Thank you so much James for being a guest on my blog, it is a huge honour!
JW: I’d like to start, by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? And where did the idea of The Homes come from?
JM: Yes I have always wanted to be a writer, from about the age of 16 when I first fell in love with books. I always used to write short stories or ideas and share them with my friends, as if I didn’t get them out of my head they would eat away at me. It took me to the age of 34 to first get published and there were a couple of books I wrote first before then that looking back probably helped me get better at writing.
The idea for The Homes came about because after my father died I moved back in with my mum and we talked a lot more than we had done when I was growing up as there was no longer the burden of parenting any more. She told me about The Quarrier’s homes in Bridge of Weir and it sounded like such a strange and unique place, I hadn’t ever seen a book written that was set there and I wanted to get the story told before that generation who lived it got too old.
JW: How hard was it writing from the point of view of teenage girls (Lesley & Jonesy)?
JM: I wrestled a lot with this a lot. I felt weird writing at a 40+ bloke writing as a 12-year-old girl (and originally wanted it to be anonymous or under a pseudonym, in the end, we went with a genderless name), but that girl is essentially my mother at that age and I worked with her a lot to get it right, but I would think it is unlikely I would write in the voice of a teenage girl again, just feels a bit weird.
There is an amazing and hilarious Twitter account called @menwritewomen and I live in fear of ever having my work on there.
JW: How important do you think it is to raise the issues children face in care, in the past and today?
JM: The overwhelming thing I wanted to get across was how brave the kids were to make it out of these places, they really had to fend for themselves. The whole book is a tribute to my mum and her friend (who she didn’t meet until after they had left the homes) and the courage and bravery that showed each day.
My mum is a quiet woman and I wanted a book that showed bravery not as a soldier running into a battlefield all guns blazing, but as a small person showing courage on a daily basis to get themselves out of this place.
JW: Who would you like to see playing the part of Jonesy & Lesley The Homes were to be turned into a TV series or movie?
JM: I never really had ideas for the children’s parts as I don’t know any child actors, but I did think of Peter Mullan as the Superintendent.
JW: I have to add here that I think Tessa Peake-Jones would be brilliant as Mrs Patterson!!
JW: As a child growing up, were you an avid reader or was television your thing? Do you have a favourite childhood book or television programme?
JM: I really didn’t like reading growing up. My dad loved reading and it wasn’t for me, I wanted to be outside playing football. Then one day I read Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh and a lightbulb went on that “Oh books can be like this”
That said my favourite childhood book and the book that I remember my dad reading to me was Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, and I have since read it to my son and he loved it and it felt like passing on a baton.
JW: Which book, that you read in 2021, has been your favourite?
JM: I really enjoyed Andrew O’Hagan – Mayflies and The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong
I should say in the last year I have read a lot of the authors on Viper., the publisher of The Homes, and the standard on that imprint is terrifyingly good. Janice Hallet, Tina Baker, David Jackson, Catriona Ward, every one of the books gives you something more that you were thinking of, every one of them has wonderful extra levels.
JW: Who do you most admire?
JM: Bookwise Iain Banks, Michael Marshall Smith, Steve Toltz.
JW: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
JM: I think the friends and family I have, I am fortunate to have such good friends and a lovely family and it’s important to stop and appreciate it, that and the penalty I saved in the last minute of a cup final when I was 10.
JW: If you could go back in time, to one historical event, to witness it, what would it be and why?
JM: Anfield ’89. I got offered a ticket in my maths lesson at school for £3.50 and we couldn’t go as we were travelling to Scotland that day for the Scotland vs England match the next day.
JW: What is something you are passionate about aside from writing?
JM: Music – I have always loved music. I haven’t been to an event in a long time and saw Father John Misty last week and I have forgotten how much I love it. I have spent a lot of this year trying to listen to albums in full rather than Spotify shuffle.
JW: If you could invite 4 people to dinner, living or dead, who would you invite and why?
JM: Amanda Donohoe, David Rocastle, Bill Drummond, David Bowie (the world has gone to pieces since he left us, I think he was holding it all together)
JW: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
JM: Bad news quick, good news slow. If you know or think something is going to be bad, better warn someone and let them know, with good news, make sure you are certain of the good news as it’s the hope that kills you.
JW: What’s next? What are you currently working on??
JM: I am working on a story called The Herd of Buffaloes, I am 75,000 words into the first draft so there’s a long way to go but after 10 years of starting it I finally have the ending I want for it which is a relief. The hard work starts once the first draft is done.
You can Pre-order The Homes HERE