Today, Philip Pullman did an hour long Q&A on twitter via @BBCWales and I was lucky enough to have a couple of questions answered!

This is why I love twitter. You get to be in contact with people you admire.

I’m a huge PP fan. I cannot tell you how much I admire his writing and his imagination. His Dark Materials trilogy is such an inspiring story. Complex and yet completely attainable and understandable.

I am always intrigued about other writers methods of writing. I knew that PP doesn’t believe in writers block. His philosophy is to write every day, and you won’t find yourself lacking in inspiration or word count.

I didn’t know that he doesn’t plan his stories. This sounds incredible to me.

What I think of as planning is thinking for a very long time about a character and sort of deciding their fate. You have to know everything about them.

Seeing what world surrounds them.

Hearing what music they listen to.

Smelling their favourite scent.

Knowing what they think.

Understanding their opinions.

Laughing at what they find funny.

Disagreeing with opinions they don’t hold favour with.

Wanting the same happiness they crave.

If you create a person and know them implicitly, then their story will form around them.

That’s what happens for me anyway. When I plan a story, what I mean is I plan a characters journey. I know where they end up, why they end there and how this affects them.

The rest of the book happens as you write.

Crystal Green is alive in my head. In a way, she has a lot of the same characteristics as me. In other ways she is completely different. But as soon as I knew her, I knew what she was going to go through. I knew what she would face. I knew she’d become a hero.

And then her story started to wrap around her like she was at the centre of a giant web and I was the spider.

For me, planning the story was quite important. It was a fantastic creative process in itself. I loved deciding where Crystal was going to go in this particular volume. And I like that I have a plan for it. That’s not to say that it’s rigid or unchangeable. On the contrary, it’s a guide. A guide I’m grateful for creating as it allows me to know where I am in the story and what to write next.

On the other hand I can completely understand why PP would find this process lifeless and boring. The creative process is the exciting part. So I can see how this would invigorate the sometimes gruelling time you spend actually writing.

I have to assume that PP does an enormous amount of thinking about character and story before putting pen to paper. Whether or not he writes it down or structures a book before he writes it is irrelevant. For him, planning must be about the character and their journey, not the book.

The book holds the story. And the story comes from your protagonist. And your protagonist is everything.


And of course I had to get that question in. Morally ambiguous characters are my fav!

Chapter 13: Take 2

Hello faithful readers, how the devil are we?

Almost a week since my last post and despite having been in work all week, I have actually managed some writing.

Chapter 13 is becoming a bit of an epic battle. I have finished my second go which saw Albert become Alby and whilst I am feeling good for having finished it, and relatively pleased actually with how it turned out, I’m still not convinced it is right.

It may be purely because this version wasn’t my plan, or it may be because I haven’t finished the original version and its hanging over me…

I stopped because it was too dark. But I’m still not entirely sure it wasn’t right.

I have two things that I want to do. I need to finish that original chapter. I need to see it to its natural conclusion. Just for my piece of mind more than anything. It may still end up being too dark. It may still end up not being suitable. But what if it doesn’t? What if it works?

Once I’ve done that, and depending on the outcome, I sort of want to write a third draft. This third try would be an amalgamation of the two.

Alby is great. He is more accessible than Albert. So perhaps the answer is to move Alby into Albert’s chapter and see what happens.

I have also realised that in making Albert Alby, I have made a more coherent character. And his cohesive mind means that he hasn’t been able to set up the future plots as I had intended. Some of those lines of dialogue were my favourites so I’m looking forward to having another read and seeing if I can finish the original version.

Albert is holding me back!

One of the things I really like that I put into the Alby chapter is a little disagreement between Crystal and Leo. It slipped in at the end and whilst it was always planned, it wasn’t supposed to be this early. Thrilled to bits though. It only happened sooner than planned because of Alby. He provoked them to disagree which is fab! And actually it is better than my plan.

Proof that a plan is just a guide!



Grampy Vic, Dad, Me and Grampy Jim
Grampy Vic, Dad, Me and Grampy Jim

Swiss Valley, Llanelli, Wales

Christmas 1984

This picture I dug out of my parent’s attic sometime last year. It is one of the only surviving photographs of me with both my grandfathers. For that reason, I love it.

Another reason it hits home for me is that it was a source of inspiration when it came to plotting Crystal Green and the Moon Machine.

I was in the early stages of developing Crystal as a character and I wanted her to go on adventures with her grandfather. This relationship seemed like such a delicious relationship to write. It’s different to a parental relationship, and yet has a lot of the same feelings, emotions and drives.

I then came across this photo and Crystal became clearer. I had an image in my head of Crystal and her family having a picture taken at Christmas in their family home and just like that, they were all real.

I had to do, and in fact am still doing, lots of characterisation and plotting and story arching etc but them as people were alive in my head. And that moment came from this picture… actually, it came from an amalgamation of the photo above and the one below…

Auntie An, Nana Gwyn, Me, Nana Ve and Auntie Helen
Auntie An, Nana Gwyn, Me, Nana Ve and Auntie Helen

It was family. Family means everything. So I set about creating Crystal a family, blowing it to smithereens, and then over the course of several books, having Crystal create herself a new family.

I think that makes an interesting story, especially as I firmly believe that family is not only the people you are related to by blood, but the people you choose to surround yourself with.

Clarity from Craziness

This chapter is kicking my ass!

I’ve written 6 pages and I might think that it’s all crap. I say ‘might’ because it may just be me and this mood…

It’s a chapter that has a function. It is a rare-book shop, or more importantly, a rare-book shop owner, who is a little shall we say ‘off-the-rails’. This man has to instruct our heroes into the next clue.

I do like writing people who are a few sandwiches short of a picnic. I like the random nature of the dialogue, and how erratic their disposition and thought processes are. This is all good.

But for some reason this chapter isn’t working. It’s supposed to be dark and creepy, and move the plot along. But it feels like it’s slowing the plot down. I can’t quite put my fingers on it…

It’s difficult too because this loopy-man is actually setting up some things for a future book. So I’m trying to get those parts right, whilst not bogging down the narrative with seemingly random and meaningless dialogue. It has to flow.

Maybe that’s the problem, that this chapter has to do too much. It’s a funny one because this man isn’t in the rest of the book, but he has to make an impact. He has to be memorable. But also, he’s actually quite scary.

Our heroes are at the back of this shop with a lunatic – and I use that word because I’ve written him as very unstable – and it feels properly scary. Not in a evil-magical-nemesis kind of way, but more a this-man-is-actually-mentally-unstable-and-anything-could-happen kind of way. And perhaps that’s another failing on my part; maybe it’s too real.

I feel uncomfortable reading it back because I am worried about what this man will do…


Does that mean I’ve done my job right? It should feel uncomfortable; it should feel scary. But have I crossed a line? Am I now in adult fiction rather than young adult? Perhaps it’s the very adult nature of it that isn’t sitting well with me. Perhaps it’s that underlying worry about what this man is capable of that scares me. But maybe only I am reading it like that; maybe I am reading too much into it because I am too close to it.

I think I’ve hit the nail on the head. I think I’ve made it too adult. I think I’ve gone to too dark a place. I have to keep in my mind who my reader is most likely to be. I have orchestrated this novel to be for a specific audience, with a broader appeal so that anyone can read it. But I don’t want to alienate my intended audience…

I am going to attack it a fresh. I’m going to cut it up, because there is some good stuff in there too, and patch it back together before smoothing out the cracks. I don’t often re-arrange chapters. They normally sit as written. But I think this one will benefit from rejigging; perhaps giving the chapter a nicer conclusion, with a bit more hope.

It’s the absence of hope; that’s the problem!!! It feels hopeless and confusing and crazy; the whole chapter feels unhinged, all because Albert is unhinged. But this is a book about Crystal. Crystal needs someone to make things clear, and clarity isn’t often found from a crazy person. Albert has to almost fight for his own clarity, forcing his own foggy-mind into coherent thought; he has to gain his sanity back to help make things clear for Crystal.

That’s what Albert gives. He points her in the right direction. And you definitely should think that he knows more than he’s letting on…

I need to focus the perspective more; bring it all back to Crystal. I think I’m going to have a break now and resume writing later on. I shall return!


St David’s Day

Hello and salutations my faithful blog readers and happen-to-pass-by-ers!

As today is St David’s Day this is just a quick post to wish all my fellow Welshies a great day!

Leeks and Daffodils are everywhere and rightly so!

I think there may be some stove top pottering tonight: Welsh Cakes hot from the pan are just divine!

This book was born from Welsh myths and legends, and it’s story really shines a spotlight on our nation!

Have a good day all!