Tag Archives: films

2018 Review: Vic Watson

So that was 2018, was it? What a year. First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read this blog and the people who have contributed to it. Wishing you all a very happy 2019. 

2018 has been a very fun year for me, professionally and, although I have found that there have been lots of highlights, the one thing I am most proud of is finally completing the first draft of my novel, ‘Fix Me Up’. I have lots of people to thank for encouraging me to get it done – my friend Kay Stewart very helpfully set me a 500 words a week goal in 2017 and that helped get me into a rhythm and realise that it wasn’t an insurmountable task.

Stephanie Butland’s retreat at the Garsdale Retreat helped push me on too and I’m ever so grateful. When I’ve read extracts of ‘Fix Me Up’ at events like Noir at the Bar and After Dark, they’ve been really well-received. There are so many people who have encouraged me and kept nagging me to finish it – now I just need to get it in shape to submit to agents and publishers. Seriously, though, I began writing ‘Fix Me Up’ in 2010 as part of my Masters and I thought it would just be 20,000 words – I didn’t believe I could write a full-length novel. The moral of this story is: you can!

With that in mind, I was delighted to be accepted onto the Writers’ Block North East mentoring programme to write a novel in a year. I have an idea for my second novel – provisionally titled ‘Death at Dullahan’ – and I’m looking forward to completing it a lot quicker than the last one! 

It’s been a lot of fun to see Noir at the Bar continue in popularity and I was delighted to be involved with getting it off the ground in Sunderland. Harrogate’s Noir at the Bar was insanely well-attended again, with amazing writers like Steve Cavanagh and Martina Cole in the audience. I also got to meet Peter Rosovsky, the guy responsible for this amazing event. 

I’ve really enjoyed doing more interviews and panels this year. Thanks to Newcastle Noir and North Tyneside Libraries, I’ve interviewed new and established writers including L.J Ross, Mel McGrath and Kate Rhodes. I’ve also been lucky enough to interview A.M. Peacock at his book launch. I really enjoy chatting to authors about their processes and aspirations so I feel really privileged. 

In non-work related joys, I went on my honeymoon with my lovely husband at the beginning of the year and it was a truly wonderful experience. We spent time in Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An and Phuket. I’ve never been to the Far East before and it was brilliant. Going to Vietnam wasn’t top of my list, it was actually a compromise on my part, but I absolutely loved it. When we arrived there, I was convinced I’d never be able to cross the road due to the crazy traffic but it’s funny how quick you adapt to your environment. I loved the whole experience and would definitely like to see more of Vietnam. Thailand was a more laid back, luxurious time and that was equally great but I am just so pleased we visited Vietnam.

Most of my top 2018 memories involve spending time with my husband – we’ve been to Yorkshire, Northumberland and London this year and had a ball no matter where we went. Having said that, it was really special to celebrate my parents’ ruby wedding anniversary with them in July. 

Also, I had pink hair for a while.

Top books that I’ve read this year: ‘Thirteen‘ by Steve Cavanagh, ‘East of Hounslow‘ by Khurrum Rahman, ‘The Rumour‘ by Lesley Kara, ‘Calypso‘ by David Sedaris (who was hilarious when Carly and I went to see him), ‘The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox‘ and ‘I Am, I Am, I Am‘ by Maggie O’Farrell. There are lots more that I’ve really enjoyed but these are top of the list for me. I think my favourite, though, has been ‘Educated‘ by Tara Westover.

I’m still listening to Michelle Obama narrate ‘Becoming‘ which is everything I hoped it would be. 

I have been wracking my brains as I’m not entirely sure I’ve been to the cinema since January which was to see ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘. I watched ‘Selma‘ recently which was really powerful. I really enjoyed ‘Ladybird‘ and ‘Ocean’s 8‘.

I haven’t watched a lot of films this year, I’ve been going to a lot of gigs instead. I think the best concert I went to was Beyonce and Jay-Z’s OTR2. I went with my friend and we had the best time, I think the car journey to Manchester and back may have been better than the show itself. That said, Katy Perry put on an incredible show too. 

Nobody Knows I’m a Fraud‘ by Grace Petrie. Grace was one of the guests when I went to see ‘The Guilty Feminist’ podcast recording at Northern Stage. I loved her stories, her sense of humour and now I’m totally into her music. 

Downsides? Brexit, Trump, the usual shite. Intolerance, injustice, poverty.

Personally, the slipped disc I suffered over the summer was insanely painful and it made me miss the Britney Spears gig in Blackpool. *sad face*

I don’t tend to make resolutions but I think I would just like to try and remain even-keeled. I read a HuffPost article earlier this week that suggested the resolutions you should make are get more sleep, say no more often, look after yourself etc etc and I think they seem really sensible (but how realistic are they? Time will tell). 

I’d love to forget all about Brexit in 2019 – the EU are fine with us forgetting about it so I am definitely hoping for that shambles to go away. It’s like the shittiest gift that keeps on shitting on you. On a more selfish note, a publishing deal would be very welcome. 

Wishing all of you a very happy, productive and successful 2019. 

Vic x

2018 Review: Iain Rowan

2018 has been a year where I’ve got to spend more time with Iain Rowan, organiser of Sunderland Creative Writing Festival and all-round top bloke. Iain is a smashing writer and one of the kindest people I have ever met. 

It’s a pleasure to host him while he reviews his year. Thanks for being involved, Iain. 

Vic x


Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2018?
My Arvon retreat, in Shropshire. An amazing, charmed week out of time in the middle of a forest turning red and gold. Have never written so much in my life. Met some lovely people. A bubble in time.


And how about a favourite moment from 2018 generally?
Oh, picking one is hard. Seeing my son’s band play at the Sage, or hearing their first BBC live session. Finding out that I’d won the Arvon Award in the Northern Writers’ Award. Being a total teenager again in the pit at the Idles gig and transported by music. Every time me and Tracy walked by the sea and it was Big Waves. Pulling off the Creative Writing Festival successfully. Also, once had a bag of salt and vinegar crisps that was so strong it burned. That might be the highlight.

Favourite book in 2018?
This has been a bumper year for reading great books. I’ve loved FIona Mozley’s Elmet, Daisy Johnson’s Fen… brilliant books all. But I think I’ll go for two – Lucy Wood’s haunting, weird collection of short stories Sing of the Shore, and Jenn Ashworth’s marvellous, strange, Fell.


Favourite film in 2018?
Watch fewer films than I used to, and much more TV so I’m going to go for all bar the last episode of The Haunting of Hill House.

Favourite song of the year?
Most played according to Spotify is This Is The Kit, Hotter/Colder, but I’m going to be a total dad and go for one of my boy’s band’s songs that I can link to…because nothing’s made me happier this year. So this is Roxy Girls, Trials and Tribulations.

Any downsides for you in 2018?
When my agent suddenly decided to quit the literary agency business and so I became agentless again, after such a long time getting there. Fate and the universe clearly deciding that I’d had too much good news and the balance needed restoring.

Are you making resolutions for 2019?
Write, revise, repeat. No pissing around. The fates are aligned. Now is the time.

What are you hoping for from 2019?
The world to quit being so terrible and get back to just being routinely awful.

Progress from this year’s successes and fewer repeats of perennial failures.

More crisps like that one bag.

2018 Review: Harry Gallagher

I’m pretty sure I say this on the first of December every year but can you believe it’s this time of year again?! 

I’m delighted to host a range of wonderful folks on my 2018 reviews this year. Our first willing victim is poet Harry Gallagher. 

My thanks to Harry for taking the time out of his busy schedule to look back over his year. 

Vic x

Harry book

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2018?
Yes, I’ve been doing an irregular series of ‘An Evening With Harry Gallagher & Friends’ events this year and we’ve just had a ball with them. One particular event in Newbiggin Maritime Centre in Northumberland springs to mind. The venue were quite nervous about putting the gig on beforehand but it just felt like one of those lovely nights from start to end. Myself and the musician/singer friends I had with me spent over 2 hours switching between poems and songs and had such a lovely time with the audience. At the end the venue were really delighted with it, paid us all of the door takings and want it to become a regular thing. Result!

Newbiggin Maritime Centre 8th June.jpg

And how about a favourite moment from 2018 generally?
Ah…a personal one then. I got married in June to the most lovely, supportive and talented woman I could ever hope to meet and we’re sickeningly happy!

Favourite book in 2018?
Notwithstanding by Louis de Bernieres, which was actually written a few years ago, but I’ve just read it. It’s such a beautifully written (if rose tinted) account of genteel village life in an England which probably only existed for a privileged few. It’s so utterly charming I kept expecting Private Godfrey’s sister Dolly to appear, complete with her tray of upside down cakes!

Favourite film in 2018?
As I write this, the films I’ve most eagerly awaited I haven’t yet seen – Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old and the biopic Stan & Ollie starring Steve Coogan. Really looking forward to both. So instead I’ll go for one I saw earlier this year and absolutely loved – The Shape Of Water. It’s by turns fantastical, quirky, amusingly retro, ludicrous, clever and beautiful. See it and fall in love!

Favourite song of the year?
Being an old fart and having no idea whatsoever of current chart music, I’m going with our good friends The Late Bloomers, a folk duo from Scotland. The way their voices weave in and out of each other could bring tears from stone. If I have to pick one song of theirs I’ll with The Brakeman’s Daughter – heaven!  

Any downsides for you in 2018?
Trump and the rise of the right throughout the western world. It seems to me that we are going through a profound change which I don’t think anyone really understands yet. The gap between the haves and the have nots is now obscene and people are turning away from the mainstream political parties for answers to the far reaches – a huge mistake. I fear for the future because I think it will get a lot worse for the poor and dispossessed before it gets any better. I hope I’m wrong.

Are you making resolutions for 2019?
Keep going. Keep writing, keep gigging and keep pressing on. If you stand still, you go backwards.

Tan cover

What are you hoping for from 2019?
I have a new joint collection out in January with the editor of Black Light Engine Room, p.a.morbid – Running Parallel, so it will be good to get that out there and get out around the UK to promote it. Other than that it would be great to play a few festivals this year. I also write songs and perform them with my better half around the north east folk circuit and we keep promising each other to get in the studio with a few mates and record and put out an album of our songs. It would be good to record them if only for posterity. Who knows? It may just happen this year…

Don’t Quit the Day Job: Paul Bassett Davies

Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.

Today the writer we have with us is Paul Bassett Davies, author of ‘Utter Folly‘ and ‘Dead Writers in Rehab‘. His post is slightly different to the other writers we’ve had on the blog so far but it’s certainly one I can empathise with. I hope that Paul’s post brings comfort and hope to those of you in a similar position. 

Vic x

The job that had the greatest influence on my writing was Hospital Patient. If that seems like an unusual job description, let me explain.

Nearly twenty years ago I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. During the next ten years I underwent a series of surgical operations, and I spent a lot of time in hospital. Eventually it began to seem like a job to me. After all, I was spending about half my life in the role, it was hard work, I didn’t like it, and sometimes I thought it would kill me. So, just like a regular job.

But I flung myself  into my work, determined to be proactive. And, being a writer, I used everything that happened to me as potential material. In the process, I became a novelist.

You get a lot of time to think when you’re a hospital patient, and even more time in the long, slow weeks and months when you’re recuperating, or getting sick again. It’s not exactly free time, because it’s not free from pain, or fatigue or stress. That was why I started to write my first book – to escape all that. I came to writing novels late. I’d done a lot of writing before then, in the way of stage work, short stories, radio plays, movies, corporate films, music videos, short films, and a mountain of comedy for radio and television. But writing a book was something else, and in many ways I’m fortunate that I did it while I was unwell. It made me focus on why I was doing it. Which was, of course, to cheer myself up.

Writing my first novel was like telling myself a long, funny story. During the hours I spent telling it – the hours of writing – I was able to escape the dreary world of my illness, and enter the other world I was creating: a world in which I could, among other things, make other people suffer instead of me, and have a bloody good laugh about it. If that sounds callous or sadistic it probably is, and it’s just one of the many functions of telling stories.

But above all I wrote to give pleasure, firstly to myself and then, hopefully, to readers (although I continue to withhold it from my poor characters). Through all this I began to realise I wasn’t really interested in writing or reading things that didn’t take me out of myself, and change me in some way. I like to think I’m clever, but I’m not concerned with mere cleverness. I’m looking for something else, and the best word for it is delight. I want to delight, and to be delighted.

The work of other people which most often delights me also tends to be completely distinctive. That’s why I’ll always try to see anything the writer and director Robert Lepage does, because it’s not like anything else. The same goes for the music of Patti Smith, Tom Waits or Laurie Anderson. And I’ll always read a book by Magnus Mills or Nell Zink, or watch a Wes Anderson film.

All these people have a unique voice, and I like to think I’m developing mine. My first novel, Utter Folly, was long and sprawling, but my second, Dead Writers in Rehab, published last year, is more contained. And among the good reviews it’s received, those that please me most are the ones that say it’s unclassifiable: that it can’t be categorised, and that it occupies a niche of its own.

My job as a hospital patient allowed me to discover what it is I really want to do with my time, and it changed my ideas about sickness and health. I began to focus less on recovery, and more on discovery. The road to recovery is long and arduous, and its goal is ultimately unattainable: in the end none of us recover from life. But the road to discovery can be enjoyed for itself. It’s all about the journey, and finding delight in every step of the way.


Review of 2017: Geraldine Ward

Geraldine Ward is another writer I have “known” online for many years. I haven’t yet had the opportunity of meeting her in the flesh yet but I really appreciate her taking the time to review her year. 

Please check back later today for our penultimate 2017 review. 

Vic x

My favourite memory from a professional perspective this year has to be appearing on BBC Radio Four’s Front Row on a podcast broadcast discussing NANOWRIMO. This was especially sweet because I was only one of three people picked in the whole country, in this instance for my region, Kent, out of the NANOWRIMO entrants and apparently there had been a lot of people applying to go for a slot on the show. Enough of the boasting, moving on!

A general favourite moment of 2017 is still writing related. This was reading one of my stories, The Fish With No Lips, from my book, Mark’s Magic Farmyard and Other Stories at the infants’ assembly at my son’s school. I have never read my work out to so many people so was quite nervous even though they were children. I have to say it was a great pleasure doing this and was very impressed how well the children listened and paid attention. I am also extremely grateful to the Deputy Head who gave me the opportunity to basically run the assembly!

My favourite book that I have read this year is not a contemporary one, written by Zora Neale Hurston called Their Eyes were Watching God. I loved the originality of Hurston’s voice and the heroine in it is an incredible character. Well worth reading.

I have watched very few films this year, so I am a bit light on that front I am afraid although I really enjoyed going to the cinema with my son, Sam to watch The BFG. An unexpected treat!

There have been some good songs this year. My guilty pleasure is Little Mix. However, I really enjoyed listening to Rag’n’Bone Man, Human. Love that one.

Downsides this year have to be breaking my foot twice. First time it was my right foot, then my left foot, this time my ankle. I am hoping there won’t be another injury on the cards, being a bit superstitious about things “going in threes”.

I am not making any New Year’s resolutions. There is no point as I don’t ever keep them. My only hope would be not to have another injury and survive the next year intact and in one piece.

You can find Geraldine on Twitter and Facebook


Review of 2017: LJ Ross

Two years ago, I was invited a fabulous party to celebrate the release of a wonderful woman’s second book. That book was ‘Sycamore Gap‘ by LJ Ross.  

Today, the seventh book in the DCI Ryan series – ‘Dark Skies‘ – is released and I cannot wait to read it!  Louise is a prolific writer and she deserves every success, it is a pleasure to know her. 

For those of you who are based in the North East, I will be interviewing LJ Ross at Wallsend Library on Thursday, 22nd February. Tickets can be obtained from North Tyneside libraries. 

Vic x


Picture by Gareth Iwan Jones

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
This has been an incredible year for DCI Ryan and I’m so grateful to all my readers. It’s hard to pick any one memory in particular, but it was an incredible feeling to have two of my books (Cragside and Dark Skies) reach UK #1 whilst still on pre-order and all seven books to be in the top 100 at the same time.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
We just got the keys for our new house in Northumberland, which is a special moment. It’s the first time in years I’ve been able to make a permanent move back to my home county, which I love, and it means I can be close to my family and my son can be near his grandparents.

Favourite book in 2017?
It isn’t a newly-released book, but I read The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson and thought it was excellent. The prose is crisp and manages to convey meaning without being unnecessarily wordy. It was also an excellent, claustrophobic study of how to write a book from the perspective of the killer.

Favourite film in 2017?
I’ve hardly found time to watch any films this year (which sounds very depressing!). However, I watched some goofy movies like Snatched with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn. It wasn’t a great movie, but I’m a huge fan of Goldie so she can do no wrong in my eyes… I tend to watch old black and white movies like The 39 Steps, which I love.

Favourite song of the year?
I think my musical frame of reference stopped somewhere back in 2005 but, if we’re going by the song I’ve listened to most frequently this year, it would have to be anything from the Rocky IV soundtrack!

Any downsides for you in 2017?
I’m not sure if it is a true ‘downside’ but I’ve been incredibly busy and haven’t read as many books as I’d like – which I intend to rectify in the near future!

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I always resolve to be the best person I can be, whether as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister or a friend. That’s always a good goal.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
I’m hoping I won’t wake up and find it was all a wonderful dream! I want to write more stories and travel.

Review of 2015: Jennifer C. Wilson

Today sees the beginning of a hat trick of 2015 Reviews by members of my writing groupsThe lovely Jennifer C Wilson starts us off and I’m thrilled that she’s on the blog today to review her rather special 2015.

Vic x

Jennifer C Wilson2015 was quite a year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

It has to be the 6th June. In August this year, I ran my first writing workshop, and had been over to Arbeia, the planned location, to scope things out, so I was already in a very ‘writerly’ place. On the Metro home, I got the email from Crooked Cat Publishing, saying that they had enjoyed the manuscript I’d sent them, and would like to sign me up for my debut novel, ‘Kindred Spirits: Tower of London. I think I’d go so far as to say that it is the best thing that has happened to me as a writer in any year so far, let alone just 2015! I’ve wanted to have a novel published since I was a child, so I was just delirious when it happened. I went straight out and bought Prosecco and pizza to celebrate…

Kindred Spirits: Tower of London

And how about a favourite moment from 2015 generally?

I think it has to be linked to the novel really – my whole year has been based around ‘Kindred Spirits’ since I submitted it, to be honest.

Crooked Cat held a day for their authors back in July, and as a brand new member of the team, I was invited along. It was such a fantastic day, spending the whole day in the company of my new publishing colleagues, hearing about the editing process in detail, and being given an insight into how best to use social media as a writer. It really made me feel a part of the writing world, and made me realise just how much I love that world.

Favourite book in 2015?

I really enjoyed reading ‘Macbeth: A True Story‘, but Fiona Watson, published in 2010. I bought it ages ago, but finally got around to reading it, and am so glad I did. Obviously, I’ve always known that Shakespeare’s version of ‘Macbeth bore very little similarly to the real man, but to read his biography (granted, still a bit hazy, due to the mists of time), and put him in the context of the developing notion of ‘Scotland’ was really interesting.

Favourite film of 2015?

I’m not really a film person, and am definitely not a cinema person (last film I went to see in an actual cinema was ‘Johnny English Reborn in 2011). So I’ll have to go for the same logic as above, and pick a film I’ve seen, rather than one which came out. Last Christmas, I sat down to watch ‘Skyfall, and really enjoyed it, so I think I’ll go for that one (only a couple of years late to the party!). I have to be honest and say I’ve not seen any of Daniel Craig’s other Bond films, as they seem to have taken a darker turn, and I prefer my Timothy Dalton era, but I thought it was fast-paced, not too gory, and had a great plot to it. Nice to see the Scottish highlands featuring too, albeit as the location for a very sad event.

Favourite song of the year?

Love is a Drug, by Markus Feehily. I’m a massive boyband fan, with Boyzone and Westlife being top of that list, so when Markus released his first single earlier this year, I was really chuffed to have more of his music to listen to.

Any downsides for you in 2015?

A few genuinely sad events did happen in 2015, but those who know me, know what they’ve been, so I’ll focus on a stupid sad event, from July. My friend Karen and I went up to Edinburgh for a Boyzone concert at the Castle, which was fantastic (obviously). Afterwards, we hovered around, as we always do, and suddenly, there’s Ronan Keating, literally 10 metres away from us. And we let him walk past. After 22 years of being fans, we just stood there. Happily, Shane Lynch was a few steps behind, and he was very lovely, but still. Ridiculous.

Are you making resolutions for 2016?

I am! I am going to try and finish NaPoWriMo again this year, and in general, just keep trying new things and be a bit adventurous. From a non-writing perspective, I need to cook more, as I’ve drifted into ‘heating things up’ instead, and I miss using my kitchen properly.

What are you hoping for from 2016?

An extension of 2015… I’ve had some great experiences this year, and am already planning for next year. I’m hoping to go to Swanwick Writers’ School next summer, and spend some time on my own abroad, so I’m hoping there’ll be a lot of writing taking place.

You can read more about Jennifer on her blog.

Review of 2015: Rebecca Muddiman

Talented crime writer Rebecca Muddiman is here to share her ups and downs of 2015. I read ‘Stolen’ in 2013 and absolutely loved her detectives Gardner and Freeman. 

Thanks, Rebecca, for being involved. 

Vic x

Rebecca Muddiman

2015 was another great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

My second book, Gone, coming out was exciting, as was seeing my first book – Stolen – in its German and Russian editions. And being chosen as part of WH Smith’s Fresh Talent campaign was nice.

But the best thing this year has probably been working on new things. As well as a new Gardner and Freeman book, I’ve written a standalone novel which is very different to anything I’ve written before, and I’ve finally started working on a screenplay I’ve wanted to write for about fifteen years and it’s been lovely immersing myself in the research for that.


And how about a favourite memory from 2015 generally?

Seeing Patti Smith in conversation was fantastic, especially as she brought Lenny Kaye along and they did a set which was a much welcomed bonus.

Favourite book in 2015?

I started keeping a journal of all the books I’ve read this year which is useful for remembering things but now makes it even harder to choose a favourite. I’ve read a lot of amazing crime novels this year especially The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth, Crash and Burn by Lisa Gardner and Cop Town by Karin Slaughter. Then there was A God in Ruins by the always wonderful Kate Atkinson, and A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh. Shutterbabe by Deborah Copaken Kogan reignited my fascination with war reporters, as did Martha Gellhorn: A Life by Caroline Moorhead. And lastly a couple of books by two of my heroes – Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band and Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me?

Favourite film of 2015?

I watch a lot of films but have a terrible memory (maybe I should make a note of these too) but I loved Suffragette and Mad Max: Fury Road. I enjoyed Slow West a lot more than I’d expected to, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was excellent – the parodies were hilarious. And Men and Chicken was bonkers in a good way.

Favourite song of 2015?

I’ve been listening to a lot of older stuff recently – a lot of Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, Kate Bush and Magnapop. But I also loved Ryan Adam’s cover album of Taylor Swift’s 1989.

Any downsides for you in 2015?

The death of Teesside’s steel industry was depressing, and though the government’s abandonment of the area wasn’t surprising it still makes me angry. Also Hannibal was cancelled.

Are you making resolutions for 2016?

I usually make too many and then fail miserably. But I have been trying to learn Danish this year so maybe I should just focus on that. (It’s not going very well so far. Danish  is really hard.)


What are you hoping for in 2016?

I’d like to push myself a bit harder with my writing and try new things. And hopefully I’ll finish the screenplay I’m working on. Getting it made would be amazing – it would make me the happiest little writer in the world.


Stolen and Gone are out now. The third Gardner and Freeman book, Tell Me Lies, is out in March 2016.




Allison Davies reviews her 2013.

Allison Davies is one of the best friends a gal can have. I met her – like Michelle – when we did our Masters together and I am so happy to see how her writing career has progressed since we graduated. Now it’s over to Alli to review her 2013.

Vic x

Allison Davies

2013 has been a great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

2013’s been pretty good so it’s hard to pin down a single favourite, though seeing my debut play Weather to Fly get the full production treatment is definitely up there. OddManOut https://www.facebook.com/oddmanouttheatre?fref=ts and our actors did a brilliant job, we got some lovely reviews and it spurred me on to complete another theatre script which may well get an airing in 2014. There are rustlings in the undergrowth so watch this space. And Weather to Fly is touring again in 2014, in the north east and beyond.

And how about a favourite moment from 2013 generally? 

Can I have 20? No? OK. 19 then. Over the course of the year I met some wonderful people and enjoyed a shedload of special moments, but one in particular stands out. It’s got nothing to do with celebrity twerkers or royal shoe sizes mind.  I travel to Nepal occasionally with Danusha, the ethical jewellery project that I help run along with a couple of friends. Back in April we were in Kathmandu when one of our jewellery makers brought her disabled son to the workshop – 6 year old Hitesh. He was a shy kid with huge brown eyes, and all I really wanted to do was get him to crack a smile. He had a battered old toy car and I started playing with it. It didn’t take long before Hitesh and I were legging it up and down the balcony, doing our best Ferrari engine noises, and giggling like, well, 6 year olds. It was pretty special.

As adults I think we often discount the power of play, of letting go and just being, and of seeing what comes. Hitesh is my 2013 hero for reminding me about the things that really matter – relationship, humanity, connection, finding joy in the moment.

I do need to give a special mention to Meerkat TC too. Kats, you are outstanding! Your creative company has been a source of energy and laughter throughout the year and I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.


Favourite book in 2013?

It wasn’t published in 2013, but on my birthday a family member took the trouble to send me a copy of When Marnie Was There by Joan G Robinson, which has been on my wish list for years. It was a childhood favourite for reasons I won’t bore you with here. Suffice to say I have very few keepsakes from the first 20 years of my life, so when this arrived in the post I was bowled over, especially as it was the edition my Dad gave me on my 7th birthday.

Favourite film of 2013?

Hmmmm. If you’re talking about films released this year it’s a toss-up between The Invisible Lighthouse http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_vGHqIvoHg  and Silver Linings Playbook. I loved the cinematography in Life of Pi too. But the best film I saw in 2013 was Lee Chang-Dong’s Poetry. A moving, powerful, thoughtful story and 100% superb!

Favourite song of the year?

If you’d asked me a couple of months ago I’d have said Take These Bones http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8bJu5HEnH0   by Fran Smith. I love belting it out at full bore when I drive the Military Road to Cumbria to visit my Mum. But then November came and Pharrell Williams released this understated groove http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM which makes me grin every time I hear it. And then there’s Arcade Fire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E0fVfectDo and Alt-J and Nick Cave and London Grammar and Daughter and Thundercat and… Well, you get the picture.

Any downsides for you in 2013?

Nothing major. A few health niggles, and a few people behaving like knackas at times. Grrrrr!  (knacka: Geordie term of mild abuse, meaning idiot, dipstick, plonker. Also testicle. Make of that what you will.)

Are you making resolutions for 2014?

In common with many of your reviewers I don’t really do resolutions, though I’ve come up with a few simple rules for living. Eat more cake. Don’t forget to play. Learn something new. Try not to be a knacka. When, inevitably, you behave like a knacka, apologise. Forgive other people when they behave like knackas, even if it costs you to do it, or alternatively, bop ‘em on the nose with a frozen kipper.

What are you hoping for from 2014?

It would be wonderful if people took a bit more responsibility for their consumption of resources, cared for each other and the planet and lobbied for fair working conditions for those who manufacture the stuff we wear, eat etc. (I’m looking in the mirror here.) We could all do with being more open, and less mean spirited, and I get really angry at some of the things I hear people say about their fellow human beings. Oh, don’t get me started or we’ll be hear all day.

Oh yeah, this is meant to be about writing, isn’t it? Well then, I’d like to get better at it as there’s always something new to learn. I’m interested in working collaboratively so am open to opportunities for that. The magic gets turned all the way up to 11 when there’s more than one person in the room. Otherwise it’s just me at my desk, talking to the people in my head. Cue chicken noises.

I often find it hard to concentrate on one thing at a time, so in 2014 I’d like to be a bit more focussed about life in general. I’ve been practicing meditation (mindfulness, breath) for a while now and I find it incredibly helpful.

If Santa was to bring you any one thing you wanted on Xmas morning, what would it be?

I’m spending Christmas and New Year in India which is fab, but I do miss my friends back home, not to mention long walks on bright, cold beaches. So if you’re reading this Mr Santa and if your tuk tuk does late deliveries, please deliver the sound of the North Sea at Druridge Bay when the wind’s blowing easterly and the waves tear up the beach, along with a massive hug from my friends.

I guess what I’m really asking for is a little soul warmth to end the year.

Callum Gibson reviews his 2013.

During my Masters, I met lots of great writers. One of those people was Callum Gibson. Here’s Callum to chat about his highs ‘n’ lows of 2013.

Vic x

Callum Gibson

2013 has been a great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

2013’s been a funny year for me, writing-wise as my projects have flitted around all over the place. First off I published a psych-horror novel – ‘House!’ with Good Guy Publishing. It was a book that had been giving me a little trouble, and took so much longer to finish than I first thought it would, and getting it done and out there was a pretty big deal for me.

Second up, after the grueling task that writing ‘House!’ had become (don’t worry, I’m assured that reading it is a lot less miserably ponderous) I took a change of pace and wrote a novel called ‘The Rubber Spider’. It’s a kids book – first love, best holiday, witnessing the breakdown of an adult relationship, nightmares, yaddah yaddah – and it’s also the first time that I’ve ever written about my Grandma and Granddad. I’m not normally one to rap about my own scribblings, but I think it’s kind of wonderful in its own little way. It needs a polish, but that’s what 2014’s for.

And third up I rewrote the novel that got me through my MA in Creative Writing, ‘Knowin’ Jack’. When I first wrote it a couple of years ago, I thought – in all my ignorant arrogance – that it was done, but going back to it was really kind of groovy as I totally pulled it to bits, put it back together, and I think it’s all the stronger for it… and hopefully the agents, publishers, Hollywood, and everybody else in the world will agree.

Amongst all this I published a collection of all my works for Good Guy entitled ‘The Black Cover Books’, which involved reworking the previously published works and writing a new short which I totally dug doing, even though some of the older stuff was a little angrier and scrappy than I remember.

And then, after all that, to cap off the year, I’m taking part in two anthologies of shorts. One is called ‘The Tempting Providence Collection’ and I appear there with a strange little tale named ‘Dear Michelle’, and then a second one where Good Guy is reforming my graduating class and we each have a punt at telling a uni-related tale.

So my favorite moment of 2013? I’m not sure. I just got a PS4 for Christmas… that was really cool.

How about a favourite memory from 2013 in general?

This year I managed to land the lady of my dreams (stop laughing at the back), so the whole year’s been more awesome than I have the skill to say. We did go to New York City for a week which was thoroughly bitching, so yeah, I think I’ll say that. But that was only seven days in a year when the other 358 have been just as magical (Hey, I said stop laughing!).


Favourite book in 2013?

I’ve written a lot this year, so my reading’s taken a bit of a hit, but I’ve started wrestling with ‘Game of Thrones’ (I like it but… I don’t know), and it’s pretty cool, if not a little rambling. I loved ‘Doctor Sleep’ because it was by the master and who didn’t want to find out what happened to Danny Torrance? I got a huge kick out of ‘Spud: Exit Pursued by a Bear’, which rounds off Van De Ruit’s chronicles of a young boy’s time at a South African boarding school. But I have to say that my favourite book this year has to be ‘Joyland’ by Stephen King. I read it in two afternoons in the sun lying in my garden, and boy is it a work of art. Small and personal, hilarious and terrifying, ‘Joyland’ shows King at his best since maybe ‘From a Buick 8’, and it was a joy to sup Buds, smoke butts, and  try and hang on to the ride.


Favourite film of 2013?

2013’s been a funny old year for movies in that there’s been a bunch of cool looking stuff come out, but most of it’s sucked. ‘Iron Man 3’ was pretty awesome, but I was going to like that even if it was as terrible as, say, ‘Iron man 2’, because it was written and directed by Shane Black and I have the biggest dude-crush on that guy and his wittily written banter (Seriously, go watch ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’… you’re welcome). ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ achieved the impossible and was crappier than its infinitely crappy title would suggest. I liked the ‘Evil Dead’ remake (it was groovy, nooch). But you know the flick that really got me going? It was a small release called ‘Side Effects’. Not only did it blow me away, it also made me not hate Jude Law as much as I always have. No mean feat, I tells ya.


Favourite song of the year?

Any of y’all ever play a videogame called ‘The Last of Us?’ developed by Naughty Dog (the cats who knocked ‘Crash Bandicoot’, ‘Jak & Daxter’, and most recently ‘Uncharted’ out of the park) and released in the summer, ‘The Last of Us’ is a game like no other in that it takes great pleasure of emotionally walloping you in your heaving guts as it breaks your heart, pulls it from your yelping mouth, spits on it, and then feeds it back into your mewling maw… Anyway, the game was amazing and the soundtrack kicked ass too. So I want to say that, though I don’t know if it counts. If it doesn’t then we’ll go with that tune by AWOL Nation that played over ‘The Councilor’ (a flick so cold that even the snowman’s junk shrunk in the theatre) trailer. It didn’t come out this year, but 2013 is the year it came to my attention. And if that doesn’t count then I’ll say ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cyrus… the chick’s all naked and such in the video. Oh, ‘True Love’ by P!nk and what’sherface. That reminds me of my lady. I like that.


Any downsides for you in 2013?

Yeah, I suppose. I still consider myself a struggling writer who has the same job as I did when I was at school. And I hate that. Jessica tells me not to be silly but sometimes… (I know I’m not allowed to swear hear so if you could just imagine me sighing whilst saying a word that begins with ‘fu’ and ends in ‘ck’ that would be grand). Yeah, that gets me down. But we’ll see. And, like I said, 2013 has literally been the best life of my life… and I mean that. Completely and utterly.


Are you making resolutions for 2014?

Yeah, probably. Will I stick to them? I’m not sure. I’m a big fan of cigarettes and whisky, and I’ve thought about quitting the former a few times but… I just love ‘em so much. I don’t want to sound like a church-fete tea-towel but I also want to really go for stuff, y’know? Like, regardless if it’s out of my comfort zone and such… but, y’know, losing a little weight and firming up the moobs would be good enough.


What are you hoping for from 2014?

Me and my lady are buying a house and I can’t wait for that. We’re also going to Rhodes for a holiday in May. I’m also going to read ‘The Divine Comedy’… and probably ‘It’ for the hundredth time. I have the afore-mentioned uni-short to finish, and I also have an idea for a novel which, when I’m not rocking the new box of tricks from Sony, I’m hopefully going to write. I’d also like to rewrite ‘The Rubber Spider’ and sell it. I need the money (who doesn’t?) but I think it’s a good enough tale to be told, and that it has a little something to say that might be worth listening to. I’m also going to rewrite ‘Knowin’ Jack: Older! Wiser? and finally I’d like to get on the PGCE course for teaching primary school kids. So y’all keep your fingers crossed for me, y’hear?

If you’re interested in reading a few dark tales that are both horrifying and humorous then peep the link before. You’ll also see a picture of my face, which is just as horrifying and hideous as my work. I apologise for that, but Amazon like an Author Pic like you read about. Anyway, here’s the link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Callum-Gibson/e/B007VBJ3VS/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1388113960&sr=8-2

Or you can follow me on Twitter at @CGibsonWrites.

Or you can hit me up on Facebook (I’m the Callum Gibson with his head superimposed on a Die Hard 4.0 poster).