Write with Phil. Productivity and time management for writers


 I’ve always liked writers’ guides. Phil Hurst’s site has much useful advice and informative interviews. He recommends Stephen King’s On Writing which I found entertaining and helpful, especially as its coming from someone with an exceptional track record. One of the problems with, say, Robert McKee declaring himself the Pope of Story, is that he only ever wrote one tv movie (as Joe Eszterhaz likes to say). This raised a smile: 


There’s also the irrefutable ‘Stop stressing about writing! Learn to relax and become a better writer.’ So if you need advice and motivation, which I certainly do, visit writewithphil.com    

Good stuff.

MR Some say you shouldn’t write about writing or have a writer protagonist. Are there any novels you would recommend featuring writers? 

PH Not so much a novel, but a film. “Adaptation” by Charlie Kaufman is a great exploration of the neurosis that can take over a writer. It gets really meta at certain points, and I don’t think non-writers will enjoy it much, but it’s still in my top five films. I’m not a Nicholas Cage fan, but he’s really good in this.

MR Loved it. Though it’s hard to get enthusiastic about Kaufman’s more recent work. Synecdoche, New York. Even the title’s difficult. Then it gets worse. Your favourite Science Fiction writers? 

PH Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden Series was one of my

favourites over the last few years. The first book was

just a fantastic piece of writing, dark and moody, but

with just enough hope that keeps you hanging on. It

takes a little bit of getting used to, but soon enough the

characters start to live with you.

A writer I also enjoy is Philip Palmer. His book “Red

Claw” just doesn’t stop – it’s a violent, brutal and (most

importantly) fun book. I devoured it!

MR Your favourite writers in any genre? 

PH Douglas Adams is truly one of the great writers. If I

could write with such confidence, wit and humour, you

would never get me away from the keyboard. I

recently bought a reprint of all the “Hitchhiker Guide”

books and I’m beyond excited to read them.

MR Your novel deals with what happens to the soul

after death. Is that the ultimate terror, trapped for all


PH It’s the ultimate terror, which is why the

government in the book can be so dictatorial (even if it

pretends to be doing good). As humans, we’re

extremely bad at visualising eternity, so to be trapped

for an indefinite amount of time must be the ultimate


MR Can you enjoy all of a genre or will some of it inevitably 


PH Just because you enjoy a book in a genre doesn’t

mean you will enjoy it all. I think that’s the trap that

some people fall into – reading one little sci-fi book

will not make you a genre addict. The joy of reading is

that different writers will approach genre in

completely different ways, and part of the enjoyment

is deciding not only what you like, but why you like it.

MR Michael Moorcock famously once wrote a novel in

three days with a leaky fountain pen. I have never

managed more than six thousand words in a day and

that was a one off. Lucky to get a tenth of that usually,

if I’m writing at all. Has your personal best altered

with age?

PH I’ve got more disciplined, but only because I’ve had

to! My time to write at home (I’m balancing a full time

job and a 90 minute commute) has decreased in the

last few years. Rather than moan about it though, I

decided to make the best of it. Now I’m probably

writing more than I did in my twenties, although

probably not as much as when I was completing my

Creative Writing Masters.

I found an event like NanoWriMo is also really good

for focusing the mind and giving you a target to aim

for. It takes away the excuses that we’re all so good at

creating for ourselves.


 MR I tried to get back into writing with a pen, especially now
my wife repairs vintage pens. I have elegant implements and a lot
of inelegant inkblots.
I mostly missed being able to move paragraphs around. Have you
abandoned pen on paper? 

PH For actual writing, pretty much. I still will scribble down

ideas on a notebook by the side of the bed. I try and carry

something around with me to make notes, but most of the time

that turns out to be my phone. I used OneNote a lot to write

down ideas, because I find I’m much less likely to lose them. But

when I’m attending writer’s meetings I’ll take a notebook and

pen. There’s something incredibly anti-social about writing

behind a screen, especially when you’re in a room full of friendly


MR Any writing manuals you would recommend?

PH There’s  one book that I got an old copy of years ago

and has been by my side ever since. It’s called “Telling

Lies for Fun and Profit” by Laurence Block. I’m not

sure if it’s still in print, but if you get the chance pick

up a second-hand copy. Although a lot of the advice has

aged a lot of it is relevant again in the age of blogs and

independent publishing.

MR £3.49 on Kindle. Looks useful.
lawrence Block

MR Have you seen Terence Blacker’s Writers’ Rules tweets? Good advice which can also be enjoyed as gossip, if, like me, you’re trivial. And there’s some philosophical insights such as: Ian Fleming: ‘Writing makes you more alive to your surroundings and, since the main ingredient of living is to be alive, this is quite a worthwhile by-product’ #writersrules#perksofthejob @terenceblacker

PH Thanks for the advice! I am following now!

MR Thanks for your answers! Some great insights. And it’s good to mention writing and gainful employment. 


Anthony Trollope had a day job for 32 years. He wrote 47 novels and various short stories, non fiction and plays. (Easier without Twitter, Facebook and American long form drama but even so…) There’s even two volumes of letters. Rather than some internet rants. 

 Trollope joined the Post Office as a clerk at the age of 19. In

1841 at the age of 26 he moved to Ireland, where he married and

began to write. He remained an employee until 1866, and rose

almost to the top of the organisation.’ 

Way to go, Tone. Better get to work.

Or can I tempt you to a two minute read? Which has a walk on part for Robert ‘Mr Story’ McKee?


Sean Penn Challenging Charles Bukowski to a fight – a Joe Eszterhaz story









Saira Viola: Jukebox and Beyond


MR Jukebox is really great. Fantastic! Your style seemed to me (perhaps incorrectly) cinematic and poetic, but with enough interior monologue to enable a deep connection with the characters. The best of old fashioned story telling with contemporary sparkle.Can you explain your ‘sonic scatter script’?

SV Thank you for the cool comments about Jukebox. Glad you enjoyed it. Sonic Scatterscript is basically a literary idea I came up with as a poet that points to a focus on sound and rhythm. Best described withan example: “She was a wiggle and giggle chick with a slut bomb bounce.” The sentence has a very obvious rhythm. It starts out like a waltz: one two three, one two three. Then it ends on three stressedbeats, rat tat tat, for percussive emphasis. Initially it feels like a hotcutie waltzing down the street, her hips swaying from side to side, and then it ends with a Cha Cha Cha. The rhythm mimics every dip of her hips, every swivel and giggle of the character. I also use assonance and consonance to tighten up the phrase, make the groovestick in your mind like a melody. Even more than diction, rhythm and melody give the line a “street” feel in tune with contemporary forms of speech like slang, rap, hip hop, punk poetry. I am as focused on themusic of the language as I am on its meaning.


MR I really liked Nick, the conflicted lawyer, was appropriately appalled by Mel, the ebullient entrepreneur. Did some personal experience help here?

SV I think some lawyers are ripe targets for satire. They know how to manipulate the law for their own ends. But not all lawyers are money- grabbing leeches. There are some who do battle for justice and standup to corruption and inequality. But if you look at the corporate sector, it’s overrun with armies of lawyers whose goals and tactics appear no different from those of the mouthpieces hired to protect organisedcrime. They slither around the periphery of criminality themselves, and because they understand how the law works, they can play both ends of the system.

MR  Do I detect some impatience with badly behaved conceptual artists? (‘Liggers and art fucks.’)

SV Ha! I love conceptual artistes. What would the world be without a little bit of surreal drollery? In Jukebox I was having a little fun with an artsy crowd who vehemently believed that being an artist was much more significant than making good art, a Futurist notion that still triggers debate now. The novel satirises the fact that they enjoyed a suitably carefree semi-bohemian existence but never created much art except for the way they chose to live their lives, which I guess some people think is art in itself. Instead of creating art they suckered random associates, impressionable teens, and assorted cognoscenti to invest in their particular brand of tomfoolery. We see a group of school kids painting walls, and a slouch of fading musicians downing Scotch at 6 a.m., while an East End glamour model poses for a calendar shoot. Junkland activities dressed up as art. These artistes define ‘Art’ as a commodity and artistry as a field of commerce. By dazzling and manipulating the artistocracy with their crazy shenanigans, they were in effect playing huckster and satirist at the same time. The scam allows them to feed off the system and simultaneously expose it as a scam. 


MR What attracted you to London?

SV I was attracted and inspired by the crepuscular crimedom of London that sparks to life when the well pressed suits head back to the suburbs and the lawless come out to play. For me London personifies a

naughty punk ingénue. Her mini skirted insouciance sailing a breeze.

But she’s also the coke snorting aristo, flaunting her inherited riches in front of food banks and pawnshops. Even with an apocalyptic tang in

the air though, London’s blend of cool irony and double-edged resilience always inspires me. On that note: Crack Apple and Pop is being published by the irreverent Fahrenheit Press this year. It’s a

gritty slice of neo-London noir.


MR Great title. Will you be returning to Clerkenwell, London in general for your next?


SV The new book, American Scandal, is a crime story set in LosAngeles, featuring an all female punk band, and a fast thinking, mean mouthed female mobster and entertainment impressario. The book looks at the ugliness lurking behind the celebrity fuelled New Age posturing and postmodern spangle. Some of the characters struggle for identity.and there is an eruption of racism that threatens the the fairy tale premise of the American Dream. Everyone’s making deals and payoffs, and venal reaming makes the world go round. Whether it’s law, sex, or money they all get their fifteen minutes, but riches and status-changing fame always come at a price. 

MR  Sounds great. Do you live in New York, London or both?

SV I’m in between cities right now, a wanderer. I’m more a citizen of the world than resident of a particular city or nation. Hopping along the global freeway has its pros and cons. You can fall under the spell of

starless skies and a phantasmagoria of contrasting faces in sardined buses or be besieged by the static silence of suburban space.

Although there’s always a sense of searching for centeredness in the world, when you are between cities the story line is always changing, just like the landscape.






http://pulppusher.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/push-ups-saira-viola.html …http://internationaltimes.it/interview-with-saira-viola/ …

It’s best to buy Jukebox and other Fahrenheit Press books direct.


Lively tweets at @sairaviola

It’s best to buy Jukebox and other Fahrenheit Press books direct.


  • product

Jukebox by Saira Viola

Nick Stringer is a rookie lawyer but what he really wants is to run his own record label. His dream seems one step closer when old family friend and businessman Mel Greenberg offers to bankroll him.

Avery Cross is a junior reporter desperately searching for the story that’s going to make her name. Avery thinks there’s more to Mel Greenberg than meets the eye and that uncovering the truth about him might just be her ticket to the big time.

Nick, Mel and Avery’s lives converge against the backdrop of London’s underworld where glamour, crime & greed party side by side. It doesn’t take long before Nick begins to realise that if an offer looks too good to be true it probably is.

In a city rocked by corruption and excess, one of them is going to learn that sometimes in life you get more than you bargained for.

Jukebox is Saira Viola’s brilliant full-length debut novel.

“A great amount has been done in literature over the years but every now and then someone comes along and shows us a completely different approach to the ancient art of the scribe . So hail Saira Viola and discover her twisted and beautiful imagination. Literature needs Saira Viola . Her writing is sharp direct and gripping.” -Benjamin Zephaniah

“A fresh faced voice to herald in the apocalypse .Posers beware .This is the real deal.” -Jonathan Shaw

“Injecting musical prose into a dying genre and one sorely needing a shot in the arm .What Viola has proven is the great novel is not incompatible with virtuosic poetics.” -James Browning Kepple

“I enjoyed this piece’s in-your-face quality.” -Robin Wyatt Dunn

“Guy Ritchie meets Martin Amis…….stunning.” -Betsy Reavley

“Jukebox is a dirty, delinquent satire with plenty of scabrous humour, but it also holds up a mirror to a society obsessed with the wrong kind of celebrity. …..Jukebox is a compelling crime caper.” -Crime Fiction Lover

“Jukebox is a witty riotous story populated by larger-than-life characters in EC1” -The Clerkenwell Post

“Jukebox is unique – overflows with pazazz.” – Heathcote Williams, International Times

Buy Paperback direct from Fahrenheit

Buy eBook direct from Fahrenheit (Kindle Version)

Buy eBook direct from Fahrenheit (ePub Version)

Buy from Amazon

PS There’s a Clerkenwell restaurant in my next, which
Chris Black, the best editor ever, is disentangling
right now. My restaurant consists entirely of
Italian family bickering and some exotic cheeses.
Saira Viola paints detailed, vivid pictures.

PPS Forgot to mention how accurately Ms Viola describes
a mushroom trip, not easy to do, totally nails it.

A Chat with Maxim Jakubowski

tlr maxim

‘An intriguing mixture of past tradition and future-shock dystopia, written by a giant of the genre … highly recommended.’ Lee Child

The Dark. What if an electromagnetic wave wiped out the internet? “Goodbye Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, chatrooms, websites, commerce made easy cyber-style, contactless, electronic life; farewell to everything we had delegated to that mythical cloud, wiped out without even ashes to mark its passing.”

Although there’s an upside. Librarians and fact checking journalists are now in greater demand. 

The people who loved books were now at the top of the

evolutionary ladder, while the bankers and their ilk had sunk to

the bottom.” Now you’re talking. 

A femme fatale needs to find her sister, a nod to Raymond Chandler. Our narrator, journalist turned private investigator, is however vulnerable and bookish, closer to most readers than a wise-cracking tough guy.

“There was nothing remarkable about me. Had never been. 

Apart from the propensity to get hurt by the world of women. Bruises that became internal scars long after any hypothetical physical evidence had been erased by the passage of time. 

Each woman a chapter. 

Each one a bittersweet regret, for what had not happened or, if it perchance had, for losing her, having not allowed myself to be fully open to her affection or confusing lust with love, leaving only memories that became deeply imprinted in my psyche.”

This is also a search for the protagonist’s lost love, from 

New York through Chicago down the Mississippi to New Orleans, where the occult takes centre stage. There’s some gruelling ordeals along the way – no one will forget the wrestling match with a female MMA fighter. There’s sensual evocative writing throughout. The ending stays with you as does the preliminary journey. An enthralling tale, well told. 

Maxim J

MR I’m in awe of your workload: running Murder One, reviewing many books, writing your own, editing anthologies, book tours, translating, columnist. I’ve probably missed something out. Are you working harder than ever? 

Actually, not all in same time! I’m only human. Murder One closed some years back and I no longer have any involvement. I have written 11 novels over past years under another name (some of which even reached the Sunday Times Top 10) and that author/name is still under wraps for commercial reasons.  And, no, am not working harder and feel at times that I do a lot of procrastinating and could do more. But there’s still a life to live… 

MR From the acknowledgments to the excellent The Louisiana Republic: ‘This is my first novel under my own name in some years, having taken a sabbatical of sorts – if you consider writing 11 novels in under 3 1/2 years a sabbatical- in another literary genre, collaborating on a rather successful series.’ Do you feel freer using a pseudonym? Less concerned with possible criticism?

The reason those particular books were under another name was because the publishers and the buyers at the chains and supermarkets felt they would do better as if coming from a new ‘voice’. And also under a female pseudonym! They were commercially right as those novels have done so much better than anything I’ve done under my name, so go figure. When I look at them, I am proud of them and people in the know instantly recognise them as coming from my rather perverse imagination anyway, so didn’t hold back in the slightest when penning them (with a collaborator…).

MR Do you speed read? Does that affect enjoyment of a text?

I read fast but not actually speed read. One still needs the time to savour, appreciate the style and atmosphere. 

MR Are there any idiomatic expressions that are hard to translate? 

The vocabulary of sex and how to express it is a constant challenge, but that makes matters interesting, I reckon. 

MR I remember that wild Robin Cook night at Murder One. Is there anything you’d like to share about Robin Cook/Derek Raymond? 

Just a great friend and human being, and one I miss a lot despite fact we were poles apart (I don’t drink…). I’m his literary executor so still heavily involved with his books which, fingers crossed, might soon be adapted for television.

MR What’s your next project? 

Another novel under my own name. Working title is ‘The Memory of Absence’, but still unclear what it will specifically be about, but will no doubt drag along all my customary obsessions. I also have a few short stories appearing this year and my ongoing column and chairing/judging one he Crime Writers’ Association’s Daggers (I’m Vice Chair of the CWA). And recently completed translating the second novel by my friend Johana Gustawsson, ‘Keeper’ which appears almost simultaneously along with my own book, and we’ll be promoting together.

You can read the first chapter of The Louisiana Republic if you join the Times Crime Club.

 Keep in touch with Mr Jakubowski here.


Time for a ray of sunshine. Pharrel Williams’ Happy           Centrist Dad makeover by trumpet virtuoso Till Bronner. Righteous groove by drumming legend Vinnie Colaiuta