What do you do when you have spare time?
Depends on the season. In the winter I tend to slouch around and keep warm. In the summer, I love swimming in the sea and kayaking. And I really like spending time with friends.
What is the last book you read/are currently reading?
Walk the blue fields, by Claire Keegan who is a great Irish writer.
When did you first start writing? What made you pursue it as a career?
I first started writing as a kid. But I never thought about it as a career. It's all been a bit accidental.
Tell us a bit about your new book ' The Score'...
It's about a grand piano that falls off a crane. One man, who is an illegal immigrant but also a very good piano technician, has to try to rebuild it, and a bunch of tenants in council flats decide they're going to help him - whether he wants them to or not. And they play music together.
Most of your writing explores the topic of immigration or immigrants. What is it about this topic that inspires you?
I'm just really interested in the way cultures knock up against eachother. Sometimes badly - prejudice, abuse and so on - and sometimes people really get to understand each other. But it's the world we live in, so we may as well figure out how to get on together, and understand each other better.
What would you say the underlying theme/s of 'The Score' is?
I think it's about quite a lot of things - the isolation migrants often feel, what do you do when the odds are all stacked against you, but also kindness. Kindness doesn't sound like a very cool theme, but I think the book is about that too.
Where did you get the idea for your latest book?
I don't know where it came from. That's weird isn't it, but it is actually the truth. I sat down one night and wrote the first chapter.
How long did it take you to write The Score, start to finish?
About 3 years. I wrote the first draft quickly, then spent ages hammering it into shape.
Do you ever get writer's block?
I don't get a lot of time to write, so when I get time I usually just go for it. If you haven't got much time you don't have the luxury of writer's block!
How do you usually work when you are writing a book? Do you have the whole book mapped out before it is written or do the ideas flow as you write it?
For this book I did have the story mapped out from the start, but it changed quite a lot in the writing.
When do get most of your writing done? Are you a night owl or a early bird?
Both. But if I have a choice, I'd rather write in the morning.
How do you know if 'an idea' is going to turn into a novel? Have you had any ideas that you decided were not worth pursuing? Is it hard to make that call?
I think it's hard to make a call to abandon a novel when you've put a lot of time into it and it isn't working. I'm a bit stubborn about that - I don't want to give up! And yes, I've had a few ideas that I've decided to abandon quite early on.
You founded the creative writing programme at Whitireia in 1993. How does it feel that the programme has just celebrated it's 20th Birthday?
I feel really lucky to be part of it. I think it's a great programme.
Who are some of your favourite writers?
I'm not good on remembering writers. Claire Keegan, who I mentioned before. A few weeks ago I read Lottery by Patricia Wood, about a man who is retarded. I loved it. There's an American/Indian writer called Jhumpa Lahiri who I really admire.
What do you think you would be doing if you were not writing books?
I might clean the house more. But I don't like cleaning, so better to keep writing.
So where can we purchase your new book?
A lot of bookstores have it - if they haven't, ask them to order it! Or you order it from Escalator Press.