Photograph by Ashley Bird.
A few months ago I was given the great honour of reading an advance copy of Keith Stuart‘s debut, A Boy Made of Blocks. It’s a moving (and often funny) account of the relationship between a father and a son with autism who learn to bridge their worlds through a computer game called Mine Craft – which involves building new words with blocks. Keith based his story on his own experience with his son. I’m delighted to interview him below.
Keith lives in Frome, Somerset and is currently working on his new novel. He is also the Games Editor for The Guardian newspaper.
Which three words would you use to describe yourself?
How would you describe your writing style?
Careful yet fluid – I don’t go for showy language, but I do like a beautiful metaphor
What do you love most about writing?
Just being able to structure an experience out of nothing and capture people’s attention with it
What do you find hardest about writing?
So much! Mostly, believing in myself enough to be satisfied with a sentence or paragraph without endlessly editing the life out of it.
Tell us a bit more about what inspired you to write A Boy Made of Blocks.
My own son is autistic and Minecraft helped him to discover a sense of creativity, as well as an ability to truly communicate his ideas. This was such a wonderful process that it felt natural to make it the basis of a novel.
What kind of child were you?
I was very geeky. I loved taking things apart and figuring out how they worked. I always played videos games and messed about with computers. I was a bit of a loner as a teenager, but then I studied A Level drama and that really changed my life I think. I learned to express myself.
If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
Oh I guess it would have to be invisibility. I’ve been a journalist for 20 years so the idea of sneaking into a cabinet meeting or Apple’s R&D lab is too exciting.
Which fictional character would you most like to meet?
Which book do you wish you’d written?
Do you have any writing tics that you’re forever editing out?
Yes, I’m always using connective phrases like ‘Of course’ and ‘Later on’. I need to trust the reader to flow with the sentences!
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I like exploring cities, and art galleries, but yes I also still play a lot of video games.
I don’t see them as a waste of time – every game contains a world built by talented artists. It’s a pleasure to visit them.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading Skyfaring, Mark Vanhoenacker’s book about flying commercial airplanes. It’s fascinating – especially for someone who flies a lot.
What’s your favourite word?
Lascivious (for how it sounds).
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?
To live in the moment – it’s all we really own.
Which writer do you most admire?
What song or piece of music would you choose as the theme tune to your life?
Where do you write?
What or who inspires you?
Video games, amazing skylines, my wife, my sons.
When were you happiest?
I’ve been very happy at times, but I like to think that happiest is still to come.
What are your top three writing tips?
- Make a realistic schedule based on what you can achieve rather than what you hope to.
- Keep a notebook on you at all times, especially beside your bed.
- Long walks and train journeys really do help your mind un-jumble your ideas.
You can find out more about the inspiring Keith Stuart by following him on twitter @keefstuart and by reading his blog: http://boymadeofblocks.tumblr.com/ and by going to the website about the book: www.aboymadeofblocks. And of course, by reading his wonderful new book, A Boy Made of Blocks.