Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas come from my emotions, often anger or love or both. The inspiration for Attack is quite obviously my love of weird low-budget old sci fi, but making it a satire about trans lives in the UK comes from my anger. Enough anger over injustice and enough love for an unrelated concept creates the motivation for my satires, but the true creativity is in meshing two unrelated concepts.
What is your writing process like?
Eclectic. Honestly, there’s no set process. Lying in bed, sitting at a desk, on a train, an app on my phone. I have a disability in my wrist, so there’s no handwriting, and I often use Dragon speech to text software. I’ve not properly trained it, which I should, and I’m not a huge fan, so sometimes I type, which I prefer and which is sometimes faster, but always hurts. It’s a balance between wanting to type and being in so much pain I can’t type. I’m not the best at balancing 🙂
How can writing be activism?
Activism is the desire to make changes in society towards a perceived greater good, through promotion, intervention, direction, and impeding economic, social, and political reform. Consciousness or awareness raising is a recognised form of activism pioneered by US feminists in the 1960s. Writing can be used to raise awareness and promote the need for reform. By combining the awareness raising with a fictional storyline, it is possible to reach a wider audience who are unaware of the need for change.
What is satire?
I wrote a lengthy post examining what satire is and why we use it here. It’s the first in a series of posts about satire. They’re all available now.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
In Attack, there are several fictional characters, several archetypical characters, and several fictionalised characters. A fictionalised character is a fictional version of a real person. Which is to say that my Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon aren’t real people. They are ideas about real people based upon the concepts of them I have in my head. I don’t know BJ or NS, I’ve never met them, and I only get small glimpses of the persona they publicly present, so I’m not seeing a multi-faceted three dimensional human personality. Further, the fictionalised characters I use are based upon common public opinions of the people they signify, so it’s very important to remember that my fictionalised characters aren’t real people.
Secondly, the people I’ve fictionalised are all public figures. It can be argued that with social media a lot of normal, every day people are public figures now, but I stayed away from people whose only fame is social media, and went with those who have jobs that make them newspaper reportable – basically, politicians. This is also why I didn’t fictionalise any real life gender criticalists, instead creating archetypical characters based on common GC characteristics.
Thirdly, UK law on defamation includes a defence of honest opinion. The fictionalised characters are based upon honest opinions of the public personas of those persons.
So, essentially, I don’t owe anything to the real people who’ve chosen to live public lives and whose public persona I’ve fictionalised using honest opinions based on actions they’ve undertaken and things they’ve said.
What advice do you have for writers?
Live. Laugh. Love.
Fuck if I know. My thing isn’t gonna be your thing, so do your thing. If you’re not happy, try doing it a different way or doing a different thing. Don’t worry about where or how or what anyone else writes; we’re not you.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Lord of the Rings. I was four years old, and I dropped the hard cover version on my bare foot. It was really heavy.
Seriously, I’ve disassociated most of my life. Emotions are still major issues for me. I usually cry when I’m happy, not when I’m sad.
What is the most problematic part of publishing?
I’m not a huge fan of remainders, and the sheer amount of wastage of paper the industry generates, personally. It’s not got a great track record of diversity. And this New York office space is nonsense, especially when none of the staff can afford to live in the city they work in. We’re in the metaverse era now (not the shitty Facebook meta, the proper digital IoT era) so move and diversify and print-on-demand.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
NofNA is a stand-alone book that might one day spawn sequels.
Attack is book one in an unconnected series of satires. The themes will be the main connection in these books, though occasionally a side character may appear in more than one novel. They’ll all have their own main characters though.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
This depends heavily on the book. Attack actually had quite a bit of research that involved watching old sci fi movies and reading TV Tropes, and I did a lot of research into satire, humour, and what I could legally get away with saying. There’s a lot of research into trans healthcare, politics, and especially the differences between England and Scotland. I also researched the transitioning process I use in the book (it’s not a real way to transition, but they can do interesting stuff with CRISPR techniques for other healthcare needs).
But all the military stuff was off the cuff.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Reviews are for readers. Any author who gets bummed out reading reviews of their work they sought out brought it upon themselves. Any reader who tags me in a review will be blocked.
I don’t want to read them, to see them, or to be told about them.
But please do leave reviews. They heavily influence whether other readers buy books. This is their actual purpose. They’re not a feedback form. They’re not for me, they’re for you.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
NofNA is absolutely chock full of easter eggs. I doubt anyone will ever find them all, and even I’ve forgotten what some of them are. Attack has constant references to online trans culture (though it’s a very specific online culture) so some people will love the shout outs to Blahaj and white energy drinks. Many of the easter eggs in Attack will be listed either here on this site or in an epilogue, however not all of them will make the list.
Easter eggs is one of my favourite things to leave in books.
What is your favorite childhood book?
I really liked Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! when I was a kid. I read that when I was eleven, in my school library. The librarian was nicknamed Conan (Conan The Librarian) and Pratchett’s books made that musty weird classroom/library seem magical somehow. I also loved the Vampire Diaries back when it was only a trilogy, so… 1991? I’d have been about 9 then. I remember getting put in the kids section at the library and sneaking into the teen section to read books. I gave up on teen books by about 1992 and moved onto adult fantasy and science fiction, but I read and really enjoy a lot of Young Adult and even some kid’s books now.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
NofNA took an absurd fifteen years.
Attack took one month.
So somewhere between a month and a decade and a half is the sweet spot.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes. No. Yes.
There are two things which I think are called writer’s block. Neither truly are writer’s block in my mind, though they do block writing so I suppose you can say they are.
First, when you write yourself into a corner, it is possible to hit a wall that stays there until you go back and rewrite yourself out of the corner. It’s basically your subconscious recognising that you broke your story and need to fix it.
Second, if you have massive stress in other areas of your life, it can affect your ability to write. Difficult breakups, moving house, etc. Conversely, it might make you write more.
If you’re blocked, try to find out why. Is the story broken? Are you under a lot of stress at the moment?