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Paul Magrs is one of the authors I trust.  You know, you zoom in on their name on a shelf, and you know that whatever you pick up, you will enjoy.  Funnily enough, one of my other trusted authors is Anne Tyler (see below) but it is fairly rare even in a voracious reader like me.  I came across Paul’s books a while ago now and they are wonderful.  Rooted in the North of England but appealing to everyone, his real skill, I think, is in taking  a group of disparate characters – gay lads, goth girls, feisty grannies; shop workers, tattooed men, oh and the odd Bride of Frankenstein – and however odd their adventures are, they are still real.  Real, funny, sometimes macabre (but I still ache to know how that brain-eating adventure ended!) and always a good read.  The oddest things are told in a deadpan manner that reminds me of another favourite, Jane Gardam, and there is always warmth and humour, however bittersweet the story.

There are several stand-alone books – I can recommend All The Rage, about a lost 80s pop group, and Exchange, about a couple of lonely teens and a truly magical book shop – as well as the Brenda & Effie series set in Whitby and the Iris Wildthyme series (which I haven’t read – yet).  He’s also written Doctor Who novels and plays!

 

Paul Magrs teaches creative writing as well as continuing his flourishing writing career, and he has an excellent website at www.paulmagrs.com – and I was thrilled when he agreed to do one of my irregular series of author interviews.

 

LB: Why did you start writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

 

PM: I would say that I really began when I was nine. My teacher at school read us the two Dodie Smith ‘Dalmatian’ books and I was determined to write a third. I had a blue plastic ‘Petite’ typewriter at home and I hammered out a shaggy dog tale. I ran out of black ribbon and had to do half of it in red. Then I wrote a story about our class field trip in the Yorkshire Dales, which I sent to Penguin Books – and they were very nice and encouraging! It just seemed the natural thing to me – to write stuff and try to get it published.

 

LB: Who is your favourite author?

 

PM: I think my favourite novelist has to be Anne Tyler. I’ve been reading her since I was twenty and I’ve read all of her books several times over. I’ve learned such a lot from her. She’s so modest, so understated, and wise about people. When I published a novel called ‘Modern Love’ in 2000 my friend Carol Ann kept on at me until I sent it to Anne Tyler. Some time later I got a wonderful postcard from her saying how much she liked it and how it was just the kind of thing she liked to read for herself. I was delighted, as you can imagine.

 

LB: You’ve already written some characters from literature into your books (I’m thinking the Brenda and Effie series here) but if you could pick one more to introduce into a book, who would it be and why?

 

PM: I like taking characters from earlier books and giving them new adventures. I think I’d love to write a Sherlock Holmes story. I imagine they’re fiendishly difficult to do.

 

LB: Who is your own favourite character?

 

PM: Too many to mention. Paddington Bear, probably. Michael Bond’s ‘Paddington’ series is one of my favourite sets of books ever.

 

LB: Some of your books are marketed for "young adults", some are adult. Is there a reason? Did you choose this, or is it down to your publishers? Who do you feel is your audience? Who do you write for when you pick up your pencil or settle down to the keyboard?

 

PM: That’s to do with which publisher I’m writing for: Headline Review publish my novels for grown-ups and Simon and Schuster my ‘young adult’ books. Of course there is massive overlap in terms of themes and style and audience. Sometimes I don’t know what the distinctions are all about. They’re all just novels, by me. I write about friendship, love, fantasy and time, whoever I’m writing for.

 

LB: How do you write? In pencil in a special notebook, sitting in a cafe…?

 

PM: Sometimes I love to do just that. I like lots of noise about me and nice coffee and people to eavesdrop on. Other times, I get up at 6 a.m. and go straight to my desk and hammer away at the laptop until I have a thousand words done. Some days are more

businesslike and serious than others.

 

LB: What do you think of book blogging and bloggers. Are they all just ignorant folk who only write good reviews, as the "official" reviewers seem to think? Is there a value in what they (we) do, for authors?

 

PM: I love book-bloggers and bloggers of all kinds. I’m an obsessive book blogger myself. What they often have that reviewers in print and newspapers don’t have, is a genuine enthusiasm for the books and the genre they’re dealing with. They are doing this out of love. That’s bound to make it quite different and often, much more engaging than ‘official’ reviewers. And book bloggers have been very good to me. I love it when people get enthusiastic and spread the word about my books!

 

LB: In "Exchange", there’s a scene which seems to mention BookCrossing –

"’I’ve heard about this’, said Simon. ‘Where they leave them in cafes and on buses and you pick them up, read them, leave your message and liberate them again, for someone else to find…’".  Was this deliberate? Have you had a lot of messages from excited BookCrossers about this?

 

PM: Yes!  It was a deliberate reference to something I find very interesting. And I did indeed get lots of messages from BookCrossers! For myself, I find it very hard to give books away. I wish I could. Our house is overflowing.

 

LB: Little does Paul know the Horrible Truth – that BookCrossers, far from getting rid of books, usually end up with EVEN MORE! 

 

Thank you, Paul, for those insights – look out, readers, for my reviews of the first two Brenda and Effie books, coming soon – and we look forward to many more magical volumes.