All writers have strange habits and things they do when they are writing. What are yours?
Strange writing habits? Well, I try and do anything I can to avoid writing. I suppose that’s not a strange habit, but it is a bit perverse. I do research, that’s a good time filler. Making tea is another. Then I scribble endlessly in notebooks, which invariably proves to be a futile exercise because my handwriting is so atrocious even I can’t read what I’ve written. In short, I try and do anything to avoid sitting down and actually doing the work. When I do finally get down to writing, I listen to classical music, or jazz, or sometimes nothing at all. But I do tend to write behind closed doors, so I can nap out and no one knows. And if I’m writing dialog, I tend to speak it out loud, so it’s better to be out of earshot.
You had a fascinating career before you became a writer, can you tell us a bit about that?
Before I became a writer, I was a magician and a magic dealer selling special effects to professional entertainers and serious amateurs. I actually published a book on conjuring! I also published reprints of old magical theatrical posters. When I was 20 I toured around the States performing magic, making gobs of money and discovering the sinful delights of the hot fudge sundae!
I also wrote song lyrics, even lived on one song for a couple of years! I also co-managed and produced a boy band, wrote plays and the odd film script, produced a spoken word album for kids, and was a member of the RSC writers workshop. Generally I was having a jolly good time gadding about London, spending the odd weekend in Paris, and being wonderfully irresponsible.
Before all that, I was a kid in a deadbeat school destined for the printing trade. I would have spent five years learning to be a typesetter, which would have been akin to learning to put struts into a Zeppelin! Fortunately, I quit my apprenticeship after three days and went back to work at the magic shop. Much more fun. I was fifteen at the time.
Can you tell us about your time as a playwright?
I got into theatre after several heartbreaking experiences in the movie business. The film world is a nefarious one, at best. Naively I thought I’d fare better in theater. After all, theatres existed, with buildings and four walls. So I wrote a play, A Moment of Life, and sent it along to the Royal Shakespeare Company. They liked it, and it was showcased at The Other Place theatre in Stratford Upon Avon. I thought it would always be that easy!