Monday, 18 November 2013

C.S. Lewis and Me

"C.S. Lewis was the first person to make me want to be a writer." - Neil Gaiman

As an author growing up in the East part of Belfast, the works of another author from the same area, Clive Staples Lewis were probably harder to avoid than bumping into Van Morrison while walking up Cyprus Avenue. His tales chronicling the magical world of Narnia lit up my childhood while in many ways influenced the world I created for Amelia Black many years later.

I remember as a boy, my older sister would take me to the Strand Cinema, not far from where we grew up. At the top of our street there was an old and rather frightful looking house; larger than ours but had fallen into disrepair, almost looking derelict. If you pass it today it's been restored to breathtaking quality but when I was about five or six years old my sister told me C.S. Lewis used to live in that very house. I never approached the house to see if those claims were indeed true and to this day I've had it neither confirmed or denied - perhaps in some ways I just don't want it to. I just didn't want to lose one of the few moments of mystery and magic left in my life.

Lewis of course died 23 years before I was born, on the same day as John F Kennedy's assassination and the passing of another great writer Aldous Huxley, so even if he did once take residence there his memory or any trace of his works which may have laid dormant in that house were condemned to the sands of time.

As a child you don't let such silly logic get in the way and my imagination wandered. Part of my badly wanted to creep into this house and possibly find lost works or maybe a final Chronicle of Narnia which was never published. Remembering this over 20 years later shows the sort of impact Lewis had on my life.

I'm not saying I'll ever be mentioned in the same breath as Lewis when all is said and done and people are asked to list 'Great Belfast Writers', far from it. The fact that one boy from East Belfast who spent his days reading Beatrix Potter and illustrating his own stories about animals can make that sort of impact always gave me the inspiration to do the same. Perhaps more so than Mr Gaiman, because of this local connection, Lewis was the first person to make me want to be a writer.

Starting today Belfast celebrates the man, the life, the myth and the legend of C.S. Lewis with the first Festival in his honour.

Please do come and maybe he'll also inspire you too...

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Here I go again...

Wow, I never thought I would get to a point where I see one finished book by me never mind starting my fourth - well, fifth if you count A Gurumapa in the Wood - full length story. Anybody who has supported, encouraged or read my works to date I'm eternally grateful to you for getting me this far.

Now obviously I won't be dishing all the plot details right here and now because, to be honest, I don't even know all the details but that's part of the fun and adventure of writing a story. All I will say is this will be the first story I've written to be set in my home city of Belfast. I've always wanted to write a Belfast story rich in magic and myth but could never quite find the right hook or starting point until recently.

And I thought just to shake my own process up a bit, as well as make a point to blog on this thing more, I would document some of the journey in a way I haven't with my previous works. For me this book will be as much about telling a particular story, adding a bit of myth and mystery, as it is educating myself about a particular period of Belfast history I don't really know much about. It's a tale of fantasy but in some ways it also serves as a love letter to the beautifully flawed city I'm fiercely proud to have grown up in.

It might not see the light of day for a long time but every story has to start somewhere and mine begins in 1911...

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Back to blogging. 2013 and beyond...

To say I've been neglectful of this blog over the course of 2013 is something of an understatement. I apologise for that. Many of you reading this have probably kept track of my movements through Twitters and Facebook and for the continued support I'm genuinely thankful.

I've decided to start blogging again for a few reasons, the main one being the need to write itself. I won't bore you with the whimsical nature of it all, I'm just out of practice writing text which isn't 140 characters or status updates. So I'll start with a few announcements to get the ball rolling again...

I sat down with my dear friend Heather McGarrigle on her Patchwork Quill blog a week or so ago to chat about writing and self publishing. To read what I had to say on the subject as well as talking about Amelia Black and Sebastian Hogg and also to visit her brilliant blog just click here...


The amazing staff at Ryan's Bar have asked me back for the second year in a row to host a family reading event as part of Belfast Restaurant Week 2013. It's next Saturday, October 6th 2013, it should be kicking off at 3pm and I'll be reading from my free short e-book (still available to download folks!) I released earlier in the year, A Gurumapa in the Wood, and will be giving away a limited number of printed copies to any reader interested in taking it home as a bedtime story.

All the details are at this link here... Bring the kids and come on down, if nothing else the food in Ryan's is terrific.

Free books!

  • HIGHLIGHTS OF 2013...SO FAR...

I've had a lot of really proud moments this year in regards to my writing, with hopefully more to come, but I thought I would highlight two particular moments which stand above the rest. First was being asked to take part in a huge family reading event during the 2013 Belfast Book Festival. Huge thank you to Hugh Odling-Smee and his team for asking me to do it, was a real honour as it's not something I think I particular deserve yet. Huge thanks to the children and parents on the day who lent me their ears to hear Amelia Black's story were fantastic.

Photo taken by Alana Fraser
The only thing that could top that happened around a month ago. I got an e-mail from the mother of a girl who attended my first reading in Ryan's Bar last year, who loved The Unseen Chronicles of Amelia Black so much she asked her mum to make her an Amelia Black birthday cake. An...Amelia...Black...birthday cake. 

I still have trouble trying to comprehend how that makes me feel. All I know is it makes me very proud. 

You know it's funny, I've written three books (we'll get to the third in a moment) yet I've never truly thought that the stories have made that much of an impression on anyone - through a mixture of muddled self confidence and light hearted self-deprecation. Of all the amazing literary creations there are in the world, the Harry Potters, Percy Jacksons, Katniss Everdeens, Hungry Caterpillars, Spot the Dogs, Cats in the Hat, she chose my Amelia Black. That's just unbelievable. 

All I can say is I hope she had a fantastic birthday and the cake tasted as amazing as it looks. 

Photo from the Eclectic Cake-Box 

I find it's always best to think ahead. I currently have two projects in the pipeline I'm not ready to talk about yet but besides that, I finished the first draft of my third book earlier this year. It's still not how I would like it to be but should be here around Summer 2014. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you'll know what it's called but if not here is a rough, rather botched Photoshop, mock up of the logo by me...

This is why I employ outside illustrators...

Not much else to report for now but I hope to get back into the way of blogging nonsensical ramblings once again. Thank you for reading as always.