Recent Stuff


A Mission Statement

I think it is unfair that only companies and corporate entities get to have a mission statement. I think writers and artists and other creatives should have them too. I think it is good to have a mission. Jesus had a mission. James Bond has had tons. Missions are good.

Here is my mission:

- I want to write books that cannot be put in a box and easily classified. I want to write books that place as much value on feeling as thought. I want to prove intelligence does not need to be compromised in order to entertain. I want to be a storyteller – one who believes in beginnings, middles and endings. I want to provoke physical responses – laughter, tears, heart palpitations. I want to take people to another world in order for them to see the one they live in with new eyes. I want my books to come up with new truths so obvious they sound like cliches. I want to fill my books with love and hope and possibility. I want to ignore the rules that say you can’t have happy endings or cliches or adverbs or jokes (if it is good enough for life it is good enough for a book). I want to be a tour guide of the imagination.



The Myth of the Author

Every book perpetuates a myth on its cover.

The myth I am talking about is the myth of the author. The myth of that name under or above the title, staring out at you in bold letters, like Stonehenge in a font, saying ‘I am an island of talent, and everything inside this book is down to me.’

I have a book coming out at the start of May. If you want to pre-order your copy you can do so here. It is called The Humans and, for the very first time in my publishing career, I am still proud of it. Normally what happens with my books is that I write the thing, love the hell out of it for a week, and then, by the time they come out I just want to hide under a rock and cringe.

But not with this one. Here I am, with actual printed hardback copies in existence (though not in shops until May) and I am not cringing about anything in that book. I am not even scared of the reviews. I’m not saying it’ll get good reviews. I’m just saying that for once reviews won’t alter my neurochemical balance or cause too much serotonin depletion.

I believe in this book. I believe it is the best thing I have written and that, if I were to die today, it is the one I’d want to be remembered for.

But this book is not just mine. No book is just anyone’s especially these days. If there were any truth about it, a book jacket would be like a film poster. The author might be the star or the director but there would be lots of other names too. There would, in this case, at least be the name of my editor, Francis Bickmore, who quoted Emily Dickinson at me and said ‘dazzle gradually, Or every man be blind…’

There are many, many other people who helped me make The Humans. My US editor, Millicent Bennet, my Canadian editor Kate Cassaday, the person producing the film – Tanya Seghatchian, my agent Caradoc King and his associate Louise Lamont, my editor/proof-reader/critic/spouse Andrea Semple. All of those names should be on the cover too. Along with many other people who work at the relevant publishing companies and agencies.

But it doesn’t stop there.

No. A writer these days is not a solo player (if we ever were). A writer does not create a novel out of a vacuum. But out of interaction – with editors, friends, family and other readers.

Now, in the age of Twitter and Facebook, the writer/reader relationship is closer than ever. I get my readers’ advice on everything. Which title they prefer, how I should say something in another language, help with historical and geographical and professional details etc. etc. etc.

A reader’s involvement in a book no longer starts and ends with them buying it and reading it. They can help make that book better, and help champion it far and wide when it comes out. I am lucky in this respect. I have some pretty amazing readers. They are willing to video themselves on trampolines and with their horses and on holiday in Thailand reading lines for a book trailer. I have evidence. Look:



I think, gradually, the author’s mystique will fade thanks to the internet. I think my mystique faded the moment I drunk-tweeted something about liking Taylor Swift last September. And many writers moan about this. They want to be invisible. They don’t want to be sitting in their glass boxes.

But for me, I think it is positive. I like involving my readers. I know writers aren’t islands, but part of wider continents – influenced by other writers and friends and editors and readers. I think it’s nice. Especially as writers tend to be the kinds of people who used to be picked last for sports teams at school. Now we get to create our own teams.

Teams built around books.

And I, for one, don’t care if the myth of the isolated genius author disappears for ever, because I believe the internet is taking stories back to where they first started. Back to humans, telling tales to each other, and getting each other involved as we sit around the fire, or in our caves, tapping into the most universal experience we have – imagination.

So, I hope you enjoy The Humans. If you do, or even if you don’t, you’re welcome in the team.


Literary Fiction Must Go

I hate literary fiction.

Don’t get me wrong, I read a lot of books that would be considered literary fiction. And I often enjoy these books. I have nothing against serious books, or intelligent books, or realistic books, or books about educated middle class people cracking up. (I’ve written one or two of them myself.)


What I am against is the idea of literary fiction. The idea that it is – or should be – a category. A genre, something separate to, say, books about werewolves or books set in space or books revolving around love stories. And as the publishing world becomes ever more paranoid about its future there seems to be a renewed attempt to turn it into a genre of its own. This is wrong. This is dangerously wrong.

I’ll tell you why:

- Books should not be gated communities. (more…)


The Humans – book trailer



My novel The Humans is out next month. I have never been so excited about a book coming out before, and am honoured that it already has nicely glowing endorsements from the likes of Jeanette Winterson, SJ Watson, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Amanda Craig, Patrick Ness and Joanne Harris. The film rights have also been sold.

Anyway, to mark the launch I thought I’d do something a bit special. So, the book promo for The Humans is going to feature actual living humans – YOU – reading a line from a chapter in the novel. The chapter is called ‘Advice to a Human’ and it is a list of, well, advice to a human. It comes near the most dramatic part of the book.

Listed below is the lines in the chapter (more…)


A Love Letter to Books

Dear books,

I love you. I really love you.

You have not only changed my life but have also saved it. You understand me better than anyone else in the world. And you are always there for me, to give me comfort or wisdom or just to have a laugh. We’ve had such good times, me and you. All those holidays together, all those sleepless nights. Truly, you have made my life complete. You are my shelter in the storm of life. I owe you everything.

I love you so much. I love the way you feel, I love the way you smell, I love the way you look. But recently I have seen you start to change. You look worried. And I don’t like it when my closest ally in this world is worried. You wonder what the future holds for you. You have started wearing new outfits – Kindles or something? – and you seem to be hanging around celebrities to show you are still important. Sometimes you present the worst and most brash side of yourself to stay being popular, and you might risk losing respect. You worry that TV and cinema and the internet are getting more attention than you and you are trying to copy them. But listen, don’t worry. You are perfect. You are absolutely pure. Every TV show or film starts as words on a page. Words are the essence of culture, and you are pure essence.

Just be proud to be yourself.

I love you whatever. It is unconditional, this love I have for you. And I am here to say it is all right. You were here long before me, and you will be here long after me. Every story needs a home and you are the best home I can think of. You will be fine.

Don’t go changing.

Stay golden.