This weekend, I have mostly been playing in the sunshine – as I’m sure you have too if you’ve got any sense. Was this conducive to writing book seven? Of course not. But our flat is one of those Edinburgh specials; ice-on-the-inside-of-the-window-cold during winter and bone-meltingly-sauna-like as soon as there’s a hint of sunshine, so I doubt I’d have done any more if I’d remained indoors. Sweat in places I didn’t know I had, perhaps.
Is there one book or writer who has influenced your style more than any other? For me it was Gormenghast. A book which after reading utterly transformed the way I wanted to write, burning away years of childish whimsy and leaving me with a decidedly darker and wordier style. Has a book ever had a similar effect on you or has your style evolved independently?
There are definitely a couple of writers who have influenced earlier short stories I’ve written, the main ones being Spike Milligan and Roald Dahl… The Milligan influence comes in where I’ve created characters with ridiculous names like Ivan Itch, and with Dahl there’s the kind of Tales of the Unexpected sadness that creeps in sometimes alongside the silliness. That’s a style I am trying to return to with my children’s books. More recently I’ve fallen in love with the style of Andy Stanton, author of the Mr Gum books – his stories genuinely make me laugh out loud – so I suspect there will be elements of his silliness influencing me too.
Having said that, writing this much in such a short length of time has meant I haven’t had a lot of time to read over the past few months, so I think that my voice has probably evolved relatively independently in 2011. There are tons of authors who I’ve read and come away thinking yes, that was amazing and profound, I want to do something like that – but it never quite turns out that way. I would love to write like Margaret Atwood, for example, but I just don’t have the themes or deal with ideas in the same way as she does. I’m incorrigibly frivolous.
I also think that much more than being influenced by other people’s stuff, the thing that has impacted on my writing during 12 books in 12 months is personal experience. By that I don’t mean that I’ve solved a murder or fought a dragon, I just mean that random pieces of conversations I have overheard, or interesting looking people I’ve seen when I’m out and about, have turned up unexpectedly. And the books for grown ups are all really Scottish, which was never my intention, but I guess that’s happened because that’s where I’ve always lived.
Still, this might all change when I’ve had the opportunity to research my genres more thoroughly. Ask me again when I’ve read Gormenghast!