Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Are writers the worst liars?


Writers are well known for making things up. Neil Gaiman is known to over two million Twitter followers as someone who

will eventually grow up and get a real job. Until then, will keep making things up and writing them down.

Speaking for myself, as a writer I keep making things up and writing them down, which, if drawn as two intersecting circles, puts me on a .0001mm intersection with Neil Gaiman; normally I am a small rock (not drawn to scale), a two-millionth particle of a rock around his Twitter account, but on this occasion there is an intersection.


As a child I was a liar on three occasions (that I can remember). I told my sister that if I rubbed a ring on my finger, a monster would appear. I remembered this as an early foray into making things up until my sister told me a couple of years ago that she believed it at the time and was still remembering it a matter of decades later. The other was a matter of a skipping rope and the third will never reach the light of day.

Despite this, I believe writers aren’t the worst liars, in fact we are hopelessly honest to the point of self-impalement on our own honesty, a contradiction that is occupying me in my writing at the moment.

It makes sense that if writers are taking the stuff of raw reality and producing a recognisable version which is made up, writers can recognise the difference between the two. A mechanic can hear the sound of a problem in a running engine, a teacher can detect the point a class is about to go lord-0f-the-flies, a Jedi detects fluctuations in the Force, so the writer knows the difference between making things up and lying. Regardless of our rep as individuals, we simply cannot afford to leave the writer’s equivalent of a loose bearing, behaving badly or the early intimations of the destruction of Alderan in our writing. A book is a particular version of the truth, as Neil Gaiman wrote, and a reader found important enough to tattoo onto her body:

I can believe things that are true/and I can believe things that aren’t true/and I can believe/things where nobody knows/if they’re true or not.

However, it has to be truthful to itself.

Which brings me to my problem. When I started writing for publication, I worked with a powerfully charismatic and commercially successful creative, let’s call him Bob. The effect was like going down to the end of my cul-de-sac (for real, I lived in a cul-de-sac) and a long-loader, lit up like a fairground in the twilight, drew up with a hiss of hydraulics. I got aboard thinking I’d probably have to walk home at some point, which is what happened, but for a while I travelled the route taken by a big, commercial creative. It didn’t stop anywhere unless there were connections to merchandising centres, or the potential to set up your own.

Now gaming is part of my urban fantasy, Skinny Inkers, but the deeper I got under the skin of the story and the characters,  the more truthful I’ve had to be about gaming. Gaming is geek culture, which I love, but it has its dark side and two of the characters needed the dark side – gamergate, addiction – to work. This must happen to every writer, whether we sign up to it or not.

… and so the merchandising opportunities disappear into the distance, tail-lights flashing as the long-loader goes over bumps in the road.



London Urban Fantasy


I knew I’d seen it, here is proof of the existence of London Urban Fantasy from Jo Fletcher Books, @JoFletcherBooks. Quite rightly, grabbing people by the arm, Twitter-wise and dragging them over to point out The City’s Son by Tom Pollock alongside WILL SELF and NEIL GAIMAN. I’m an ex-typesetter, if I’ve broken out the bold formatting that means my excitement has overcome my professional ethics. I’m excited for Tom Pollock, who took great care in signing my copy (although we weren’t, as the background suggests, in a detritus-filled roof gutter at the time).


But mainly I’m excited as a writer to look at a designated bookshelf in Waterstones with Will Self, Tom Pollock and Neil Gaiman on it that my book would fit on. So I’m feeling slottish again, my book wants to strut its stuff in front of a bookshelf like this with a friend nearby, exhorting, “Work it … wooorkkk it” as the sound of Richard Gere knackering his clutch filters in from the road outside.

Or shelvish, which is the same thing but with Lionel Bloom and pointed ears.

NA – ish


My book is only NA-ish.

Don’t get me wrong, NA (or New Adult) is a real crowbar when all that stands between you and the chance of getting it on a shelf in a bookshop, virtual or otherwise, is the slot between young-adult-but-more-adult-than-young-adult and – adult – that’s opened up in the last few years. My book is a cross-over. Now Neil Gaiman (you don’t need a link to Neil Gaiman) says … (no,  you really don’t) that

we should stop worrying and write the books we have to write

The Goth Flamingo doesn’t have to be primeval bedrock in your reading experience, like wot he is in mine, for this advice to have the authority of tectonic plates shifting in your brain.

But I’ll admit to moments of slottishness. Then I’m grateful to NA Alley and all those workers at the digital coalface who are shining a light on this genre-seam. The Rules of New Adult are probably still to be written. Rebecca Lee @rebeccaeditor may remember some tweets about it but my only guidance as a writer is the memory of someone’s writing forum YA novel where the female hero became a pirate, so far, so YA; she became a pirate in revenge, YA yah, she became a pirate in revenge for being raped in graphic detail … not YA. But if it was NA, are there still issues about the treatment of a rape scene? And we’d probably need to revisit the pirates.

Does NA do pirates?

Neil’s answer to crossovers is

do your best to get it published in a way that lets all of them know it’s out there

So, two covers, and already I’m thinking this for the adult version …


Check the genre

On my planet (which is not affiliated with anyone who can get your book published), the genre depends on what you do with the Pirates.


The main character flies away to be one of a gang of Lost Boys and meets a Pirate who has a hook instead of a hand because it was eaten by a crocodile. Or the main character is a Pirate. As long as he or she is a GOOD Pirate, it’s all pretty straightforward for Children’s. Have fun, be glad you’re not trying for the other two categories.

Young Adult

You can still have Pirates in this, either actual pirates or a gang called The Pirates. S/F or fantasy-up the pirates, steampunk pirates, dystopian pirates, whatever, just keep them mean and dangerous, they’re your vampires (without the sparkly). If your main protagonist is a girl, she’s going to fall in love with one; he’ll show her how to kick arse and wear scraps of strategically-placed leather, she’ll show him the path to redemption. If your protagonist is gay he/she can fall in love with a gay pirate so long as there’s straight-couple protagonists running relationships alongside.

If you’re going for adult-young-adult, keep the pirates real, they’re a school gang or a street gang. Relationships as above.

Sex. Be responsible about this, people, readers may still be secretly hankering after the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme park rides.

New Adult

You could have real pirates in this. Main protagonist falls in love (can you write a gay relationship effectively, sure you’re not trying to jump on a bandwagon? Go for it, then) with someone who’s a modern-day pirate. Otherwise shove all the pirate qualities onto the main protagonist’s love interest and keep it real.

It doesn’t have to end well, but there has to be redemption.

My First Pirate Story

My main character was captured by pirates and forced to work as a cabin boy. He rustled up a superb three-course meal, all fresh ingredients using primitive equipment; they all enjoyed the meal and everyone was happy. I hadn’t heard about Dramatic Conflict.