Having really enjoyed Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery, I’m delighted to have him on the site today taking part in our popular 5-4-3-2-1 feature.
FIVE pieces of advice you’d give yourself if you could travel back in time to before you became a published author
Here are the key things I’ve learned about writing since my first book – though I still forget to follow most of them!
1. Don’t try to make your book perfect first time – it’s one of the reasons so many people give up. Get a first draft finished – then at least you have something to work with.
2. Don’t try to fit all your ideas in one book. Just because an idea is great, it doesn’t mean it fits into the story you’re writing!
3. Try to get to the point quickly – no one wants two pages of explanation at the beginning of every chapter.
4. If you have a nagging feeling that something doesn’t work, then it probably doesn’t.
5. READ MORE, YOU IDIOT. For a little while I was worried that if I read too much other writing it would affect my own, but it turns out this is completely wrong. Reading is like oxygen for your writing: the more you read, the better your own work will be.
FOUR places you love to read
I’m a big fan of getting out and about to write and read – I even have a blog rating and reviewing free London libraries, though I’ve been so busy with writing I haven’t updated it in over a year! Here are some of my favourites:
1. V&A Art Library. It looks like the one in Beauty & the Beast and it’s attached to one of the best museums in the country. And it’s free. You’re welcome.
2. Saison Poetry Library. You can only use this if you’re using their poetry archives, but the seats have a stunning view over the South Bank – where better to sit and read poetry? Also the lift that takes you up there sings to you. Just too good.
3. Conway Hall. It’s the centre of the British Humanist Society and has a small but beautiful old wooden library – the sort a mad Victorian would have in his house.
4. Any park in summer, anywhere.
THREE TV shows you can watch all day long (when not busy writing)
I’ve recently discovered the Food Network. It shows nothing but American cookery programs, but not the ones we’re used to – oh no! It shows the weird ones that no other channel will buy, or would ever want to. I can watch 80 of these in a row without remembering a single second of them. They just wash over me. Here are some personal favourites. I can’t even remember their names.
1. There’s one where a woman in goth makeup talks aggressively at the camera and keeps putting whisky into things that shouldn’t have whisky in them.
2. There’s one where they put “secret cameras” into restaurants to catch employees doing bad things on camera. The whole thing is clearly made up but instead of using actors, they just get the employees to pretend they’re doing it, only they can’t act. And they inject drama into it, like about people being secretly in love with each other. It’s like watching wrestling but its about restaurants. It’s genuinely strange.
3. There’s another where two guys make bizarre things out of food – like a tabletop made of chocolate – and get really annoyed when their guests ask them any questions.
TWO songs that sums up the last novel you wrote perfectly
Perijee & Me is about a lonely young girl called Caitlin who finds and befriends an alien, and raises him as a brother. When I started writing it, I knew that her voice was the most important part – her sunny optimism and faith that people are good had to shine through, even when the story became more serious.
So throughout writing the whole first draft, I listened repeatedly to a band I already loved called Neutral Milk Hotel. I did this because it set the right tone for Caitlin’s voice: all their songs are very simple and childlike and warm, but often they’re about very serious topics – and best of all, they’re extremely strange! If I had to choose two, I would pick “King of the Carrot Flowers, Part 1“ and “A Baby For Pree“.
ONE author you’d want with you if you were stranded on a desert island
Katherine Rundell. Every SINGLE time I meet her I find out she has another amazing skill – first it’s that she can tightrope walk, then it’s that she stuffs animals in her spare time, and now I find out she can fly planes. She is an absolute machine. If anyone could construct a treehouse out of four coconuts or lasso a passing ship, it’s her.