Ah, what’s this then? Well, If you must know, I’ve been given a helping hand to climb on board the Blog Tour Monday (a sort of blog-bus) by my writing friend, (fellow Arachne Press author and Ilkley Fringe Festival performer) Louise Swingler and her pal, traveller and writer, Jo Nicel, who wrote a very entertaining blog last Monday. Jo described Blog Tour Monday as a sort of relay race. I like to think of it as a way for writers across the land to hold hands, to make connections, to tell each other and their readers a bit more about themselves and about their writing and to generally feel, well, that there’s somebody out there whose hand they can hold. Holding hands before me, apart from Jo and Louise, were novelist and musician Dr Steve Hollyman (‘CreepJoint’ sounds a most crepuscular name for a band, Dr Steve!), Graeme Shimmin (author of ‘A Kill in the Morning’), Sara Jasmon (author of ‘The Summer of Secrets’, to be published by Transworld next year) and writers David Hartley and Emma Yates Badley. If you click on those lovely people’s names you will be linked to their contributions to the Blog Tour and find out much more about them. As for me, it’s good to shake you by the hand. As you might know (where have you been?) I’m the writer of Inspector Bucket and The Beast – Dahliapublishing.co.uk (available also from Amazon) – and various other Inspector Bucket short stories (see my previous blogs). But what I’m supposed to be doing here is answering some questions about my current writing. What am I working on? Well, since you ask, at the moment I’m 80,000 words into a family saga (currently called No Father Was There), very loosely based on the lives of my Australian grandfather and my English grandmother during the First World War. The tale deals with their rather tragic relationship and the effect it had on my father, who was brought up in a children’s home in Sidcup, South London. Pertinently, given the anniversary of World War One about to be upon us, it deals with the war itself, of course, but more so the impact the war had on people’s family and emotional lives. There’s a chapter of the novel (in much adapted form), entitled The Trumpet Calls, already available in Stew and Stinkers from the ‘Stringybark Book shop’ if you want to have a look at it. However, The Blog Tour demands that one should answer the question: How does your writing differ from others in its genre? Of course then you have to pin yourself down (always a difficult job that can cause bruises and fractures) to work out what on earth your genre is! (Sounds like a very nasty complaint to me.) Well, my first book, ‘Inspector Bucket’, sat in the historical-detective novel genre quite comfortably, I suppose – though it has Gothic qualities too – and, I like to think, it might also be seen as a comic-romance. Sort of. ‘No Father Was There’, on the other hand, (the title comes from William Blake’s Little Boy Lost) is clearly a War Time story – and I’m happy with that description – but it’s also about childhood, class and cultural and racial tensions. I hope its multi-narrative structure gives it a different sort of dimension too. I shall now unravel myself from the floor to answer the next question, which is: Why do I write what I do? Ah, that one brings the priest and the doctor running over the fields! ‘Inspector Bucket’ was (though based on Dickens’ character from ‘Bleak House’) a completely imagined story. The new novel is, I confess, very definitely based on some real people. However it’s still complete fiction, a way to imagine lives that were close to me but that I actually know very little about. The imaginative recreation is a kind of emotional analogue of genealogical research for me, a way of exploring lives that I hope are interesting for their own sake but that might be illustrative of certain times and places in the past. Now I need a lie down in a darkened room. The final question I have been asked is: How does my writing process work? Haphazardly must be the answer. I wish I could say I write a disciplined thousand words a day but, in fact, I can go for weeks without writing much at all – but, when an idea hits me (perhaps through something I’ve read or seen or heard about), I get completely engaged and don’t look up again until I have come to the end of it. (Clothes unwashed, hair and beard down to my knees.) But, in between, I love the fiddly process of editing my own mad scribbles. This bit I find very akin to painting – an extra touch of colour here, a change of position for a character or object there, a complete paint-over when it all looks wrong. (Chuck the whole dratted canvas in the bin over there and go up the pub.) Enough, or too much. So now it’s time to hand over to two writers to take the Blog Tour Monday further on its motley way. And they are Christina Longden (who describes herself as a ‘Funny Female Who Gives A Toss’) author of ‘Mind Games and Ministers’, amongst other delights, as well as being a leading light in the ‘Holmfirth Writers’ Group’. And then there is David Ellis who duets with Julienne Victoria in a collection of poetry called Flying from the Heart and, like me, (you fool!) has a story in the ‘What the Dickens?‘ Busker anthology. Click on their names to find their contribution to the Blog Tour next Monday, 17th March, and they will keep you company. I shake your hand.