Q1) The book most influential for you as a young person
Groosham Grange by Anthony Horowitz. It’s a fun, dark book and the impact it had on me as a kid has stayed with me over the years. I write about it here
Q2) The book that gets you through hard times
There isn’t one particular book. I usually struggle to get through winter (the constant darkness gets to me – I love the long days of a Scottish summer) and I always reach to comics for comfort (though, I love horror, so they’re probably not other people’s idea of comfort). I usually reread everything by Charles Burns and some old horror comics like Tales From The Crypt. They’re a delight and never fail to cheer and soothe me (even Burns’ more disturbing stories).
Q3) The book that most disappointed you
I can’t say. I’d be excommunicated from the Scottish literary community for eternity. I’ve only told two people. It’s my deep dark secret.
Q4) Name a book with either a brilliant opening or a brilliant ending
I’m going to be indulgent and do both.
Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In The Castle – that opening paragraph is a masterclass in writing.
I’m also going to throw in J.G. Ballard’s High Rise for that opening line.
And Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World for that powerful and utterly chilling last paragraph - it haunts you.
Q5) Your favourite character from a novel
It’s a comic/graphic novel - Karen in My Favourite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris. It’s a stunning piece of work and I can’t wait for the second volume.
I’ve written an ode to Favourite Thing (and a Charles Burns book): The Unsung Letter
Q6) Next on your 'to read' pile is...
Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch
Q7) Your favourite poem
Waking In Winter by Sylvia Plath.
I’m a big fan of Plath – often her work is overshadowed by her relationship with Hughes and her death, but she deserves better. She truly is one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
Q8) The greatest book you've ever read
Can any reader or writer every really answer this question? It’s so hard to narrow it down to one book. But the book that has been one of my top favourites for the past few years is Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In The Castle.
Given how impossible this question is, I’m going to be indulgent again (I could clearly be a Booker judge with all this terrible rule breaking) and highlight some contemporary favourites too: Embassytown by China Mieville, H(A)PPY by Nicola Barker, The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride. I’ll force myself to stop there. ●