Tom Pollock is a graduate of the Sussex University creative writing programme and a member of the London-based writers group. His advice to aspiring writers, as told to Un:Bound?: ‘Just read widely and write often. I can tell you how I do it (in a public place with headphones in, in 1K bursts, 4-5 times a week) but realistically you aren’t going to use my way, you’re going to use yours. And the only way you’ll find it is practice’. Tom has lived all over the place, from Scotland to Sumatra, but it’s the ‘peculiar magic’ of London that makes it home. It’s also the setting for his debut novel, The City’s Son (Jo Fletcher), the first instalment in the Skyscraper Throne trilogy. His cinematic alter ego is Dr Henry Wu. Eithne Farry
When it comes to mutation, only one character is a cinematic match for my DNA: Jurassic Park‘s Dr Henry Wu.
Surely you remember Henry Wu? No? The guy in the white coat who helps hatch the baby Raptors? That’s him. Why Henry? Because I write urban fantasy stories.
Stick with me on this.
Henry’s business – as the only named character in JP’s genetics team – is bringing dinosaurs back from the dead, and he’s badass at it. He takes ancient and resonant and almost (if not quite actually mythical) things and slams them claws first into the modern world. Urban fantasy writers do the same. While Dr Wu’s busy resurrecting Velociraptors in contemporary South America, Neil Gaiman’s populating the Midwest with Norse gods and Charlaine Harris is filling Louisiana with vampires. For my part, I’m importing ancient ghosts and spirits into 21st-century London, making the once inanimate city a sentient one – a place that can you can bargain with. Or fall in love with. Or be hunted by…
Like Henry, urban fantasy writers often find that the cool stuff we want to resurrect doesn’t quite work in its original form, so we’re forced to change it – splicing it in with something more current. For Henry, that’s completing his patchy Dino genome with frog DNA. For me, it’s shearing a dryad from her tree and popping her into a streetlamp instead. Either way, our resurrected idea evolves to fit the modern world.
We all know what happens next, right? ‘Nature finds a way.’
The ideas breed, multiply and mutate. Suddenly, wholly unexpected monsters are rampaging around the corridors of the story while I cling to the butt of my shotgun, listening to the click of their middle-toe claws on the floor.