Seven Things About Me

V inspiring bloggerThanks to Vic Watson for nominating me for a Very Inspiring Blog Award. In return, I’m going to tell you seven things you might not know about me.



When writing this post, I really struggled to think of seven things people might not know about me. Which is probably a sign that I tweet WAY too much. Also, I haven’t really done anything that interesting with my life, expect for read a lot of books, and then write a lot of books (most of which ended up in the Great Recycling Bin in the Sky), inbetween travelling around a bit and obsessing over boys. But here goes anyway

  1. I lived in China for a year. After university, I took myself off to live here, nursing a broken heart, several unfinished novels, and a largely useless degree that involved a lot of medieval French. I had a great time, learning to speak Chinese, doing many tequila shots, and spending a lot of time writing. When I came back I did it overland, travelling across Asia and Europe for three months. I think this also helped my writing a lot- if you’re on a train for five days you really need to fill that time.
  2. I’m morbidly afraid of sharks, but I watch everything about them. I used to be so scared of sharks I couldn’t go in the local swimming pool, because it had a mural of dolphins on the bottom of it (I know, I know, but I was six). But I’m also obsessed with them, and no matter how rubbish the film – Shark in Venice, Shark Night, Swamp Shark –if it has sharks in, I’m there. Every time I write something I think wistfully how I can shoehorn a shark-related scene into it. As my new series is set in Northern Ireland, it’s unlikely, but one of these days…..
  3. I have 23 first cousins. I’m from a large-ish Irish Catholic family and my mum is one of seven children. That’s not even very large by Irish standards, but it tends to impress and/or scare people in England.
  4. Hardly a new fact, as I tweet about him incessantly, but I have a beagle dog who spends most of his life crammed onto my knee as I try to type. This despite not even liking dogs before I got him. He has ruined my garden, my house, and all my clothes, and he once ate through the cable of my computer, but I love him
  5. According to various exes, my worst faults are ‘you swear too much’, ‘you’re too obsessed with the difference between your and you’re’ and ‘your jeans have too many holes in them’.
  6. I speak fluent French, and spent a year living there teaching small French children how to sing Shakira songs in English (Miss, Miss, what does ‘underneath your clothes’ mean?’. This put me off teaching for life, and children for a long time. One my friends caught scabies off the kids. Like, seriously.
  7. I was under-15 Connect 4 champion at my Irish summer school. Connect 4, the real sport of kings.

So there you have it, I’m a scruffy, sweary, multi-lingual shark obsessive. What’s not to like?

While you’re here, other blogs I enjoy are as follows:

This Itch of Writing – brilliant writing blog by Emma Darwin, covers most writing issues that come up

Help! I need a publisher – ditto, for publishing queries, and by Nicola Morgan

Julia Crouch – gives an interesting insight into the writing process. Julia is very good at breaking down what she actually does all day.

Steve Mosby – it doesn’t really have a theme as such, but if it did I would characterise Steve’s blog as ‘cogent arguments on the burning issues of the Twitter day’. If Twitter is the tabloid, Steve is the Times Editorial.


Five…worst literary losses

Last year, I taught a term of creative writing. Ten weeks. Intensive stuff. At the end of the term, I said to my students that I was going to tell them something very important about writing. Maybe the most important thing they’d ever hear. Were they listening? This was it:


They laughed a little. Of course they backed up their work! Like, duh. So perhaps the fear of lost data has finally percolated into our collective unconscious, like the way we jump when we see a spider. But I still get a shudder when I see someone bandying about a USB stick. Those things need to go the way of floppy discs. They blow up. They get put through the wash. They get eaten by dogs. Likewise, laptops expire (four in four years for me…I pound ‘em hard). Hard drives get corrupted, screens become detached, occasionally you drop them and/or spill a pint of water over them. Or they get stolen out an open window or out of your bag. So back it up! Dropbox is your new best friend. Download it onto your computer and/or phone or tablet, and you’ll always have everything with you, plus a copy floating in the ether (I’m not really sure how this works). Better yet, email the work to yourself every day. Put a post-it on your computer saying: BACK YOUR WORK UP, YOU EEJIT. Then you will never again wake up in the middle of the night strangled by the panic that you might have left your memory stick on the bus.

Oddly, I never worry about the fate of the hard-copy notebooks I use to scratch out my first drafts. Maybe because no one would steal a flowery notebook filled with writing so bad it looks like a Soviet-era cipher. Maybe because I play a game with myself where I can write the first draft by pretending it’s there, looking through it like a Magic Eye picture. Really I should take a salutary lesson from these sorry tales of literary loss over the years:

  1. ‘Oh you mean that old bundle of papers? Yeah, I burned that. That was OK, right?’ Many’s a literary gem has met a sorry end on the flames. Lucky for us this is most unlikely in these days of waning fuel and gas fire, but back then the fate of Samuel Johnson’s first dictionary (as Blackadder viewers know) was a real danger. Thomas Carlyle famously sent a manuscript to John Stuart Mill, whose maid then put it on the fire. Lesson – don’t annoy the staff, dude. Manuscripts of VS Naipaul were also taken out of storage and burned, mistaken for accounting archives (ouch!)

2. ‘Please take all personal belongings with you when you leave the train.’ A striking number of works have been lost on public transport. Jilly Cooper lost the first draft of Riders on a bus, and it took her fourteen years to try it again. TE Lawrence lost part of his epic work at Reading station (he’d have enjoyed the irony there, I bet). At one point, all of Hemingway’s work to date was stolen from a train his wife was travelling on. Lesson: Never trust anyone else with your work, especially if you’ve been busy eyeing up other Parisian laydeez on the sly.

3. ‘I hate you so much right now.’ Ever given a thought to who might manage your work after you die? Well, there’s a reason they call them ‘executors’, because it turns out they can’t keep their grubby mitts to themselves when it comes to passing judgement on your work. Be prepared to have things radically altered and/or destroyed. Ted Hughes made big changes to Sylvia Plath’s last great collection of poems, and burned one of her notebooks. William Blake’s executor also destroyed much of his writing. Lesson: do not pick as your executor someone who hates you.

4. ‘We tried to call but you were out.’ It’s not just nowadays you can’t trust Royal Mail. With an estimated half a million pieces of post going missing every year, never ever trust your only copy to the mail. A novel of Mary Shelley’s, Valperga, went missing this way on its way to the publishers.

5. ‘Better out than in.’ You could also be especially unlucky and find your work meeting the same fate as a script of Werner Herzog’s. It was apparently vomited on, then thrown out the window of a coach. Lesson: never travel with Werner Herzog. Falling out of coach (maybe a different kind though) was also the apparent demise of a lost concerto by Mendelsson. Keep those windows shut! Or you could also be like Robert Ludlum or Dylan Thomas, who lost their manuscripts on drunken nights out. Thomas lost Under Milk Wood three times while drunk. What a guy.

Take heed, readers. BACK YOUR WORK UP. You will thank me for it one day when your masterpieces are not being lost on trains and/or burned by irritated exes.