Q&A

Published to coincide with publication of my novel The Workshop Of Filthy Creation

  • You’ve previously written a whole variety of books, covering a wide range of genres for an array of readers, including best-selling children’s literature (as Simon Cheshire). What draws you to writing science fiction, horror and speculative fiction specifically?
    • They’re the genres in which anything can happen – some types of fiction can end up feeling a bit same-y and formulaic but SF and horror, despite having their own tropes and cliches, have no limits. Whatever can be imagined can leap out of the page at you.
  • What was the greatest writing challenge that The Workshop of Filthy Creation presented?
    • I’ve never done so much research before! I always think that the more you find out about any subject, no matter how big or small that subject is, the more interesting it becomes. I’ve become absolutely fascinated by the history of surgery.
  • Has the Frankenstein story always interested you?
    • Yes, I think what intrigues me is the concept of the perpetual outsider. It’s certainly an idea that goes right to the root of my own life, but I’ll let the psychiatrists sort that one out..!
  • How long did it take you to write?
    • From first sparks in the brain to printed page, well over a decade. In between other projects, I rewrote it from scratch maybe six or seven times, and I often felt as if this story and I were locked in combat like Holmes and Moriarty going over the Reichenbach Falls, but I just had to get it right.
  • Do you have a writing ritual?
    • My problem is that I have no self-discipline whatsoever, so I have to stick to a rigidly timetabled working week or I’d spend all day sitting and reading. I switch on my wheezy old laptop at 8:30am, with a cup of coffee on one side of me and my breakfast on the other, and I treat writing sessions as if they were exams – no breaks, no talking, no looking things up on the internet.
  • Where is the best place to write?
    • I have an old bureau, made in Shanghai in 1921, that I found in a junk shop years ago and restored, and which now stands in the corner of my room. Every word I’ve written since has been typed while sitting at that bureau.
  • How would you describe your writing style?
    • I honestly couldn’t say. I spent a lot of years using a lot of different styles while I was working in the children’s/ educational market, so I guess it’s probably best described as ‘mutant.’
  • What books or authors have inspired your writing over the years?
    • So many! If there was one book which inspired me to become a writer more than any other, it would have to be Orwell’s 1984, but there are dozens of others.
  • Who would play the main characters in a film adaptation of The Workshop of Filthy Creation?
    • If the book fell through a space-time wormhole into the 1930s, I’d say Myrna Loy should be Maria, with Charles Laughton as Jabez Pell and Bela Lugosi as von Frakken. For a contemporary cast..? Well, I’d definitely want to play von Frakken, that’s for sure!
  • What are you currently reading?
    • Right now I’m reading Michelle Paver’s Wakenhyrst, and re-reading the collected short stories of Richard Yates, one of my all-time favourite writers.
  • What is the book you wish you’d written?
    • Either Clare Allan’s Poppy Shakespeare – which I just adore – or Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, which is not only a superb historical novel, it’s a textbook in plot construction and character detail.
Me n’ the book
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