Jane Austen, fantasy fiction and the morals of our children

A slightly edited version of this article first appeared in The Independent. The children of Britain are sliding into a terrifying quagmire of moral abandon. Or so certain commentators would have us believe. Joanna Trollope’s remarks that fantasy stories give children little moral guidance (Sunday Times, 6.10.13) echo those of Michael Gove back in May,…

Patron of Reading: aka, I must have grown up somewhere along the way

I just made the first visit to a brand new school, Cambourne Village College, just outside Cambridge. I accepted their offer to become ‘Patron of Reading’ for this academic year, a title which makes me think I must have become a grown-up somewhere along my journey. Not that I noticed. I was delighted to receive…

An incident that occurred in my shed this morning…

I record here verbatim an incident that occurred this morning as I was settling down to write. My book: Back off, will you?Me: Er, sorry, what..?My book: I think you heard.Me: Well, yes. Actually I did. And since you bring it up, I’ve been meaning, that is, I’ve been wanting to, er, have a word…

Room 237 and what it tells us about author intention

Last November, I think it was, we went to see the excellent documentary by Rodney Ascher, Room 237, at the ICA. I’ve been waiting since then for a DVD of the film to arrive because I immediately wanted to see it again. It’s a documentary that has quite rightly garnered a lot of praise – its subject…

Some early writing…

Herewith the first piece of writing of mine that I still have. Unearthed at Easter. And in case you’re wondering, I was five 🙂 “Guy Fawkes was a man and he wanted to blow up the houses of parliament and one of Guy Fawkes’ friends had a brother. And he was going be in a…

The Dead Days

Many years ago (as a nice story should start), I wrote a book called The Book of Dead Days. I wrote it from a feeling, a feeling that I’d had since I was a child, about why it feels so weird between Christmas and New Year. When you’re a kid, there’s all that time over…

Why I like this book :-)

There were vampire novels before Dracula, there have been many since, and there will undoubtedly be more to come in the future, but I doubt Dracula will ever be bettered. Why? Largely because it’s a product of the time it was written, and the man who wrote it – Bram Stoker, a member of high…

Symbols and folklore

first posted at MY FAVOURITE BOOKS If it was up to me, I would write folk and fairy tales. Really. But I can’t, because it’s not up to me. Or rather, I could do if I wanted to, but no one would buy them. Rather like the short story, folk and fairy tales are generally considered…

Special places

first posted at THE BOOKBAG Another of those questions you get asked a lot as a writer: where do you like to work? Do you have a special place? Well, yes, I do have a special place – I am one of those lucky ones who has a shed at the bottom of the garden. It’s…

Short stories and twisted tales

first posted at THE BOOKETTE I love stories. I’m a writer, so that probably sounds a bit stupid. Of course I like stories, but I really really like short stories. So when I wrote this book which is composed of seven parts, each one like a short story, I also decided it would be fun to…

Vampires: The Vikings had them too…

 first posted at WONDROUS READS It’s true. Years ago I was amazed to discover that vampires were known to the Vikings, at least, if their sagas are to be believed. In a couple of them, the Eyrbyggja Saga for example, the bodies of those slain rise from the dead, causing havoc, slaughtering animals and men, and…

The Rite of Winter

first posted at READING ZONE Parts of many of my books have been inspired by music: the chapter titles in White Crow for example, are titles of songs with related meanings, much of the Book of Dead Days was inspired by Schubert’s epic song cycle, Winterreise.  And Midwinterblood is no exception: lines by Nick Drake and…