I’ve heard great things about the festival from fellow author friends, all of whom have had wonderful things to say: breathtaking architecture, fabled hospitality, and weather that I can only dream of back home in the chillly northwest of England. It’s the people of Dubai I’m especially looking forward to meeting. As my work is aimed at such a broad range of audiences, from the smallest to the oldest, I’m looking forward to speaking to as many folk as possible. With animation, live illustration and readings from all of my books, there’ll be something for everyone.
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been telling stories since I was small (I know, I’m still small – I make hobbits look positively enormous). But I was the kid at the bottom of the garden, making treehouses in my mum’s cherry blossom tree for my Action Men and Star Wars figures. I was always using my imagination, and the idea of telling stories came as second nature. Even when I was pursuing a career as an illustrator and designer/ producer of animated shows, it was storytelling that was the driving force for me. I just never realised as a child that I could choose writer as a career. It transpired I was very wrong.
What book do you find yourself re-reading most often?
Probably The Lord of the Rings. I’ve always been a huge fantasy nut, and The Hobbit was the first novel I ever picked up for myself from my local library. I was probably 8 or 9 years of age, and it blew my tiny mind. Since then I’ve revisited Middle Earth, through novels, roleplaying games, computer consoles, movies and card games. Inevitably, the Rings trilogy is the biggest draw. I find something new in it each time I read it. It never fails to reward.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I had/ have a career as an illustrator and animation creator/ designer, so I guess that’s what I’d still be doing. I like to think I’d still be writing in my spare time though. This is my hobby, and I’m lucky beyond the telling of it that I get to do this for a living. It would have to be something creative, if I wasn’t writing. I dread to imagine what a mess I’d make of things with a real job. . .
And finally, we have a number of aspiring writers attending the Festival. What one piece of advice would you give them?
Write every day. Even when it feels like you’re hitting a brick wall and every ounce of creativity has to be leeched out of you like blood from a stone, try and write. You can always put things right the next day. If you’re really struggling for inspiration, take some time out, go for a stroll, walk the dog, play with the kids. Clear your head, and the problems should resolved themselves. But always try and put time aside to write.