I always enjoy meeting the readers of my books, and making new ones. I enjoy showing off, shouting poems, waving books around and eating food. I imagine all these things will happen at the Festival.
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
When I was a teenager I started writing poetry as a way to meet girls. As usual it didn’t really work, and the original impetus was forgotten as the enjoyment of making stuff took over. I never looked back.
What book do you find yourself re-reading most often?
This year I’ve spent a lot of time rereading a little book by Russell Hoban (illustrated by Quentin Blake) calledThe Twenty Elephant Restaurant. It’s a wonderful, simple, bizarre little story and it makes me (a) glad it exists and (b) ashamed that I’ll never be able to make something so simple and so perfect. I reread a lot of Hoban’s books for adults too, and the novels of Iris Murdoch. And I always go back to Roald Dahl’s Danny Champion of the World. It’s another gem to be marvelled at.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I have no answer to this question. I am what I am and I don’t know the other me in that other timeline where I didn’t become a writer. I hope things worked out okay for him though, and that, whatever he’s doing, he’s happy doing it.
And finally, we have a number of aspiring writers attending the Festival. What one piece of advice would you give them?
I’ll give three bits of advice. Firstly, read lots of things and find things you enjoy reading, things that light a fire in your head. Don’t be afraid of putting a boring book down without finishing it. Books are a joy, not an obligation. Secondly, keep hold of the things you write, even if they seem to be bad. Stick them in a bottom drawer and every now and then have a peek in there and you may find that what seemed rotten a week or six months or a year ago, actually has some good bits, or a good title, or a good idea. Don’t be afraid to reuse and recycle those bits. And the same goes for your notebook. Always have a notebook in your pocket or bag. Fill it up with words and pictures and now and then flick through it and see what jumps out at you. My third bit of advice is, if you don’t feel like writing, don’t write. Sometimes you may find people loom over you or breathe down your neck, expecting you to always be a writer. Ignore them. If you don’t feel like it today, go do something else. Writing should be a joy, not an obligation.