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.