Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Dryburn Hospital, Durham. I grew up three miles away in a suburb of the city.
What sorts of books were in your family home? Any particular formative influences?
We had all sorts of books, but especially a lot of fiction. From a young age I enjoyed Roald Dahl, the anthologies of suspense stories that Hitchcock put his name to, Stephen King novels, a lot of works that bridge the gap between adolescence and young adulthood –Dracula, Robinson Crusoe, Huckleberry Finn – but also a lot of female-orientated books too, especially by Judy Blume. I read all of her work, which of course went down with the lads in the north-east in the 1980s.
That was all probably under the age of twelve, at which point I got heavily into comics, particularly the counter-cultural underground, stuff like Robert Crumb and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Then I delved headlong into fiction: George Orwell, Laurie Lee, D.H. Lawrence, James Baldwin, William Burroughs, Harry Crews. Given that the average household in the UK purchases 1 or 2 books per year, I was very lucky to have access to the written word at all.
Why do you write?
Writing can be a form of alchemy, I think. With only 26 letters continually being arranged in new configurations a writer can build entire universes; evoke fear, desire, nausea. If you want to look into at deeper level, it could be seen as an occultist (in the traditional sense) practice, a form of magic. The same for some music too. How else can you explain the ability to physically impact on someone at the other side of the world? My head seems to be full of stories that I want to expel and there is nothing else I would rather be doing. When I am not writing I’m thinking about when I can write next…