A Lover of Books

Interview with Alan Williams

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Last week I reviewed Alan Williams debut novel ‘The Blackheath Séance Parlour’.  He very kindly agreed to an interview which can be read below.

Have you always wanted to write?

Always. I sent my first completed novel to a literary agent at the age of 13 and got a very kind letter back from them encouraging me to continue writing. I found it last year in my parent’s loft. I’d forgotten everything about it – it was dreadful, but full of adventure and a 13-year-old’s excitement. You could tell even at that age, the writing process excited me. I remember spending hours writing it in an attic trying quite hard to craft something readable.

If I was marooned on an island or locked in a prison for years as long as I had paper and a pen or the means to make my own, I’d be fine. My pockets are always full of pens and scraps of paper.

Are you interested in the spirit world?  If so, have you ever been in contact with a loved one?

While I was researching the book I met a lot of psychics. Every single one, except for one was a fake or dreadful, one of the two. But one told me very specific and very accurate things. She told me what I kept in a middle drawer of my wardrobe (I keep two little glass lamps of sentimental value in there wrapped and stored safely away). She also told me where I’d put something for safekeeping that I thought I’d lost which was also accurate. I got a bit of a jolt when I looked where I was told and there it was.

I’ve not tried to contact a loved one. I think the dead should be left where they are but sometimes things happen and I wish I could tell them about it. For example, I had an uncle that I was very close to. He died out of the blue on my 30th birthday with me at his side. I have always liked Olivia Newton John and so did he. It turns out that a restaurant we used to eat at regularly together in Cardiff was originally her living room. Neither of us had any idea at the time. That would have tickled him pink.  Those are the moments when I’d like to reach out.

Describe a day in your life.

I get up about 9, cup of coffee, then walk out of my gate onto Blackheath. The heath changes whatever mood you are in almost instantly. I think the trouble with London is people get used to seeing only streets and people and roads. You become less used to seeing far away and more used to concentrating on what’s immediately around you. Walking onto Blackheath is like being plopped down in a green desert – the part I live anyway. All around you is wide open, no people, not many cars, just wide skies, endless green and too many evil-looking crows giving you the eye, By the time I reach the top of the hill leading down into Greenwich where I work, I’m happy.

Work chugs along. I’ve done the same thing for the last 12 years so I’m a bit autopilot now. If it’s slow, I write. Afterwards, I sometimes go to the gym, though I’ve not been for about three months. I give myself the “you have to start back” lecture at least twice a week. I will go back, I promise.  Then I try to cram in a quick hour at my allotment. I am aiming to be self sufficient vegetable and fruit-wise for the entire year – I just need a bigger freezer.

After a shower its head-down, battle the rain and the wind on the heath and head to the Hare and Billet pub. I try to get there an hour before everyone so I can write. There’s nothing like a cold pint of lager, a half empty pub and being able to write uninterrupted.

At weekends I write up everything I’ve written into pads all week and knuckle down to about six hours of writing a day.

On the book jacket it says you are writing your second novel.  When is it due out?

Since completing Séance Parlour I have written two novels. Once I finish them I put them aside for six months and forget about them. Then I pick them up, re-read them and if they are good then I begin the rewrite. I am currently halfway through the rewrite on my second. I am hoping to have it completed and with my agent by January 1st. I am very excited about this one.

What advice do you have for any would be writers?

Write. Don’t think about it, don’t ask questions and don’t doubt yourself or turn to others for support, just write.

And just as importantly, read. If you don’t read, then you shouldn’t expect anyone to bother reading yours. You learn so much more about the craft of writing through reading than you realise. Also, when you have begun and at some point, get stuck or slow down, don’t ever –  ever begin tidying up and editing the book. Writing is creative, editing is criticism.  Don’t introduce one mind-set to the other. Keep them separate.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I garden. I love to travel. I have God-kids, one of which I fully intend to mould in to an evil genius and I write. I write whenever I have ten minutes.

Who are your favourite authors?

My favourite books are Crime and Punishment, Wuthering Heights, Atlas Shrugged, anything by Poe, Lovecraft… I tend to read a lot of classics. Though I devour anything by David Mitchell and I’m really looking forward to the new Donna Tartt. At the moment I am reading Steven King’s The Shining. I’ve seen the film a dozen times so I wasn’t sure about reading a book after the film but I can’t put it down. It’s disturbingly creepy and very atmospheric.

Roughly how many chocolate éclairs do you eat each week?

A packet of 12 a day, every day. Though I do wish they’d bring back the coffee ones. No, I’m joking. I don’t eat that many. And I’ve even stopped those now. It’s time to get on a diet and get fit. I’ll have to get back to that gym…


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