Monday, September 12, 2011

Twenty Questions

I’ve just done an interview on Steve May’s always intriguing blog.

20 questions about this and that. Zombies, The Last Word, Emmerdale, Angela Carter - the usual sorts of things I guess. Which makes me think I could do a whole blog entry on meeting famous people, because I have run into a few over the years. It would be about how rubbish I am at it. Angela was an exception, because it wasn’t a social meeting, it had a context, she was reading my stuff and criticising it. And then if I did meet her socially after that I felt like I knew her, and it was fine. It was very nice, in fact. Others though … just awkward. Embarrassed smiles, sidelong glances, blushes, tongue-tied responses. It sounds like a shy boy meeting a girl, doesn’t it? You have to pity famous people I guess, if they get that reaction very much. What are you supposed to do when faced by it? Still. I’m older now. I might be better at it if it happens again. Although I didn't do very well with William Boyd (July 09.) Maybe I'd be better just to avoid them ...

Monday, September 05, 2011

If ...

If I hadn't been ill I'd have gone to Manchester University instead of UCL. I wouldn't have met my future wife. I might not have entered the Time Out/Whitbread competition I stumbled on in my second year, so my first story wouldn't have been published. I wouldn't have had the editor of the LRB as a tutor, so my second story might not have been published there, nor my third which got into Fiction magazine because an agent saw my second in the LRB. I went to UEA partly because a mate who had a cricket match there picked up an application form for me, because of those three stories on my CV, and because of a good reference from another tutor, Dan Jacobson. Perhaps without all those factors I wouldn't have got there either. I wouldn't have written my first novel. Illness gave me a subject, a structure and a style for A CHINESE SUMMER. It gave me a bank of memories, impressions and sensations to draw on, and it gave me a mood-flavoured point of view which gave the novel it's voice.

It's like one of those episodes of Star Trek where they encounter a temporal anomaly, and find out how things might have been. I wonder about this life I didn't lead, those gaping holes it would have left. Would they have been filled by something I'd be equally sorry to lose? I doubt it, but then I would, wouldn't I?