On my Facebook profile I’ve been nominated to list some of my favourite things.

Fifteen films I never forget:


Ed Wood

Wild At Heart


Mind Game

Sexy Beast

Porco Rosso

Once Upon a Time in the West

Men in Black


Finding Nemo

Black Cat White Cat

The Life Aquatic

Speed Racer

-and, hell yes-

The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Ten Favourite Books:

Stone Junction by Jim Dodge

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes

The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs

True Grit by Charlies Portis

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham

Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith

Burning Your Boats (collected short stories) by Angela Carter

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal


The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola.

The books list was harder than the film one. To discover another four hundred and ninety(!) books I love, check my LibraryThing profile. 😀

Messages like this below from Säde, 16, in Estonia are one of the very best things about what I do.

I think I read your book when I was around 12 or 13, but I still remember it as one of the first books, that I couldn’t put down before I had finished it. The reason why I’m writing you now is that I didn’t thank you for writing such an amazing book and I think The Black Tattoo got me into sci-fi and fantasy novels and is the reason I can hardly read any other genres now.
I’ve wanted to write a book for a very long time. I’ve always had dozens of ideas circling around and evolving in my head, but I just don’t know where to start. So I wanted to ask how can you do it? How can you write something you love, without leaving anything out that is appealing to you, but isn’t actually really important to the story? Thanks again for your work.

Here’s my reply.

Hi Säde,

It’s a thrill and an honour to read your kind words about The Black Tattoo. There’s no need to thank me – I had a lot of fun writing that book – instead it is I who should be thanking you: Thank You! 😀

Your question is one to which I’m still working out the answer myself – and I look forward to continuing to attempt to figure it out for the rest of my writing life. I’ve learned some stuff I think, but if I’ve any chance of telling you anything useful here on this Guestbook I’ll have to be selective. Hope that’s ok. ;D

First answer: /you/ should be selective too. Don’t try to put /all/ your ideas into one story. Pick your very best ideas – the ones you’re most excited and passionate about – and focus on those. Make a list if you like: that’s how I started The Black Tattoo. I listed all the things I could think of that I – at the moment I sat down to make the list – would most love to find in a story. In that case the list began ‘swordfights, demonic possession, flying kung fu’ and continued from there, as you know. ;D Next I started asking myself how I could put the elements together in a way that was the most exciting I could possibly think of at the time. Then, later, once I thought I’d worked that out as best I could, I started working out how to write it.

Starting from a list of what made me excited worked very well for me as a way to begin. It meant that whenever things got tough with the book (as is inevitable in any project) I had my excitement about what I was writing to keep me going. I needed it.

Two other shorter points about what you’ve said, if I may. I’m a little puzzled by what you said about leaving things out. I think that learning when to leave things out is one of the core skills in writing. What gets left out is often what makes a piece of writing great. I suggest that the more you read, watching and learning from other writers’ technique, the more you might see why. And this is my second point: I think you should read as widely as you possibly can – not ‘just’ your chosen genre (though of course it is one of the richest and most inspiring!) but others too. The wider you read, the richer a stew of ideas you’ll be able to simmer, stir and serve up in your writing (sorry for that metaphor, it’s almost dinner time as I’m typing this and I’m hungry ;D) If you’re interested in book recommendations, I’ve got a list of things that I think are terrific at my LibraryThing profile, here.

Thank you so much, again, for your wonderful message, Säde. I’m delighted and honoured that my work has inspired you, and very grateful that you took the time to write and tell me so.

Best wishes from London,



My event at the London Anarchist Bookfair last week was a blast. The audience was full of smart young people who asked all sorts of intense and penetrating questions. I got a huge kick out of trying to answer them – as I also did with these, below, which came in recently from Ali, 14, in Lebanon

I would like to ask you: Are you thinking of turning The Black Tattoo into a movie? If yes, it would be awesome.

Hi Ali. Here’s one answer to that question. Here’s another: I don’t make films, I write books. I prefer it that way. You can make a book as spectacular as you want, fill it with whatever you can think of, and nobody will say ‘That effect is too expensive’ or (to pick one current horrifying example, a film about to come out based on an excellent book with an awesome character in it who looks nothing like the actor Hollywood chose to play him-) ‘We’re going to put Tom Cruise in it.’ GAH! ‘Scuse me. ;D

Film is a powerful medium with (because it’s comparatively easy to take in) a long reach. In films a person could do some stuff, and I like films, sure, doesn’t everybody? But in books… in books, you can do ANYTHING.

Also, while I’m happy with Black Tat and how it turned out – and I’m delighted and thrilled to be corresponding with you about it! – it’s already written. If I go back to it I might not have time to write all the other stuff, new stuff, that I want to write.

I wanted to know: Why did you want to be a writer? What made you love writing that much? I want to be a writer because it’s the only way I can express my feelings. What about you?

I write because I love imagining stuff. Books – and comics, and films, and animation, and games, and theatre, and storytelling, and tv (hm, maybe not tv so much!) – can be good at imagining stuff for me, in fact sometimes they can be amazing at it. The idea of writing something that someone else might enjoy even half as much as some of the things I’ve enjoyed is, I find, a very inspiring idea to go after. But, fundamentally, I write because I love imagining stuff for myself.

Luckily for me, it turns out that’s probably the best creative approach. The best guarantee you can have that someone else will be excited by your stuff is if /you’re/ excited by it. After that, it’s a matter of craft – doing your very best to make sure that what you write is properly conveying that excitement to a reader. That can be hard work, but it’s got its compensations too.

Thank you so much for answering my question. As a writer, do you read other writers’ work? Or just write your own story?

You’re welcome, it was a good question, one that I think most writers ask themselves all the time. :D😀

This next question is easier to answer. I think that everyone in the world should read as much as possible, and that goes DOUBLE for writers because reading is the best way to learn how to write, how to decide what you’re going to write, what sort of writing you like and what you don’t and why, and just what an amazing way to communicate writing and reading can be.

Of course you need to write your own story. But you will always be influenced by something. So it makes sense to be influenced by the biggest variety of fascinating things that your brain can possibly hold, until your head is like a vast cauldron full of rich, reeking, bubbling stew from the depths of which your own unique mix of flavours will rise to the surface.

In other words, Yes: I read, every chance I get. ;D

What kind of books do you like to read?

I read all sorts of things, all the time. Have you seen my LibaryThing profile? There I keep a list of five hundred books that I think are awesome, I’ve written a bunch of recommendations, and you can even keep up with what I’m currently reading if you like.

Have a look. I hope you find something you enjoy. Happy reading!


…Ali first contacted me via the Guestbook on the Black Tat website. The Crawlers and Tim sites have Guestbooks too and an O Guestbook is on its way. Meanwhile, if you have a question for me, you can also reach me via a few other methods you’ll find on my homepage.