I write in various places – cafes, bars, libraries – but my favourite place to work is my study. It is filled with mannequins, clowns, a ventriloquist’s dummy, my Doctor Who collection, Ray Bradbury quotes, a coffin full of indie perfume oils, various Pop! Bobbleheads, Lego, toppling manuscripts and shelves and shelves of books. I read in an old red armchair with my dog on my lap, candles lit and incense burning – much like a lazy, pyjama-clad wizard.
My writing day varies according to what I am writing. If I am in the middle of a novel then my day is structured around three intensive writing stints, interspersed with reading, researching, sniffing odd perfumes for inspiration, exercise, walking my dog, meeting friends and other procrastinatory behaviour. Tea, in fact, accompanies most of these activities, including exercise. I have a stationary bicycle in my living room so that I can bike and binge on box-sets and tea.
When I am writing stories, poetry or drama, I completely immerse myself in the narrative and only surface, wild-eyed and sleep-deprived, when a draft has been completed.
‘A Potted History of the Heart’ was written in one long weekend in the summer. I closed the curtains on the sun and gathered items on my desk that would galvanise me: a perfume inspired by Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ called Hideous Heart; the E E Cummings’ poem that runs through the centre of the story and the pig’s heart that I potted at Bart’s Pathology Lab. I wrote and wrote and came out the other side with a sofa covered in cracker crumbs and a rather strange story.
I am proud to have my novelette beat in Scaremongrel alongside stories by writers that I very much admire. It’s been a wonderful experience, although I’m left with a faint odour of formalin and flesh. It still lingers at the lid of the potted specimen and I have no idea if it is down to my keen olfactory sense or the ghost of an aroma haunting me, a non-meat eater, for preserving a heart.