Hello. I’m glad you’re here. Alright, let me set the scene. It’s cold outside. Really cold. From where I’m seated, middle-cushion on the couch with the window facing me, it looks like the biggest bag of icing sugar in the world has been sprinkled over my garden. My living room is warm. I’m drinking hot chocolate out of a really old Doctor Who mug which should go in the bin, but I can’t bear to part with it. It has a Slitheen on the front. The background is filled with Shirley Manson’s voice. I’m listening to Garbage’s first album, a forever classic. Not a winter album, as such, but I’m happy with my choice. Right now, I’m feeling introspective. I’ve been thinking about the future a lot. But it’s impossible to think about the future without reconsidering the past. My past is busy. Very busy. I’ve been an author of YA fiction for many years, which is great and allowed me to pay my bills and meet lots of nice people. But I’ve felt a bit distant from that genre in recent years. Suddenly I know something has changed in me. Am I suffering the first symptoms of the Manopause? Is this middle-age, at last? I’ve never been one to procrastinate, but I knew I had to do something new. It was time to head in another direction. My books are all quite odd, not really easy to fit into a certain category, but YA seemed as good as any at the time. And I wrote some good, low-key, but weird books for young punks. It’s a running joke, but I wrote the books I wanted to read because no-one else was writing them. Really, I wanted readers to feel the rush of excitement I felt when I first read books like Vurt, Blood And Guts In High School, Cat’s Cradle, Marabou Stork Nightmares and all those other novels that thrilled and disturbed me – but most of all made me want to tell stories.
Bored, anxious, and wanting to show off what I felt capable of doing, I finally made a decision about where to go next. So I set about writing a book for adults. How exciting! Adults were reading my books anyway, so why not just go ahead and write a book that could sit in the General Fiction shelf of your local bookshop and the third floor of Waterstones? Fiction for people like me with passions just like mine. I feel there’s so much more I can do, more stories to tell. Really, I wanted to write my dream book.
That book is now finished. It’s called Happiness Is Wasted On Me. It’s set in Cumbernauld during the 90s. Nostalgia is a terrible, awful thing so it isn’t a nostalgia piece, but sometimes – every now and then – I weirdly miss the ’90s. I miss Missing, the record shop in Glasgow that recently returned. I miss Forbidden Planet even though it only moved up the street. I miss Borders, with all those floors of books and magazines. Cosy little Ottakar’s on Sauchiehall Street too. I miss being free of my smartphone even though I couldn’t be without it. I miss Cumbernauld too, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d find myself writing. But that’s the truth. Cumbernauld isn’t where I live, but it’s still home. Home is where the heart is, and where the hate is too. Cumbernauld, where I came from, is the record-breaking recipient of The Plook On The Plinth award. A town with a ‘shopping mall’ so ugly that the residents voted for it to be flattened and took their campaign all the way to Channel 4. It’s a town so ugly that Janet Street-Porter screamed when she caught a glimpse of it from a distance. When we failed to make the hat-trick at the Plook On The Plinth, people in Cumbernauld demanded a recount. It’s also where Gregory’s Girl was filmed. I’ve joked in the past that I’m Cumbernauld’s fourth most famous celebrity after Craig Ferguson, the cast of Outlander, and The Drummer From Travis. The town has always loomed large in my life – literally, with all those weird buildings that dotted the horizon outside my bedroom window as a child.
Oh, Cumbernauld. It had to be you. Ugly, strange, and the only place I could ever belong to. This means Happiness Is Wasted On Me is a very personal book. It’s a coming of age tale set across ten years. It takes in the grunge era, Britpop, New Labour, the Spice Girls, and 9/11 – but it also has those essential moments of real life, how it was back in that decade. It’s a mystery story and a family saga. I’ve always had a horror of being filed, categorised, stamped, or classified and this book is indicative of that mindset. Happiness Is Wasted On Me blends a lot of genres but hopefully hangs together nicely. The main character starts off aged eleven and by the end of the novel he’s twenty-one, older and a little bit wiser. He’s asexual, which is something I don’t see much in fiction. It felt very important to write about this, if only because I wanted to do my bit for visibility. There’s a pun in the book’s title you might ‘get’ with this in mind. It doesn’t matter if you don’t.
I’ve signed a one-book deal with Fledgling Press. They’re putting Happiness out on paperback, which is always a good thing for me. I still love a nice paperback novel. A deal has been worked out with Faber to do the digital side of the book, which means it’ll be available on Kindle and other platforms to download. The digital edition will be available worldwide. Recently, I’d mentioned the fact I’d been working on a novel for adults to certain authors and industry people whose opinions I admire and whose company I’ve enjoyed, and they didn’t laugh at me. A good sign! As a result, I’m writing another novel for adults. But I couldn’t have done it without getting Happiness sorted first. I had to get this book out into the world. Now that’s going to happen and I couldn’t be any happier, which completely goes against the sentiment of the book’s title. To promote it, I won’t have the option of school visits (I’ve been very lucky to be constantly booked thanks to the wonderful librarians all over Scotland), so I’ll be getting ‘out there’ again to tout my latest work. Libraries, theatres, clubs, pubs, shops, book groups…goodness, even bloody YouTube if that helps sell it.
I’ll continue to blog about all my favourite things, but expect a few posts about my new book in the coming months. I tend to write about events and other publishing-related ephemera, but my little features on bands or movies or books are very popular (according to the stats) and I’d like to continue it. I’m going to try and balance things out a bit now that I have a new novel to promote, so please keep popping on over to this site and my social media. I’ll update as much as possible. Things are getting exciting again.
Happiness is coming your way.