Ashley Hickson-Lovence is a writer from Hackney, London. While working as a secondary school English teacher, he completed his MA in Creative Writing and Publishing from City, University of London part-time and is currently completing his PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia. His debut novel The 392, set almost entirely on a London bus over just 36 minutes, was released in April 2019. He is currently working on his second novel.

Please enjoy my interview with Ashley Hickson-Lovence.

How do you describe your occupation?

Writer/Creative Writing PhD student. By 2021(ish), hopefully I’ll have written my second novel of around 75,000 words and a critical essay of 20,000.

Talk us through a typical day for you…

Unless I have tutoring to do, it mostly involves responding to emails, making breakfast/lunch, doing the washing, and anything else that needs doing around the house to let the ideas in my brain fester. I actually tend to do a lot of my writing on my phone late at night or, if I have a deadline approaching, in the late evening till the early hours. I do not necessarily recommend this unwieldy routine.

What are you reading at the moment and what made you want to read it?

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. Black British writer, black 1984 - Ashley Hickson-Lovence InterviewBritish protagonist; felt like an important text and it’s proving to be one too.

Can you remember the first book you read by yourself?

Hmm… probably The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. First few Harry Potter books too – admittedly, I didn’t love these though.

Are you a page folder or a bookmarker?

100% bookmark. I know I probably shouldn’t be so precious but I prefer books to be in pristine condition. I like things to be neat and tidy.

When did you fall in love with reading?

Quite late on I remember. Sixth form college probably, so aged 16/17. Reading The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger, The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan, Nineteen Eight-Four by George Orwell, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – books that I felt I had to read if I wanted to study English at university.

Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?

I know I wrote a tonne of stories when I was younger but the first ‘novel’ I remember writing was when I was about 16 during my free periods at sixth form college. It was called The Ratio Decidendi – then later renamed Bones – and I can’t remember exactly how awful it was but my desire to be a novelist started from there.

If you could gift yourself books at age 16 and age 25 – what would they be and why?

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton – although still impactful whilst reading it at a later age, reading it while of the same age as the characters in the book would have been something special.

Ulysses by James Joyce – read most of it while studying for my BA and loved it, I’m sure I would have got even more out of it reading it aged 25.

Can you talk us through your writing process, from the first spark of an idea, to having your first completed draft?

Nearly all my ideas begin on my iPhone first. I am not a master planner; I do not have a massive whiteboard with post-its and chapter breakdowns and angry scrawlings and stuff. Just floating ideas, transient sentences. I do most of my editing when I have a finished a rough first draft.

For someone starting out in your career, which three books would you make required Ulysees - Ashley Hickson-Lovence Interviewreading and why?

How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman, First You Start With a Sentence by Joe Moran, and The Art of Writing Fiction by Andrew Cowan.

If you could invite 5 authors (dead or alive) to a dinner party – who would they be and why?

James Joyce, Sam Selvon, Zadie Smith, David Peace and Katharine Kilalea.

What was the last book you purchased, and why did you buy it?

No Win Race by Derek Bardwell to help with my critical PhD thesis. Not sure if it counts but I was also recently gifted What Red Was by Rosie Price. The premise sounds profound and I can’t wait to read it.

What is your favourite thing about reading?

Escapism… and to look and feel smart.

What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?

Your Fault by Andrew Cowan. A genius little book, told entirely in What Red Was - Ashley Hickson-Lovence Interviewthe second person. Thoroughly recommend.

If you could insert yourself into any book, which would you pick and why?

Disgrace by J.M Coetzee. I’ve always wanted to go to South Africa.

What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?

Love what you do and never give up, everything is possible.

What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?

253 by Geoff Ryman. Made me what to write a book set in London on a particular mode of transport one day.

Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?

In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne. Ok, Mr Field by Katherine Kilalea. First Love by Gwendoline Riley. Loved them all in very different ways.

Which book sat on your shelf are you most excited about reading next and why?

Milkman by Anna Burns. Started it and was enjoying it but haven’t finished it. Golden Child by Clare Adam also.

If you’d like to learn more about Ashley Hickson-Lovence, you can him them on his  Twitter.

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