"To write anything worth reading you have to put everything you have into every sentence. There can be no lazy thinking, no clichés, no borrowed tropes, no third-hand experience; there can be no hiding.” Miranda Darling
Holding on to the plot

Holding on to the plot

“My marriage ended because I was cruel. Or because I ate in bed. Or because he liked electronic music and difficult films about men in nature. Or because I did not. Or because I was anxious, and this made me controlling. Or because red wine makes me critical. Or because...
One person trying to be three or four

One person trying to be three or four

Not many of my days are the same but the range they cycle through remains consistently varied. Let’s take a random sample, say, yesterday, and see what happened in 24 hours of my writing life… Weather: 15 degrees and torrential rain. Bondi Beach, Edge of the World. It hasn’t stopped raining for four days, the sort...
All You Have to Do Is Care

All You Have to Do Is Care

Salena Godden’s latest poetry collection With Love, Grief and Fury gives an ample and elemental display of her deepest passions. Filled with the vulnerability, rage and dismay that define contemporary living, it also delivers a stirring dose of inspiration, hope and empathy. Personal and political, the subjects range from civil...
Anatomy of an obsession

Anatomy of an obsession

You’re likely wondering what all this is about – my aim in contacting you. It’s been three years since rain flicked our glasses as we stood inches apart and I stared at your quivering upper lip, which always reminded me of the tilde: ~. Last week, a journalist contacted me....
Elsa Drucaroff, Rodolfo Walsh and Argentina

Elsa Drucaroff, Rodolfo Walsh and Argentina

The years of the military Junta cast a very long shadow in Argentina, and it’s thoroughly poignant that Rodolfo Walsh’s Last Case appears in English just as the country has taken a swerve in a desperate new direction. I had never heard of Rodolfo Walsh. That was put right by...
Kate Brody: Missing people, muddled lives

Kate Brody: Missing people, muddled lives

Kate Brody’s pacy debut thriller is a novel of our times. A missing woman, social media conspiracy theories, mental health issues, suspicion, trust, self-harm and family trauma are woven together to give us a troubling, riveting and sharply written noir set on America’s East Coast. What’s the worst that can...
No I won't 'calm down' about Greta Gerwig

No I won’t ‘calm down’ about Greta Gerwig

On my desktop is an unfinished essay, a file called Greta Gerwig Won’t Win. I’ve been trying to write about Gerwig for some time, but I only started this version recently – post-Golden Globes, Oscars rumours simmering. I thought Gerwig would be nominated for directing but have no chance of...
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Debts I owe to books

Debts I owe to books

I owe a lot to books. Some have been my teachers, others my emotional and psychological mentors, many my companions in escapism. Quite a few have been money-earners, friend-bringers, pain-resolvers, eye-openers. This is a brief survey of my top ten debts and to which special volumes I owe them. I almost died of pneumonia when...
The horror of the self

The horror of the self

In November 1979, the American current affairs programme 60 Minutes ran an item called ‘Wellness’. In it, host Dan Rather profiled the work of Dr John Travis, a former physician-turned health educator who had, in 1975, opened the Wellness Resource Center in Mill Valley, an affluent city in California’s Marin County. As Rather discovered, Travis...
And they lived happily ever after...?

And they lived happily ever after…?

Few of us can resist the appeal of a happy ending – especially if it involves two great characters heading off into the sunset together and living happily ever after. As a writer what could be more satisfying after years of toil than capping your fountain pen knowing that everyone is coupled up and all...
A lady falls

A lady falls

She let out a sigh as she fell, an exhalation so sweet and soft that not a soul heard it, not even the cop who’d passed by the building not two seconds before; it was the smashing of china and the subsequent thud of her body landing hard against the stone steps three storeys down...
A Tartan Noir original

A Tartan Noir original

I first encountered Bill Knox in a second-hand bookshop in Inverness, twenty-odd years after his death. I was browsing the shelves while hiding from the inevitable Autumn Highland rain, idly looking for nothing in particular. Randomly, I pulled out a battered old hardback and read the title: Death Department. Intrigued, I flicked through a few...
A sitting duck

A sitting duck

The plan… It had first taken shape in Renfield’s mind one morning over a month before when the 29-year-old reporter, on the staff of the Evening View, had been having a casual 10a.m. cup of tea in the canteen at Glasgow police headquarters. The big room, reserved for sergeants and constables, with pressmen having an...
A time for reading

A time for reading

It is the middle of the afternoon on a Sunday in March. She has just woken up from a nap. The snow is no longer falling but its brightness is still being projected onto the ceiling of their apartment. It is rather lovely. The cat is watching her from a pouffe opposite the sofa with...
Ever-changing chaos

Ever-changing chaos

All the Lonely People is a beautiful and moving book about loneliness and all its forms. Sam Carr has interviewed many people of all ages about loneliness and its effects. It’s also part-memoir about the relationships in his life that have shaped him. He explores how feeling lonely can isolate us, but also how it’s...
Island stories and other fictions

Island stories and other fictions

When Rishi Sunak recently tried shamelessly to turn the Rochdale byelection into a national crisis, warning about extremism tearing us apart, one phrase leapt out at me. Immigrants who integrate, he said, “have helped write the latest chapter of our island story.” Unless my publishers had really upped their game, I knew he wasn’t referring...
Artists' protest against the Eiffel Tower

Artists’ protest against the Eiffel Tower

We – writers, painters, sculptors, and architects, passionate devotees of Paris’ beauty which, for the moment at least, remains intact – protest with all our force, with all our indignation, in the name of that belittled French taste, of that French art and history which is currently under threat, against the construction, in the very...
Judith Shakespeare

Judith Shakespeare

In her 1929 feminist manifesto, A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf explored the reasons why over the centuries women had written so little compared to men. “A woman must have money and a room of her own,” she famously pronounced, “if she is to write fiction.” In lectures originally given in 1928 at Newnham...
Tell me a story

Tell me a story

Our oldest memories are in stories. Our oldest memories are stories. To tell a story well is a skill: the sort that can be learned but cannot easily be taught. To be told a story is a pleasure and often a privilege. When I first picked at the thread of an idea for my debut...