Allen Miles is releasing his debut ’18 Days’ with Byker Books today. I had the chance to have a quick chat with him about his life as a writer.
What do you like most about writing?
It puts me in my own little cocoon where I can release all the static and feedback that gathers in my head every so often. I tend to write at about one in the morning in the dark when everyone’s asleep and on many occasions I’ll be so into it that I haven’t realised that its starting to get light outside. Its escapism, I suppose.
What do you dislike (if anything)?
I hate the way I write. I’ll either write 10,000 words in a night or I’ll write nothing for six weeks. ’18 Days’ took me just a week to write and left me absolutely drained. It’s either ludicrously intense sessions in the small hours or two sentences a month. Plus I simply cannot write during the day. A lot of writers I’ve spoken to sit down at a desk at half nine in the morning and treat it as an actual job and I can’t do that I’m afraid. On more than one occasion I’ve taken time off work with the expressed intention of writing and I’ll fire up the laptop, open the word processor and my eyes will wander to the episode of Seinfeld on the telly. I have the attention span of a goldfish.
What inspires you to write?
Environment. The idea of immersing yourself in your surroundings and finding one tiny thing that can compel you to rattle off 500 words. Hull maybe a dump but it has a million things that you could write about. A sunny day in January wouldn’t inspire you if you lived in Beverly Hills.
Do you find time to read, if so what are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished ‘Skag Boys’ by Irvine Welsh and I’m about twenty pages into ‘Wait Until Spring Bandini’ by John Fante.
Which author(s) has/have had the biggest influence on your writing?
The book that made me want to write in the very first place was A Pair Of Jesus Boots by Sylvia Sherry. It’s a crime story about a kid who lives in Liverpool in the sixties. I read it when I was about nine and I’d be astounded if anyone here had heard of it. She evoked an amazing sense of atmosphere and adventure. I recently bought it off amazon for about 12p and I’ll be giving it to my daughter when she’s old enough.
Other than that, as an adult the biggest influences on what I do would be Irvine Welsh, George Orwell, John Fante, Albert Camus… I like anyone who writes about being down there in the dark place, really. My two greatest influences would be Charles Bukowski and Cormac McCarthy, for the way they describe their surroundings. They’re both very cinematic writers.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
Getting immensely frustrated.
What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses?
I’m told I’m very good at descriptive writing and I’m pleased about this because my weakness is writing dialogue. You have to play to your strengths and there’s very little dialogue in ’18 Days’; there are only really two characters in it and the story is moved along by a sense of place and mood rather than the characters’ interaction.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing a crime novel called ‘Dick’. ’18 Days’ was an incredibly intense piece to write and I’m enjoying doing something a bit more throwaway. With a fair wind it should be ready this time next year.
Where can we find you online?
My wordpress site isn’t quite ready yet but I’m on twitter @manicowl and @eighteen_days so I’ll be putting the link up there in a little while. It will be a collection of everything I’ve had published online so far and other things that I haven’t sent off. I’m also on facebook.com/manicowl.
What’s been your proudest moment?
As a writer, the very first creative piece I had published. It was called Home and it was a descriptive piece about a visit to my late grandparents’ house in the winter. I was very close to my grandparents and it was fitting for me that the first time I saw my name in print it was their name as well.
What would you say to your sixteen-year-old self if you could offer one word of advice or inspiration?
Start an ISA or something cos when your first child arrives you won’t have a pot to piss in.
Download ’18 Days’ on Kindle now: http://amzn.to/SzCeHI