Little Guide to Unhip is a departure from my usual fiction. I would describe it as a quirky look at my own personal unhip top 50, each with its own star rating. My list includes Leo Sayer, Morris Dancing, the colour beige and umbrellas! Although some of the choices are quintessentially English, it has also been appreciated by friends across the Pond.
Tell us something about yourself.
I was born in Crosby, north Liverpool and am now living in Devon. I have been writing for over thirty years and had my first book published in UK hardback back in 1988. That went into UK paperback in 1990 and American hardback in the same year. That was my punk novel Fall Of The Flamingo Circus which was, in fact, the second novel I wrote. I rewrote my first novel ‘Where A Shadow Played’ and won a bursary for it in 1990, though it’s still unpublished. I’ve gone onto write many more novels, some of them published and I’ve also had several short stories published too.
What inspired you to write this book?
Funnily enough, Gilbert O’Sullivan was the inspiration for Little Guide To Unhip. Gilbert had me pondering how it was that he’d never enjoyed a comeback, unlike many of his contemporaries such as Slade, Sweet, even Abba. From Gilbert, I started to reflect on other unhip paraphernalia, people, props, personality traits, and it grew from there.
How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?
I decided to post up 30 chapters of Little Guide to Unhip on Authonomy and was surprised by the feedback and enthusiasm of the readers, many of whom were entering into the spirit of the book, as well as providing a few ideas of their own. On one occasion I saw a mention of Night Publishing in one of the forums, so I decided to approach them. I was thrilled to get an immediate and enthusiastic response back from the publishers Tim Roux and Bruce Essar who wanted to publish it.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I loved writing stories as a kid, but I didn’t start writing my first novel until I was 19, which was nevertheless pretty young in those days to be doing such things. My mother was a major influence as she was writing a novel when I was 17, so the idea of novel-writing wasn’t an alien concept. I was able to pick her brains and get lots of tips passed on from her .
How do you do research for your books?
Regarding research, I’m quite an obsessive note-taker, but research is now easier than it ever was with Google and widespread access to the internet. They say write what you know and I do try and draw on my own experiences.
Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?
I’ve learned that I can do non-fiction as well as fiction and that it doesn’t have to be lofty, dry or inaccessible – that actually it can be a lot of fun.
What are you reading now?
At the moment I’m reading The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – a collection of excellent and often harrowing short stories
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
My favourite genres are contemporary/literary fiction or well-written non-fiction – something to make me sit up, or laugh, or move me. A good story is important but more important to me is the way it is written. Original voice and imagery is what floats my boat. Writers I’ve enjoyed in the last couple of years include Sebastian Barry, Ali Smith, Bill Broady, Paul Magrs, Jane Gardam, Daithidh MacEoichaidh, Markus Zusak, Mo Foster. I’ve also enjoyed books from many writers I’ve met on Authonomy including Gerald Hansen, L A Carrington, Raymond Nickford, Raven Dane, Suzanna Burke, Ben Hardy, Tony Shelley and Frank Kusy.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I have almost completed my next book which is a return to fiction. This draws on my psychology background and involves the rehabilitation of a feral child. However, I’m also gathering a list of more unhip contenders, so who knows, there may be a follow-up to Little Guide.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Learn to be your own critic. Yes, take on board suggestions for improvement, but don’t go changing everything on the basis of one comment if you disagree with it, otherwise you may end up like a boat without a rudder. I think the general rule of thumb is – if enough people say it, then there’s probably something in it. Otherwise, it might just be personal taste.
The other thing I’d say is, don’t expect too much. Be realistic about your achievements in this day and age. Aim for the sky by all means, but if you only get as far as the roof of your house, well, that ain’t such a bad thing! Which is another way of saying be proud of small successes.
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
Hanging out on writers and social networking sites seems to be the order of the day, nowadays. With Little Guide to Unhip there is a lot of scope for audience participation on Facebook with voting polls and nostalgic debates. For instance we’ve just had a vote on the most unhip record and Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep came top! Unhipness is an area where people have a lot of views and experiences, I love the discussions it generates. I am currently building my own website. In the meantime details of all my published books (and some of my unpublished work) can be found at the links below.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
I have included the following links where you can find out more information about Little Guide to Unhip and my other books, including purchase: