Michael Richardson

Michael Richardson

Michael Richardson’s first career was as head of art in Birmingham secondary schools. His paintings have been widely exhibited. In his third career he has had short stories, poems and articles published. The Pig Bin – ‘offbeat, moving and hilarious’ – is his first novel and in 2001 it won the Sagittarius Prize for the best debut by a writer over 60.

Birmingham author Michael Richardson has been telling Stirrer TV about his new novel Careless Talk

Please tell us about your background and how you started writing.
I was an art teacher for 30 years, retiring at 55 to devote my time to painting. In 1994 my eyes deteriorated so much that painting was very difficult. My wife Anny suggested writing a novel would be less visually demanding. I’d had a few odds and ends published (Private Eye, Sunday Times, Mayfair), so I got down to it. Happily, after an operation, my sight was restored so I was able to resume painting but I also stuck with my novel.

Can you describe a typical day?
There aren’t any so I’ll describe yesterday. Up at 8.30, shower, exercise; walk briskly into Rubery where I dawdle round the shops. Home; breakfast; do a few un-urgent chores to put off the evil moment of writing. 11am: reluctantly start writing. Write not very productively till 5pm, drinking tea continuously; sometimes reaching for a fag before remembering I haven’t smoked for years; leap up eagerly whenever the phone or doorbell rings. Leisurely prepare dinner when, oddly, 1 or 2 promising story ideas surface. Read What a Carve Up while eating. Doze for an hour; watch The Bill. 9pm: More writing till 11. Continue with What a Carve Up till 2am and bed.

Which experiences have had most influence on your writing?
When I was teaching, I’d compose and display spoof directives as an antidote to all the boring or frenetic official ones. They grew more and more elaborate and often attracted more attention than the real ones.

Do you have a muse?
It’s a wonderful idea and I’d like to think she exists. I certainly live in hope that perhaps one day she (or that elusive condition of creativity she represents) will visit me after which I’ll never look back.

What is the most challenging aspect of your writer’s life?
Simply the strength of mind to sit down and get on with it at the appointed time as firmly decided upon the night before.

What is your favourite book/author?
Currently Patrick Hamilton’s The Gorse Trilogy (confidence tricksters exert a particular fascination).

Do you feel your writing reflects your reading?
Whoever I last read often has some effect on what I next write. From Richmal Crompton to W G Sebald.

Do you ever get writer’s block?
Frequently, then I just carry on writing putting up with whatever nonsense results in the hope that something vaguely useful will emerge. When ideas are flowing (a rare event), I subscribe to the idea that writers’ block is a bogus affliction affected by the effete; I mean, would a plasterer complain of plasterers’ block and not turn up to work? Though, come to think of it …