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Author Q&A: Keith Stuart

Keith Stuart Q+A

Keith Stuart’s brand new book, Love is a Curse, is out now! We caught up with him to ask him more about his writing – what inspires him, his plans for his next book and his favourite books to read and read again.

What inspires you to sit down and write?

I definitely find it easier to write after reading a really good book or watching an interesting movie – it just gets me into that crucial creative frame of mind. But sometimes I’ll also get an idea when I’m out walking, and then I have to find somewhere I can quickly sit down and write it! I love exploring cities – I get a lot of ideas from visiting art galleries or just watching the world go by from the window seat of a nice cafe. I tend to take my laptop and a notebook everywhere with me so I can jot things down – even if I can’t use these notes in whatever I’m working on right now, they often prove useful later. I think you really do need to be prepared to write at any time you have something to put down on paper, even if it’s just a paragraph. I’m not very good at routines and I’m not sure they’re always helpful for producing interesting writing. If you need to write at 4am or 10pm, then do it! 

Where do you write?

I do a lot of my writing in cafes and libraries because I don’t like silence and also strangers are very inspiring. It’s a good exercise to watch people; to study what they wear and how they talk. Everything you see and hear is potential material. If you ever find yourself short on inspiration, coffee shops or bars are also good because not only is there a lot going on but you have easy access to coffee and/or wine which both help enormously in my experience. 

What are your favourite books to read again and again?

I don’t really re-read novels that regularly, but I do go back and read a lot of poetry. I love Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson and often dip into their collected works. I think every writer should have a copy of The Rattle Bag next to their desk. It’s a famous compilation, edited by Seamus Heaney and it is filled with fascinating and vibrant poetry. I also have an amazing book entitled The Assassin’s Cloak which is a vast compilation of famous literary diaries, all organised into a calendar structure, so you can look up, say April 25, and it might have an excerpt from Queen Victoria and then something by Andy Warhol. I love the randomness of it, and find it very inspiring. 

Tell us a bit about Love is a Curse and what inspired you to write it?

Love is a Curse is a kind of gothic romance about a young woman named Cammy who finds out from her eccentric aunt that the women in her family are cursed – when they fall in love, something terrible comes for them. Cammy, laughs it off, but then her boyfriend is involved in a terrible accident and she realises the curse is real, and that she must trace its source in order to beat it. The story travels back through her ancestors as she unlocks the mystery of her family’s tragic past. I was heavily inspired by the great works of gothic fiction – Mysteries of Udolpho, Frankenstein, Dracula, etc, as well as the Gothic-tinged novels of the Brontes. I also got very into local folklore and mythology, especially around witches and churches. Much of the novel is based in an old near-derelict church so it was fascinating to research all the superstitions that surround these ancient building – I visited several with my friend, the stonemason and author Andrew Ziminski, and he was filled with inspiring facts and stories. 

Which writers inspire you?

I’m a fan of writers who explore ideas of mythology, folklore and the supernatural in their work. Sarah Moss and Sarah Waters are amazing; I thought Piranesi by Susanna Clarke was a masterpiece. The Brontes are incredibly inspiring – their use of location, emotion, light and dark, is almost painterly: you can see the worlds they create. I find graphic novels inspiring too, especially the work of Alan Moore and Daniel Clowes. 

Without giving too much away, are you able to give us a taster of your next book?

It’s in the very early stages of development at the moment, but it follows a young boy looking for his missing father on the dark, sinister streets of early 1980s London. I’m trying to think of a catchy high concept phrase for it – maybe Oliver Twist meets Wizard of Oz in Soho. Of course, it might end up being completely different, depending on who I next meet in a library, cafe or bar.

Love is a Curse is out now in hardback, ebook and audio. Order your copy here.