About

A Bit About Me

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I started writing early in the 21st Century. Over the years I’ve served an apprenticeship via taking part in courses and workshops, and entering competitions.  A number of my short stories have won or been shortlisted for competition prizes, and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts  at novels I was thrilled to have Truth Sister taken on and published by Impress Books (2018).

My day job (now part-time) is as a scientist, and in that work I’ve had to write material for all kinds of audiences. I’ve always enjoyed reading, and for a good ten years I used to read bedtime stories to my children. We got through quite a lot of books, and on the whole the children humoured me while I chose my favourites . . .

I’m originally from Liverpool, but since the 1980s I’ve lived in Swindon, town of literary fame (see Mark Haddon’s* The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels; Sherlock Holmes even stops here for lunch in The Boscombe Valley Mystery). See the links page for more things Swindonian.

When I’m not writing or procrastinating, I’m a member of Swindon Folksingers’ Club (where I’m a “competent floor singer”) and Swindon Community Choir. I also take a passing interest in the fortunes of Liverpool and Swindon Town football clubs. (Well, you have to get your kicks somehow.)

Who are my influences? Good question.

  • Top of the list is John Wyndham. I’ve always felt a close affinity to his dystopian-in-an-everyday-way approach. Read The Chrysalids for something even more trenchant and imaginative than The Day of the Triffids.
  • The true founders of SF were Jules Verne – who, even in the mid-nineteenth century, could produce fantastic ideas and strong characters, as in Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and H G Wells, whose work covered a vast range of subjects in his short stories and novels. As well as the obvious ones, such as The War of the Worlds and The History of Mr Polly, try the short stories The Country of the Blind and the mystical The Door in the Wall.
  • Conan Doyle. The Lost World – real Boys’ Own stuff. And just how does he get the Sherlock Holmes stories to be so gripping when his characters are so thin? Good writing, that’s how.
  • Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke. Broad-sweeping imagination and breathtaking ideas. Try Asimov’s short story Nightfall and Clarke’s Second Dawn. Great SF.

Who else?

  • Philip Pullman – fantastic imagination in His Dark Materials and, more recently, La Belle Sauvage.
  • J R R Tolkien, of course. After The Lord of the Rings, why do any of us bother to write fantasy any more?
  • OK. I’ll make an exception. J K Rowling’s Harry Potter books are going to run and run too.
  • I’m a sucker for whodunnits: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Ian Rankin, etc.
  • Jane Austen: Humour and satire at the turn of the eighteenth century. Read Mansfield Park – the dark side of P&P.
  • Humour too from Douglas Adams and from P G Wodehouse, the master.
  • Children’s magic from Phillipa Pearce in Tom’s Midnight Garden. On growing up . . .
  • Poetry as prose from Ian McEwan – feel the summer heat in those opening chapters of Atonement.

* – Mark’s website (http://www.markhaddon.com/) says he’s much more active on Twitter (@mark_haddon) and Instagram (@mjphaddon).