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What are you currently working on?Currently, I am writing a daily diary called ‘Knees Up’ which is based upon my recent experience of having had a knee replacement operation and the subsequent recovery. This is a follow up to my hip replacement diary of 2015 called ‘Hip Op’. I suppose you could call it a Joint Enterprise. On one level, the diary is a record of physical rehabilitation - medication, exercises, crutch walking, trips to the physio etc., while, on another, it contains observations of what is happening in the world. Some of these are serious but the vast majority are either mundane or light-hearted or both. My aim is to write the diary up until the point when I go away in June on a walking holiday with a group of friends to Northumberland. I intend to serialise the diary in a blog. I am also editing another novel, ‘The Haunting of Colin Cartwright’, which I hope will soon be ready for submission to agents and publishers.
What is your advice to aspiring writers?Never give up but learn to take criticism and edit yourself. If you find this too difficult, get someone else to edit your work for you. Raymond Carver is probably the best example I can think of a writer whose work was improved by savage editing. It was his wife who edited his work but, typically, she was never acknowledged. Up until recently, I found the dictum ‘less is more’ challenging but then I managed to cut down a novel-in-progress from 140,000 to 70,000 words which I suppose some would call butchery but which I fondly recall as liberating.
Who are your favourite writers?I love keeping up with the ‘Roman’ novels by Simon Scarrow, reading the latest book by Rachel Joyce and also discovering new writers like Amor Towles whose novel, ‘The Lincoln Highway’ I got for Christmas. Also, these days, I find that a faulty memory allows me to enjoy the Jeeves and Wooster novels by P.G. Wodehouse on a loop. A few years ago, one of our Book Club choices was Sebastian Faulks’ homage to Wodehouse entitled, ‘Jeeves and the Wedding Bells’. It is an extraordinary achievement. Faulks emulates Wodehouse’s style to perfection. As for poets, I love reading Gillian Clarke and Alice Oswald. Another poet I discovered recently is Alison Brackenbury whose latest collection, ‘Thorpeness’, has just been published and which I can’t wait to read. If I was asked to choose my favourite novel, it would be one which Sebastian reads in ‘Trying Times’, J.L. Carr’s ‘A Month in the Country’. It is an absolute gem.
What novel are you reading at the moment?At present, I am reading ‘A Claxton Diary: Further Field Notes from a Small Planet’ by Mark Cocker. It is a book of beautifully written short essays full of astute observations of the natural world, particularly of the Norfolk countryside near the River Yare. Lined up after this are two books: ‘Orchard: A Year in England’s Eden’ by Benedict Macdonald and Nicholas Gates and ‘Open Water’ by Caleb Azumah Nelson, which is one of our Book Club choices.
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