I began writing in my teens and got a short story published when I was nineteen. I’ve been writing ever since, and I’ve just published my 20th book, a collection of stories entitled Oblique Light – published by Porcupine Press, of course.
These days, I write and work in my study which is directly above the Porcupine Office. My job at Porcupine is rather grandly named: I’m the Editorial Adviser. In practice, this means that I deal with authors who make contact with us. There are several of these each day, sometimes more. This has opened a window onto a world I know well. It is a world of writing and aspiration and often of long apprenticeship. It look me around 25 years of writing before my first book appeared in print. I must admit I enjoy my email conversations with other writers. I also enjoy looking at their work. Porcupine offers a free assessment service, and I’m usually the person who makes the assessments. The range of writing proficiency is quite as wide as the subjects with which the writing deals. I find it particularly interesting to remember how terrible I was when I began, and how slow and painstaking my progress has been over the years. I suppose one’s apprenticeship never really ends.
As well as chatting to authors about their work, I also do some editing of manuscripts – normally the ones that particularly interest me. And I even lay out actual books in InDesign, a software package I am gradually beginning to understand. There’s nothing quite as pleasing as a neat page of black type on a white or cream-coloured page. I often think, when I admire the prowess built into the software, of the early days of printing, the idea of moveable type and the massive impact on our lives that invention presaged.
With all this Porcupine work, do I have any time for my own writing? The answer is: yes, I do. I am never without a project. Later this month, I am travelling to the Middle East to work on my latest one. Perhaps I’ll write a few notes from Muscat or Iran in the days to come.