ETA on Missives

I’m really happy to say Unsung Stories will be publishing my latest effort in May 2016. The Arrival of Missives is the first time I’ve strayed at a longer length into historical fiction, although I wouldn’t really describe it as that. I’ll let Unsung describe it for me here as they’re pretty good at that:

The Arrival of Missives is a genre-defying story of fate, free-will and the choices we make in life. In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons. 

The scarred veteran Mr. Tiller, left disfigured by an impossible accident on the battlefields of France, brings with him a message: part prophecy, part warning. Will it prevent her mastering her own destiny?

As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley must choose: change or renewal?

Good, huh? I’m really looking forward to seeing the cover art for this one. The more genres I mash up, the more amazed I am by the covers that manage to capture the essence of the book. The Beauty is a great example of that.

Speaking of which, this review of The Beauty for Geek Syndicate is pretty much my dream review, with a great understanding of what I was aiming for in the writing. Thanks to Geek Syndicate and to all who have reviewed it so far.


Q&A: Beautiful Trees


Today is the publication date of Nik Perring’s book Beautiful Trees, a deft and moving illustrated story of three people and their relationship. The process of making such a book, where words and images are balanced so finely on the page, fascinates me. I thought I’d ask Nik some questions about it, and his answers were really interesting. So I decided, with his permission, to share them here. Thanks Nik.

  1.  So what’s your favourite tree?

Hello! Thanks for having me over again! Favourite tree? I would always have said the silver birch. There’s something other worldy about it, something that reminds me of bone and goblins and the gothic. I think they’re a little bit magical, especially under moonlight.

But there are plenty others and loads to love about those – while i was researching the book I found out that fruit trees can actually communicate with each other so they’re pretty high on the list. Plus, they blossom beautifully.

  1. Beautiful Trees is the second in a trilogy, the first book being Beautiful Words and the third being Beautiful Shapes. How does using an organic theme differ from using words, or shapes? How does the choice of theme affect the writing?

That’s a really good question and, to be honest, not something I’d really thought about.

I suppose the main difference in having trees instead of words is that trees, a lot of the time, gave me a very definite setting because they’re actually there and not as abstract as words or shapes are. So where Lily or Alexander were was a little easier to picture.

In terms of structure, because I had a good idea what the narrative would be across the series right from the beginning, the trees, or the words or the shapes, are what anchors the story and what allow each individual entry to be a whole tiny story on their own. 


  1. Did you picture the book in this format as you wrote it, placing the words and images together? What is the process of getting this sort of idea from your head to paper?

Absolutely. I wanted to write a picture book for adults. I’m really lucky that all of my books have been illustrated (and, in my opinion, illustrated really beautifully) and I think there’s an awful lot to be said for books that have illustrations in them. Even if they’re only there to be beautiful.

As writers we place a huge amount of trust in our readers to interpret our words and characters and stories their way and, for me, what Miranda’s done with the illustrations in Beautiful Trees – helping tell the story through them – helps with that.

The process was pretty simple – I think most things are once you’ve an idea of what you’re doing! (It’s getting to that point that can be the tricky bit.) As I said, I kind of knew Lily, Lucy, and Alexander’s story while I was writing Beautiful Words. And writing this was really similar to Beautiful Words in that I spent a lot of time researching trees – finding out things that were interesting to me (tip for readers: if it’s interesting to you as a writer then it will be interesting to someone else – either because of a shared interest or because it’s different) – their shapes, their names, what they represented and what they could mean to Alexander and the others – and interesting facts too – the fact that some trees are able to communicate with each other brings me a ridiculous amount of joy.

So from there it was just a case of writing the story around them. 

  1. You intercut fact and fiction so well in Beautiful Trees, along with first and third person perspective, and it really works in keeping the prose alive and fresh. How much of that interplay came from the subconscious? Do you set out deliberately to take such risks in writing, or did it just feel right for the material?

Thank you! I think all writing’s a risk. Even if that’s only the risk of writing something that no one will like, or that won’t work. And that’s why I think writers, good ones, are brave.

I approached Trees in the same way as I approach pretty much anything I write: I try my best to let the story be what it is. I know that might sound cryptic but it’s really not meant to be. I think a writer’s job is to tell their story in the best way they can and that can mean a lot of different things – from point of view to tense and everything else besides. So , to answer your question, it was a mix of trusting my subconscious and trusting the story. 

  1. It strikes me that this book is about cycles and repetitions, from happy to sad, from beginnings to endings. I really like the way some trees reappear, just as emotions reappear. Do you picture the story of Alexander, Lily and Lucy as being part of a cycle, or a pattern?

I think things are cyclical. We talk about life cycles in nature all the time. And I don’t think it’s all that different if we look at things inside our lives – ourselves, our routines, our relationships, anything. We are like seasons: we bloom and we wither and, usually – hopefully, we blossom again. We repeat. And I think we can take an enormous amount of reassurance from that – things end, constantly, but they also begin again too.

Beautiful Trees is available from Roast Books. It was written by Nik Perring and illustrated by Miranda Sofroniou.


Exploding Houses and Mountains

There are a couple of anthologies coming up before we get to the end of the year:

Better than Fiction 2 (Lonely Planet’s latest anthology) is only a few days away from publication and my story about a camping trip to La Meije, a mountain with a macabre history, will be rubbing shoulders with other stories by authors such as Dave Eggers, DBC Pierre, and Marina Lewycka.

Belladonna Publishing’s Strange Little Girls is not so far away either, for those of you who like the weirder end of the writing spectrum. Ekaterina Sedia, Annie Neugebauer, Rich Hawkins, and other great writers have contributed stories. I’ve written my own version of the classic ‘creepy house’ story, which was loads of fun to create. I’ve always had a soft spot for haunted houses after playing the old Atari video game with the lights off at an impressionable age.

Speaking of stuff that makes you feel a bit vulnerable, I wrote an article about Nigel Kneale’s TV work for Den of Geek and creeped myself out by watching far too much Quatermass and other such stories. He had a knack for addressing some really big themes using SF and horror; it’s that combination of intellectual and visceral that is so unsettling. I love it.

Once you get a taste for the spooky, I don’t think you ever lose it. Still, enough of Halloween. On to fireworks!

Kickstarter: Tale

How stories and real life interact is one of my favourite themes, so it’s not too surprising to find me backing this Kickstarter project.

Tale is going to be a magazine of non-fiction writings about the things we take from reality and turn into fiction, and the things we take from fiction and slot into our realities. I hope to be lucky enough to write on this fascinating subject regularly, but for now I can only say that I’ve definitely written something for the first issue and it’s on the subject of the ‘fate worse than death’, which is one of those really disturbing, messy concepts when you get up close to it. I’m looking forward to finding out what the other writers have covered, but to do that the magazine needs to get made. Which is where you come in. Through the door, with a bang, and a loud declamation.

Grand entrances – now that’s another crossover area between fact and fiction that deserves a Tale article…


tale kickstarter

It’s still better than fiction

So I didn’t win a Shirley Jackson award (boo) but being shortlisted was possibly as much fun as I can handle without exploding anyway, so it worked out for the best. Congrats to all the winners and my fellow shortlisted writers, and when I receive my special rock through the post I will put a picture of it up here for general admiration.

A few years ago I got asked to contribute to an anthology of short stories about real-life travel experiences, and the result was in Lonely Planet’s Better Than Fiction. It really must have been better than fiction, because recently Lonely Planet decided to publish another selection of true travel tales, and asked me back for another go. I don’t think the follow-up is published until November, but the cover is up and so I thought I’d post it here. Looking good.


better than fiction 2

Are factual events better than fiction? For the purposes of living, it’s difficult to disagree, although one of my favourite real-life experiences is the feeling of reading (or writing) a really good story, so we can’t pretend there’s not crossover, and that fiction can’t be experienced as ‘real’ sometimes. For the purposes of making a great plot, it’s rare that real life ties everything up so nicely, so it’s an interesting challenge to write something that stays true to the event without looking like you’ve applied a slick of glamour and a neat little bow. Ta daaaaa.



Quiet Work

I’m currently working on the third of three linked novellas and pretending not to notice that its only a few weeks until the Shirley Jackson awards are upon us. It will be great to reach the pinnacle of all the excitement but I have enjoyed this period of being shortlisted; it’s almost like having an invisible badge (rock?) pinned to your chest. Shirley Jackson nominee. That is, flabbergastingly, me.

Apart from that, I’ve finally got around to writing about Powell and Pressburger films in the 1940s as I’ve always intended to do. I read a short story at the first Unsung Live event, which was loads of fun even if I did have to disappear off quick because of train timetables; I hope there are many more such evenings of live SFF lit courtesy of Unsung and that I get to attend at least one of them all the way through.

And I’ve updated the ‘About’ page on my website. See above and click the link for a look. Apart from that, all quiet here. Ssssh. I have to finish this novella before the summer holidays start.

Launching Skein Island

Although the new book is already quietly out there it only seems right to give it a small party, so there will be an event in London on Monday 8th June. The book will also have great company, in the form of Montague Kobbe’s new collection of short stories, Tales of Bed Sheets and Departure Lounges. Here are the details:

Location: Victoria Library

Date: Monday 8th June

Time: 7.00pm

Details: Writer and editor Alexa Radcliffe-Hart introduces and chats to Anglo-Caribbean author Montague Kobbé and British author Aliya Whiteley.


If you’re a Facebook kind of person you can also look up some additional info here.


Gold Dust magazine is one of my favourite places for finding new voices, and they are committed to supporting writers and musicians at the start of their careers. I can’t thank them enough for the energy they put into a difficult job, including reviewing my stuff with clarity and understanding.

The first review of Skein Island will be in their next issue, but they’ve kindly allowed me to reprint part of it here in the hope of whetting your appetite to read it:

‘Gold Dust has followed Aliya Whiteley’s career since its beginning – and this is her best book yet. Highly entertaining and as quirky as ever, this one is highly intelligent as well – as much a work of philosophical fiction as of horror or adventure… This is a book that I can’t recommend highly enough. A journey into the thinking person’s Twilight Zone, and a compelling page-turner.’

 So, if that’s persuaded you, buy it at the launch event or buy it here. But please do buy it, or request it from the library.







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