Many of your stor ies are set in Birm ingh am, but how much of your writ ing is base d on your expe rien ces whil st living here? My experiences do feed into my work, but a lot come from my family who mostly live in rural Gloucestershire. I grew up in the country but on a council estate attached to a large factory where everyone worked (I spent a year working shifts there before moving away to college). When I set ‘industrial’ stories in this country setting they didn’t seem to ﬁt. I moved to Birmingham in 1982 and realised it was perfect for the type of stories I was writing, so just changed the background. Of course the more time I spent in Brum the more the stories grew out of what I was seeing/experiencing here: the riots in 1985 (and more recently of course), the factories shutting down (Longbri dge etc), my own work place experiences (absolutely not factory based). In many ways though I think I am still writing about my extended family, adapting their worries and experiences into my stories. Has there been any subject matter which you’ve found difﬁcult to write about?
My pieces often deal with drugs and sex and violence, so I do get a bit embarrassed when my mum is in the audience (e.g. at my launch). Other than that I have no problems. How far do you research and plan each piece, and how much do you base on instinct? Instinct is the ﬁrst impetus. I just write phrases and situations down that appeal. Research – not a lot – and planning – quite a bit – come later. I often move sequences of events around and ﬁnd that often gives me the clues I need to ﬁnish the story, to make it ‘shapely’, or to put it another way, to make it work. I also belong to a writers’ group who are a real help in the ﬁnal stages of getting the stories working. What advice would you give for those of us who are hoping to become writers?
Don’t give up, even if you have given up. Go back and start again. Join a group (a good one, where you can trust the judgement of other members) – that forces you to write and to have an audience.
Published on Oct 3, 2011
As the dust begins to settle from the August riots, issue 3 of SL Magazine brings together the reactions of young people in Birmingham, and...