Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up on Lewis, in the Western Isles of Scotland. It is an old place, for good and bad. It is a place where everyone knows everyone, where the sense of community is a comfort to get you through the coldest, stormiest winters. Yes, it can be slow to catch up to the rest of the country on technological and societal improvements but despite those few drawbacks, I adore that island with all my heart. It has given me a great appreciation for people over things, and that is something I have constantly in the back of my mind when I am writing.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on a story which will become my first published novel. I am bad for getting carried away with the plot bunnies and working on other side projects; however, I'm trying hard to keep focused on my main one. It is my first proper attempt at realist fiction and tells the story of a woman taking stock of her life on her thirtieth birthday, and of her three younger sisters, whose lives are already far more organised and fulfilled. However, as she stars to panic about the direction in which she's heading, each sister feels her world fall apart around her, and tries to piece it back together before anyone realises she's struggling.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have a few favourite authors whose works I enjoy for different reasons. My favourite has for a long time been Ernest Hemingway. His prose is crisp and pure, as though every word is chosen with precision. I can enjoy good writing even when the plot leaves something to be desired but when the story is also well-crafted, each book can feel like a work of staggering beauty. My love for Douglas Adams is similar; his turn of phrase excites something inside me like no other writer. Hitchhiker remains my favourite book of all time. Getting away from the prosaic praise, I have a dear fondness for Haruki Murakami. His worlds are rich and imaginative, but he can so often find the subtle wonder in the mundanity of life. If we get into pure storytelling, I will gladly read almost anything Stephen King or Jonas Jonasson ever write.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Largely through Twitter, though I was late to the Goodreads train and it's a wonderful place for finding new books. I am also friends with many avid readers and they often come through with great recommendations.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't remember the first story, but there are a few books I read as a child which have lodged themselves in my memory. I distinctly recall reading a Shakespeare for children book in early primary school, which was essentially a few plays edited down and written with a simpler translation to modern English. My teacher took the book off me and gave me a copy of the proper text. It was too advanced for me but I gained more from reading that version than I ever would have from the other one.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My main character, Katie, has just turned thirty. She is the oldest person on her team at work, she shares a flat with a friend from her university days and she is single. None of those things bothers her; indeed, she enjoys her life. However, when she compares her lot to that of her sisters, she finds herself wanting more. The other three are all younger, but all are married, living with their partner, and in a solid profession.
Katie does not realise, however, that her sisters look at her life with similar envy. Whether they are stuck in a job they hate, with a partner they no longer love, or in a lie they cannot un-tell, each of them feels the thin walls of their perfect lives being slowly cracked and chipped, and none of them knows what to do when they fall.
The plot has gone through so many revisions I can't actually pinpoint where any particular part of it originated. The genesis of the book, if not the story, was in my desire to write a realist work of fiction. I too easily get distracted and fall into the habit of writing fantasy and science fiction; this was my attempt to prove to myself I could write something else.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Alas, no, but I can probably tell you when I wrote it. From the moment I was able to form words with a pencil I loved the idea of writing; I was the annoying kid in class who asked for several extra sheets of paper because I was never going to be able to wrap up my story in the space provided. I wrote at every opportunity in primary, which I attribute to my wonderful mother putting books in front of my face to keep my occupied even before I could read.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
The Kindle app on my iPhone. I suffer from migraines and something about the screen on real Kindles just goes for me. The app is nice and fluid, though.
How do you approach cover design?
I approach design of any kind with great fear and trepidation. I am handy in a few ways but I am less than useless when it comes to any kind of image editing software. I will leave the practical side to the professionals. From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, I prefer simple or clever covers. I have never been a fan of using real models on cover art but will grant that some who have gone that route have come up with amazing designs. I like uniformity across a series: one of the spine designs on my copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide series is slightly misaligned with its brethren and it annoys me.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I love living where I do. Walking to work in the morning, going for a pint, sitting in the Necropolis to write: I love being in Scotland and conversing with other people, be that a brief exchange over the counter at Starbucks or a debate in the pub.
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