Q&A | Mark Piggott

Mark PiggotMARK PIGGOTT IS FROM ARCHWAY, NORTH LONDON. His first two novels, Fire Horses and Out of Office, were published by Legend Press. His short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies including 3:AM and Pulp Books. For Still, he has written a new story ‘Midnight Hollow’, in which a caretaker returns to the place he used to work with some unexpected consequences.

How long have you been in London?
I’ve lived in London since 1985 and still get a buzz from walking down the street, soaking up the energy. London’s fairly anarchic but it’s stimulating, rewarding and a lot of fun. I didn’t think I’d want to stay when I became a parent but actually it’s great for kids – there’s so much to do and my children are growing up with friends from every ethnic and economic background. When the Olympics was on there was this surprise – wow, London’s energetic! Multi-cultural! Edgy! Yeah mate – we already knew. Now you’ve gone and told the world – thanks for that.

Where do you write?
I have a tiny office in our house, about two metres square and three metres high, the walls lined with books and CDs. The office overlooks the garden and I see foxes most mornings – they live by the back fence and I feed them on raw eggs. As soon as I’m in my office with the door closed it’s like a portal to other worlds… (Pseud’s corner again…)

Short stories or books?
I love both. In a short story you can just take one idea, one theme, and go for it – there are no real guidelines or rules, especially with regard to length. However I do love being inside a novel – I get to know the characters much more, so much so that near the end I’m dreaming about them – that’s always a good sign. Your text has taken on a life of its own. (Feel free to submit this quote to Private Eye’s Pseud’s corner by the way…)

How did you become a writer?
As soon as it became clear I wasn’t going to make it as a footballer (aged ten) I started writing a book about an alcoholic ex-footballer (‘days of wine and roses’). Wrote about ten pages and loved it. Had encouragement from an English teacher (Mr Cann) but mostly I was encouraged by reading – I read endlessly as a child. I’d sit and read Watership Down in one sitting, armed with coke and crisps… Writing is depressing, frustrating and unrewarding and I would seriously advise anyone thinking of becoming one not to bother. If you have to make the choice – then you aren’t a writer. I’m saying this for your benefit, by the way – not to eliminate any more competition. Oh, no.

The Gentlemen's Members Room (Keyhole)
The Gentlemen’s Members Room (Keyhole)
© 2012 Roelof Bakker

Why did you choose this image?
I think it’s the ‘through the keyhole’ aspect – there’s something weirdly illicit about the pic – straight away I just had this image of this saucy janitor type peeking through, hoping to see something naughty… I used to be a caretaker, and spent many hours polishing floors in empty buildings – it’s a great way to dream. Not that I ever peeked through keyholes, of course…

I loved Roelof’s idea straight away, and really enjoyed the challenge of writing something purely inspired by a photo. Usually I get more of my ideas from overheard conversations, my own experiences, strange events etc. Having said that, the subject matter of this story does have similarities to some of my other work – a lone figure who may be a little mad, bit of a loser… can’t think why I keep returning to these themes.

Do you often use visual materials, eg photographs,video, newspaper cuttings, things you see on the street, etc, to generate ideas?
Yes, to all the above. I might see something odd – a man covered in hot bitumen, for instance, an old woman with an interesting face, young men waving baseball bats at each other outside a court house – and obviously then I want to know more, or rather, want to create a story that fits. I wrote a short story called ‘crystallize’ after my wife told me about this couple who made a suicide pact to die by hyperthermia and rather than researching their story I wrote my own. Ideas come all the time, from everywhere, but I do like to experience new things – I travel a lot, and becoming a parent has given me so many new ways to look at the world.

Out of Office, Mark PiggotHave you collaborated with artists before?
I’ve worked on one other project with an artist. In the 1990s I worked with a Danish photographer called Martin Toft on a book (Enter if you can, or Pixelation) about London’s homeless. He did the photos, I wrote about 20,000 words of text. I really enjoyed it, and Martin is a brilliant artist and unique individual. The book was supposed to be published but Martin fell out with his publisher. However, you can read the text and see Martin’s amazing photographs on his website. PIXELATION

What are working on at the moment?
To date (summer 2012), I’ve had two novels published by Legend Press (Fire Horses and Out of Office) and I have just finished two more novels, emptiness and Kidology, which are with my agent. I have plans for several more novels and write short stories for various magazines, websites and anthologies. I write features for the nationals, so I’m working on some new ideas for articles, plus a documentary. I’m also working on my memoirs and a radio play, so I’ll be trapped in my little office for a while yet…