C&C: When you’re in the house do you generally wear shoes or are you barefoot or in socks? What about right now?
Genetics and altitude dictate that I wear socks whenever possible. My father has chimpanzee hands for feet. As a kid I remember seeing them hanging off the couch and I’d wonder if he was a government experiment gone wrong. My mother said it was due to ill-fitting shoes as a child, and maybe she’s right, but the toes would curl over as if holding an invisible roll of coins. The big toe was more thumb-like too, and leant away from the rest of the toes. When I hit my growth spurt during my teens, my feet began to get longer. I say feet, but it was my toes. The actual foot remained the same size. I’m a UK size 12, which is what, US size 12.5? Why is that? Why is everything bigger in the States? My feet have grown half an inch over there. If that applies to everything I can see why men emigrate there. But yes, I would say half my foot is toe. It’s split equally. Therefore, I hate showing them off. The first time I had sex, the girl I was with was undressing me and when she removed my socks she said, “Gross feet.” That’s not the lasting memory I wanted of my first time, but there you go. I think she smiled too when I took off my boxer shorts. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t feeling overly confident to begin with and she didn’t help one bit.
As for the other factor; we live really high on the Yorkshire Moors and we have our own weather system which is different to that in the surrounding valley. The cottage floor is covered in Yorkshire slate and no matter how warm the cottage, it’s like walking on ice. So I wear socks and slippers in the house because of the cold, and the fact the previous occupants, in their infinite wisdom, chose a beige carpet. Who the hell thinks beige is a practical colour for a cottage in the country?! In the city you’re never more than ten feet away from a rat in any direction. In the country you’re ten feet away from cow shit. Beige does not go well with cow shit. It’s just gone 4pm. I’m in bed typing this out and I have socks on.
C&C: Do you really do magic voodoo on the ladies writers/editors?
Ha. No is the short answer. I just try and be nice whenever possible. I’m a little flirtatious by nature, so maybe sometimes that comes through in text, I don’t know. Not flirtatious with intent, you understand, but I’m quite jolly around the opposite sex. It’s nerves really and has nothing to do with flirting. In fact, I’m a terrible flirt but I get giddy and end up making women laugh, which I guess can be interpreted as flirting. I was the guy who had to approach girls to tell them my friend fancied them. You know, like my friend would be hanging back looking cool, and I would be pushed to make small talk with these beautiful girls. It was no different to what those cattlemen did in Paraguay or in the Mato Grosso, or wherever it was, who sacrificed a decrepit cow to a piranha-filled river to allow the rest of the herd to cross in safety. I was sacrificed for their benefit, not mine. So yes, I wasn’t good looking so I leant on my personality and humour. Being thousands of miles away from any of these editors/writers with only email as a means of communication is clearly working in my favour. Seriously though, I don’t think think these women are being nothing but complimentary toward my work. It has nothing to do with me or my witchcraft.
C&C: What do you have in your pockets?
I have a lottery ticket and 55 English pence in change. I tend to buy lottery tickets and not check them. I like the idea that I’m walking around with potentially millions in my pocket. It gives me a different perspective on life. I’m more relaxed, carefree and not constraint by time and money. This is quite comforting to me. I also think it would be an interesting anecdote at a dinner party. When asked how I could afford such a wonderful house in the country that has beige carpets and no trace of cow shit, I would regale the patrons with the story of how I kept that lottery ticket in my pocket for three months, oblivious that I was a multimillionaire. There’s a time limit on lottery claims, right? I may need to check the date on this one lest it be nearing its expiry. I don’t want to be the guy who at the dinner party regales people with an unhappy tale of how I lost millions.
C&C:Do you have tea at scheduled tea times, and were you raised that way, or do you secretly love coffee, and do you use mugs for coffee instead of teacups?
Tea is just the beverage equivalent of a cigarette in England. I’m not too sure there is a set time to have tea. It’s just as and when. You can have “afternoon tea” which consists of finger sandwiches, a section of cream cakes and a pot of your chosen tea; Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Assams, Green Leaf etc. Afternoon tea is best experienced in a traditional tea room. There’s a chain of them in Yorkshire called Betty’s Tea Room where the waitresses dress in aprons and pinafores. It’s all very Downtown Abby, but with less snobdom and more scones.
For a long time I hated coffee. It tasted like soil and made your breath smell like art teacher. I don’t mind it now, but I don’t have the tongue for espresso or Americano; lattes if I don’t know the place, and then when I’ve established how well they make coffee, I’ll progress to a cappuccino. We have a little cappuccino maker in the kitchen which we use with special coffee cups. Tea goes in mugs because in our home it’s volume over presentation. Bit like the X Factor.
C&C: Who was your first really hardcore crush?
Her name was Lorraine Cowie. I was 8 or 9 years old. She sat about four tables away from me in the class. She could make her gums bleed and suffered with a nasal passage problem. From time to time she would inhale through her nose and make the sound of a pig. She looked like a young Phoebe Cates, but with gingivitis. Because I was shy, I didn’t have the confidence to approach her so I used to offer all the other children in the class one of my potato chips from my packed lunch just to get close to her. I’d start at the table furthest away so it didn’t look too obvious. I’d eventually end up at her table with only a few potato chips left. She would always decline and it’d make me so sad. Then one day I had a packet of pickled onion Monster Munch. She took one. I never felt so happy. For a moment we were staring at each other, hands almost touching. The next day I stole a fake pearl necklace from my mother’s dresser and got my friend to take it to her after school finished. I gave him the instructions to tell her I loved her. He returned three minutes later with the necklace and a spiteful message. I went home and cried my eyes out. And this bit I remember clearly; during the chest contractions and tears, I breathed in through my nose and grunted like a pig. I felt close to her in that moment, I cried even more. Lorraine Cowie didn’t even know I existed. At best, I was the strange skinny blonde kid who gave his potato chips away to the whole class in attempt to gain favour or ingratiate myself. I can take solace in the fact she’s probably got no teeth now and suffers with chronic atrophic rhinitis. And fat. I hope she’s fat.
C&C: Do you tell your family about ALL your stories that are accepted and coming out for publication? My first thought was if you’d be sending a copy of Midnight Movie Creature Feature to your mom…..
I’m reticent to tell anyone about my writing. I’ve mentioned I write to my parents once. My mother was overjoyed, but then again, I could crack open a walnut and she would be happy. Recently my wife had to push me into telling my brother-in-law that I had my novel accepted. I don’t know why, but telling someone you write sounds silly aloud. I don’t think people know how to react to something like that. If they’ve known you for a long time, like a friend or close family member, you can see that moment of confusion closely followed by a feigned interested that goes no further than, “What do you write?” Plus, my back catalogue of titles will only worry people. When the archetypal image non-writers have of writers are weary-looking academics who are worldly wise and articulate as they are morose, and I come along nervously fumbling over titles like Revenge of the Zombie Pussy Eaters, Anal Twine, The Whore that Broke the Camel’s Back and Human Tenderloin, well, I can understand why they’re indifferent and/or concerned. I won’t be dishing out copies of Quintessence of Dust or To Die Upon a Kiss to anyone other than the writers I know. A few friends will act interested if they ever see a copy at my home, but I know if I gave them one it’ll be a doorstop by the end of the week. I’m a firm believer that you should never allow family and friends to have copies of your work anyway. It’s not healthy. For me it’d be the literary equivalent of inviting my closest friends and immediate family members around to our home to watch a sex tape I made with my wife. While I may be satisfied with what I’ve accomplished, I certainly don’t want people I know looking at it. Writing is very personal, and what I write isn’t going to appeal to a lot of people. But I can handle that because most of those people I will never meet. I’d hate to be sat across the dinner table one Christmas and look over to my mother-in-law knowing she’d read Flaps. For that reason, and many more, I tend to tell no one about my work.
C&C: Are left-handers smarter than right-handers?
Isn’t there some statistic to say they are? I don’t know many left-handed people, and those I do know are no smarter than other people I know. My friend is left-handed and we used to call him Einstein at school. Not because he was clever, but because he had a moustache before anyone else, and he had this weird thing for his cousin. But I like the way they write, left-handed people, how they’ve adapted to compensate the difficulties that writing with the left hand poses, like smudging of work. I think it shows great versatility. Wasn’t Ghandi and Jack the Ripper left-handed? Weird that I pull those two names out.
C&C: Can you shoot a gun?
Unless you have elephantitis of the fingers, I would imagine most people can shoot a gun. I was into guns as a kid. My father bought me a GAT gun for my 12th birthday. It was a hand gun that fired metal slugs. The barrel would extend to twice its size to release its load. It was like the John Holmes of the gun world. It was really poor. I shot my friends a lot with it and they never felt a damn thing. It was much more advantageous to place the gun an inch away from the target. The power of the barrel extending did more damage than a pellet. I once tried to turn on a light switch doing this. I underestimated the distance and when I fired the gun the barrel shattered the light switch into many pieces.
I moved onto a 1.77 air rifle and then a 2.2 hand pistol before finally joining a shooting club in my home town of Salford when I was about eighteen. If you lived, or knew of Salford, you’d see the irony in that. The shooting club had those long ranges you see in movies. I shot a 38 revolver and 45 automatic. Pretended I was Martin Riggs for an hour. Some guy brought in a Magnum 45. He let me fire it once. Damn near took my hand off.
C&C: Are Brits privy to the awesomeness that are Superhero underoos as children? If so, were these an important part of your childhood? If not, would you be a different person had you been given the option to experience Superhero underoos?
I had to look them up. They’re awesome. I would have loved something like that when I was a kid. I wanted to be a Superhero so much that I convinced myself I was Superman. I’d ask my mother where she found me and what she did with my spaceship. I was like, five or six. She’d go along with it and make up crazy replies that had me believing I was from some other planet. One day she took me to the park and I totally freaked out because everything to me that was green was dangerous and would kill me. She had to carry me out because I was in hysterics. About the same time my parents went out and I was taken to my Nana’s place. To keep me occupied she made me a Superman outfit using stuff from around her house. The only thing was, she didn’t have any blue material so she used this translucent foam that normally insulated cushions and couch seats. She made it to fit, stitched it all together and drew a large S on the chest with her lipstick. But because of the material, you couldn’t get it on with clothes, so I had to take them all off. I was so happy I wanted to show my mum and dad. Reluctantly my Nan took me out to the pub where they were drinking. People on the street were looking at me and smiling and I thought it was because I looked so cool. I began to run up and down the street pretending to fly, pushing stationary cars and lifting small objects but pretending they were really heavy. I got a lot of attention. It was only when my dad pointed out that he could see my penis did I realise that all those people didn’t see me as a Superhero, but instead a little boy running around the street stark bullock naked.
C&C: What is your favorite holiday? And if the answer is not Halloween (which is the correct answer) please explain why and how a different holiday could be your favorite.
Do you mean holidays in the American sense, like special occasions such as Halloween and Independence Day, or do you mean in the British sense, whereby we leave our home and go and stay someplace where people usually hate us? I’ll go with the latter because we don’t celebrate to the degree Americans do for Halloween, and Independence Day to us is a movie starring Will Smith. I don’t like holidays, if truth be told. I’m 40 this year and my wife is desperately pushing me into making a decision on where I would like to go this year. I’m not that arsed. Travelling and the seeing the world has never appealed to me. The only part of a holiday I like is the pool. I go under the water and get my wife to stand on my back to keep me down there. Something very relaxing about hearing the world through several thousand gallons of hydrogen atoms, covalent bonds, oxygen and piss. I would go so far to say that I’m at my happiest under water. If I won a lottery I would buy a pool and sit for hours at the bottom using breathing apparatus. Hours would turn into days, and then months and my daughter would ask, Where’s Daddy? And my wife would just point at the pool and say, Pretending to be Patrick Duffy.