How to research a novel

‘Write what you know’ is classic advice – for good reason. We all want our work to have a tang of authenticity, and staying within familiar territory can make things more truthful, and certainly a heck of a lot quicker. And as I wrote in my last blog, no matter how well-intentioned, endless research can easily become a procrastination tool.

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What Time is Love? update…

Publication day approaches… and has been brought forward to 26 May 2022. What Time is Love? is available for pre-order now, from your favourite independent bookstore, or this link takes you to a range of online retailers. Final copies are imminent, but we have a cover design!

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How to finish a novel

This first post in a series of blogs about writing was going to be on how to start a novel. But I feel like starting is rarely the problem – whereas finishing often is. Whether you plan a book out or plunge right in, the beginning is always full of shimmery possibility. And then… the reality of the words on the page often disappoints. Hence the urge to polish and polish, re-writing the first chapter or section over and over.

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Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Leeds Playhouse

Published in The Independent April 7, 2022

It seems wild that the UK hasn’t been treated to a major, full-scale production of Hedwig and The Angry Inch since its West End iteration closed early in 2000 – especially given the subsequent cult status of the 2001 film version.

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How the first ever pop star blazed a trail of innovation

Published in BBC Culture February 24, 2022

Think of an era-defining, wildly popular pop star: are you picturing David Bowie? Prince? Elton John? Maybe Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga or Adele? The solo singer-songwriter, whose persona is as well-known as their music and lyrics, is a cornerstone of popular music.

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The surprising ways that Victorians flirted

Published in BBC Culture January 17, 2022

Look up the term “collage”, and the Tate’s website will inform you that this cut-and-paste method for making new work was “first used as an artists’ technique in the early 20th Century.” Generally, Picasso and Braque get credited with inventing collage, with Picasso’s decision to paste oilcloth into his painting Still Life with Chair Caning in 1912 considered a firing shot for an explosion of avant-garde art.

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Why assume it’s a problem if a woman is child-free at thirty? Maybe she prefers it that way

Published in The Observer January 30, 2022

It was news last week that women are having fewer children and at a later age: the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that more than half of women in England and Wales don’t have children by the time they are 30. But it hardly felt surprising to me.

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Review: She Loves Me, Sheffield Crucible

Published in The Telegraph December 17, 2021

What a treat this is: a delicious romcom, staged with real wit and elan, so that it feels genuinely both romantic and very funny – not something revivals of old musicals always manage to pull off.

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Critic under the spotlight: the 12-hour play showcasing everyday jobs

Published in The Stage October 27, 2021

The theatre critic’s job is largely conducted in darkness and silence: we watch other people perform from the gloom of the stalls, and then write about it. But last Saturday, the spotlight – and the microphone – was quite literally turned on me, as I was grilled about my job in front of an audience on stage at Leeds Playhouse.

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