surface.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Yes. Read as much as you can. Read lots of different writers, even the ones you have already decided you don’t like. Read writers from other cultures and times, read the styles and genres you claim to despise (that would be science fiction and anything Russian in my case), read quality fiction wherever you find it, read and read and read. For me that was the best part of the Creative Writing MA – we were give a wildly eclectic reading list and it really opened my eyes to how much amazing writing there is and how narrow my own reading had been.

 Is there any one book you would like to have written?

The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore

What are you reading right now?

Four Novellas by Joyce Carol Oates.

Who would play Alison Napier in a film adaptation of your life?

Sue Perkins if she was free. Otherwise, kd laing. Of course, I would allow Miss Piggy to audition as she has the right attitude I feel.

A few quick questions to finish with. Favourite book?

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. Mad people, lots of sea, lots of pages and lots of food. Perfect.

Author

Not one favourite. Lorrie Moore, Anne Tyler, Jane Smiley, Iris Murdoch, William Trevor, Anne Enright, Lionel Shriver, Gavin Maxwell, Kathleen Jamie, Zadie Smith…

Drink

Endless tea. Shiraz for £4.99. And very good coffee. In that order.

Food…

A first class fish supper (with home-made garlicky coleslaw and curry sauce) is hard to beat. Otherwise, anything spicy.

Film…

I am clueless about films as they frequently seem like good books with the best bits taken out. Apart from Paddington! Why so? Because it is a classic film that spans continents and wrestles with the contemporary issues of immigration, cultural relativity and environmental colonialism.

Televison programme…

Brideshead Revisited from eons ago. Diners, Drive-in and Dives (Food Network). Or anything with Sue Perkins in it.

Radio programme…

Clare in the Community (R4), Saturday Review (R4) and Get It On with Brian Burnett (weekdays 6.30pm Radio Scotland) when I am cooking the tea.

Music…

Bach and Corelli. All recorder playing. Handel’s Messiah and Bruce Springsteen. And anything from the early 80s because it reminds me of coming out at Uni in Aberdeen, of the East Neuk pub, Hillhead, Daisy’s, and the Monday group at Bridge of Don.

Thanks for taking part in the Literary Smorgasbord, Alison. It’s been a gas.

A pleasure and an honour. I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Alison Napier

Alison Napier

You can find out more about Alison on her website, and you can try following her on Twitter, but she rarely uses it as she doesn’t know how.

LG Thomson is the author of Boyle’s Law, Each New Morn, and Erosion.