"When you think about something, when you remember something, it’s never linear, it’s kaleidoscopic. You remember someone and then another story comes." Négar Djavadi
Writers’ paths
Nature, faith and horror

Nature, faith and horror

I’ve always been drawn to wild, lonely places. It might have something to do with the summer holidays I had as a child – never a hotel in Benidorm or Tenerife, but camping in Keswick or Wharfedale. We weren’t a family that lobstered on sun loungers; our days were spent circumnavigating a lake or scrambling...
The big W

The big W

Creative writing courses have taken something of a beating in the press of late. Their proliferation is probably one of the main reasons for this, but it is also symptom of their success. I’m not ashamed to say that I became a writer through creative writing groups. They have offered support and inspiration. They have...
A subtle undertaking

A subtle undertaking

Paddy Buckley and his story with Vincent Cullen has been with me for twenty-three years. The basic spine of the plot came to me as a single idea while I was sitting with a bereaved family, making arrangements for their son, who’d been killed in a hit-and-run accident the night before. As I sat there...
Being both

Being both

I love learning and that’s why I write novels. I’m not talking about research. I’m talking about the process when I sit down to write and empty my mind of everything I’ve ever known in order to make space for stories to emerge from within me. That’s when the real learning happens. It’s at these...
A road less travelled

A road less travelled

When, in May 2013, in the middle of a deserted Polish forest 662 miles from home, I found myself being pulled to the ground by a salivating Alsatian intent it seemed on either wrestling the bag from my back or sinking its teeth into my arm, I remember very clearly having two distinct thoughts. One,...
Capturing the silence

Capturing the silence

I never deliberately set out to write a silent character. I know it sounds like a writerly cliché – “they just walked into my head like that”, and so on – but in Lily’s case it’s completely true. That’s just the way she was, and it never seemed particularly unusual to me. So when I...
Going deeper

Going deeper

Digging a grave on a cold, rainy morning in winter certainly focuses the mind. Human beings tend to die in the winter. You learn this when you are a gravedigger and things have been picking up since the autumn. As with so many professions, there is more to do at Christmas. I was asked if...
So I'm a writer now?

So I’m a writer now?

Lots of writers seem to really hate writing. For them, sitting down in front of the computer or typewriter or notepad and forcing out their daily word count is like pulling teeth, except rather than simply pulling them out through their mouth, they’re having to pull them down, back through their gums, to be extracted...
Double English

Double English

I was a slow learner; my primary school English teacher told me so and I almost believed her. She put me in remedial classes. I was taken off to another room away from the other children; but the support assistant let me sit and write stories, (I still have one of them, ‘Mrs Brambles’). After...
Head on the block

Head on the block

There’s a cartoon I saw once which shows a writer stepping into a ‘Manuscript Doctor’s Office’. The writer is suffering from a bad case of blockage. The doctor says, “Can I take a look at a sample of your prose, please?” The writer blanches: “I can’t just produce like that, here, with you staring at...