It's been very quiet here, hasn't it?
I have spent a lot of January and February working very hard on a new novel, working very hard at proper pays-the-bills work, and sticking two fingers up at the weather by riding (and occasionally falling off) my bike. Bikes. Accidentally bought another one. Loving it though, and becoming just a touch obsessive. I blame my wife's bad influence.
Am excited about the new novel, which is called Going Under and is about being undercover and losing grip on who you really are. Also, drowning, the protest movement, corporate espionage, the arms trade, blackmail, and everyone, but everyone, being undercover in their own furtive way.
Early days yet, but is shaping up nicely.
I so often don't get round to doing these things, but this one I have, thanks to a prompt from James Everington. You have to give eleven facts about yourself, answer eleven questions set by the person who's prompted you, then set another eleven questions for eleven more people. Eventually everyone in the world answers it and then the world ends, or something.
So, eleven facts, all of which are true, because they would be a lot more interesting if they weren't.
1. I have bled an awful lot in a Roman sewer.
2. When I was little I covered part of the Kent countryside in posters claiming to be from smugglers and threatening doom if people gave us away to the Revenue. I was a weird kid.
3. I tried very hard to get REM to come and play an impromptu free acoustic gig when they were on tour here, and their manager was very nice but said sorry, they need the night off as it's a busy tour.
4. Bjork once told me to fuck off.
5. I nearly broke my ankle once when I walked out of a bar and into an orc. Or someone dressed as an orc. I dunno. It was late. I was impaired. They had horns on their hat.
6. I spent most of my adult life believing that Arkansas was pronounced Ah-kansas.
7. I fell off my bike today, and badly bruised my ego.
8. I once dressed in a vulture suit and sang Heartbreak Hotel, night after night after night.
9. I once had a summer job as a door to door salesman, selling book club memberships. In my week's probation, I sold one. And she sold door to door and felt sorry for me. I agreed with my employer that my skills lay elsewhere, and that telling people they'd be better off just buying the books they wanted from a bookshop probably was a sackable offence.
10. Stephen Hawking once scared the shit out of me in a dark and lonely place.
11. My cat appears to be doubling in size on a weekly basis.
And James' questions for me:
Who’s the most underrated author out there that you know of?
Rupert Thomson, who has a new book out very shortly (‘Secrecy’, 7th March) which sounds all kinds of interesting.
You need to pick one song to be used to torture unpleasant terrorist types, by playing it to them full volume 24/7. What do you pick?
The background music on the Rice Krisipies advert, the one with a man singing ‘snap, crackle, pop, cray, crazy world we live in’ in a Noel Coward stylee. I would confess to anything after about ten seconds of that. I’m getting angry and upset just writing about it.
As a writer, what is your own personal definition of success?
Having sat down and written. All else follows, or doesn’t, who knows.
How do you like your steak?
Not from anything which has a realistic chance of competing in a steeplechase.
A genie grants you get an extra hour every day, meaning your days are 25 hours long. The condition is you must use this hour to take up a brand new hobby. What do you pick?
I’ve always wanted to learn to play the drums but only time has got in my way. Well, time, and a staggering lack of being able to co-ordinate doing four different things at once. Doing one is often a considerable challenge.
What’s the most overrated piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Write what you know.
What a dull, dull world it would be if everyone did that.
If you were in a band, what would your band name be?
I was once, a long time ago and to very minor effect, and we were called Somewhere Else, which I still think is a good band name. I do have a current ‘if I had a band they would be called this name’ which came out in idle conversation, but there’s no way I’m posting that one on the internet.
Oxford Commas – yes or no?
I’m with Vampire Weekend on this one.
What’s the most embarrassing typo or mistake you’ve ever found in your work after publication?
Who’s your favourite Muppet?
Two, for me. Stadler and Waldorf. Because the older I get, the more reasonable they seem.
Will you write me a haiku?
Write you a haiku?
Frog leaps into pond and says
And now, my eleven for eleven to the following good people, who can take it or leave it as the fancy takes them: Keith Brooke, Julie Lewthwaite, Paul D Brazil, Chris Rhatigan, Darren Sant, Neil Williamson, Aliya Whiteley, Charlie Williams, Col Bury, Tim Kimbirk, Ian Ayris
1. What is the single thing you are most proud of having written?
2. If your latest novel or story had a soundtrack by one artist, who would that be?
3. Flight, or invisibility? Choose one.
4. Have you ever secretly based one of your characters on a real-life person, just so you can kill them off?
5. Do you get more upset when one animal is harmed in a film than a hundred people?
6. What's the worst film version of a good novel that you have ever seen, and why?
7. What is the single thing that scares you more than anything else? I don't mean the essential futility of life, fragility of family and all the real things, I mean the embarrassing thing that still completely creeps you out? My wife has repeatedly run into a clown collecting money recently, and that is a very good example.
8. What's the one book that you wished you had written?
9. If you owned some variety of sports team, and had to design your own strip, what would it be like?
10. A choice: big money and sales as a ghost writer, or cult figure but poor under your own name?
11. Dolphin or manatee?