A huge thank you to Tom for taking time out of his crazy schedule to sit down for an interview. Read about this amazing and talented author.
did this influence your writing?
in a small town just outside Glasgow, Scotland. The town was pretty working
class. It was an ex –mining and textiles community that had been decimated by
the gradual (and then sudden) decline in industrial output from the 70s
onwards. In many ways I was lucky as my
Mum and Dad were what you would call the upwardly mobile working class, but
even so, the threat of poverty or re-possession was never far away. And
although my writing is not immediately political, I think the lives of the
people I grew up with inform how, what and why I write.
are all born to be creative souls, but some of us defiantly resist growing up,
or having our creativity twisted out of us by society’s pliers. When I was ten,
I won a writing competition. I’d never won anything in my life before that (or
indeed since), so I thought that this was something specific that could help me
channel my galloping imagination. It’s interesting because my daughter is
approaching her tenth birthday and recently she won a creative writing competition.
She is really into words and art and music, and her mind is stuffed full of
ideas, strange characters, pictures and stories. She is such an inspiration to
be around, and she helps me stay connected to that wide –eyed wee boy who rattles
around inside my head and likes to make a nuisance of himself. I hope she
manages to cling on to her gift and remain defiantly ten for as long as she
visual arts and I have an interest in allegorical paintings. I am also into the
relationship between science and art, and how many of the old art masters used
early science to help them create their amazing compositions. The relationship
intrigues me, and its not that long ago that science was considered one of the
dark arts. So that is always bubbling away under the surface.
a visit to El Prado in Madrid, I was in the Velazquez gallery, gaping at Las
Meninas, the artist’s mind-blowing masterpiece, when I noticed a strange Magritte
like man laying out lines of thread on the floor next to the painting. He was
at it for about five minutes, before he got turfed out by a couple of security
guards. But the incident lodged in my brain, and that night in my hotel room, I
wrote up a very short, one page story. A
year or so passed, but the incident and the man wouldn’t leave me alone. I
returned to my page of scribbles and developed it a little further, but then,
his story began to unfold backwards and forwards, until I had the bare bones of
to complete Painting by Numbers was amazing. It gave me the opportunity to
combine a number of my loves, art, science and the strange, inner workings of
the human mind. A number of brilliant
people including a mathematics professor and art historian helped me piece
together my central protagonist’s various mad obsessions. But although there is
some weird science in my novel, it’s mostly all smoke and mirrors, as my tale
is really about love and loss and the fragility of the human condition, all hidden
and tucked away under the guise of a page-turning psychological thriller.
of it, from stream of consciousness scribbles to complex and exhausting line
editing. I love losing myself in my characters and narratives, and I love
picking through words and sentences and thinking about language, structure and
the arc of my story. The whole journey is a mad, joyous, frustrating and
ultimately enthralling ride, and I don’t think I could live without putting
myself through it on a regular basis.
know if I have any fans, aside from my cat who enjoys sitting on my manuscript
when I’m trying to work (though this may be a cupboard kind of love).. I
suppose as writers, all we can hope for is that readers engage in a positive
and constructive way with whatever we produce, and even if they don’t like what
we do, the engagement and dialogue is still interesting and encouraging.
sings to my heart, rattles in my chest and raises the hairs on the back of my
spend your time?
I follow the Haruki Murakami method which is – up at 5.30am – write until 8.00
– light breakfast – write until lunchtime – steamed fish lunch – a long run through
the park or along the beach, and then the rest of the day spent contemplating
back on planet reality, it’s up at 7.00 – mad rush to get all of the family
washed, dressed, fed, bags packed and out the door for work and school. I’ll
teach all day – come home exhausted –then another mad rush to cram dinner, help
with homework, tidy up the mountain of dishes, dirty laundry and toys, try for
an adult conversation with my wife.. And after all that, if I’m lucky, and/or in the mood, I’ll force myself to scribble a
few words and try desperately to avoid crashing in front of the TV with a
bottle of beer and a headful of sleep.
read anything when I’m writing. I find that the style, characters or ideas start
to bleed into my work. However, when I’m on a beach somewhere, I tend to turn
back to the classics for comfort and the sheer thrill of the language and the
power of the writing.
if I’m brutally honest, I’m going off e-reading at the moment. It’s a bit soulless. I miss the touch, the smell
and the grubby physicality of printed paper. I always feel like a bit of an adulterer
when I’m on my kindle. Somehow it seems like a kind of cheap betrayal of the
chaos , or as my wife likes to call it.. a bloody mess.