Dr. Frank Tallis is a writer and practicing clinical psychologist. He has held lecturing posts in clinical psychology and neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatry and King’s College, London. He has written self help manuals (How to Stop Worrying, Understanding Obsessions and Compulsions) non-fiction for the general reader (Changing Minds, Hidden Minds, Love Sick), academic text books and over thirty academic papers in international journals. He is one of the leading authorities on obsessional states in the UK, and played a key role in setting up ‘OCD Action’ – a charity for people suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder and their families. Dr. Tallis has written two contemporary dark urban thrillers, KILLING TIME and SENSING OTHERS and is currently working on a trilogy of psychoanalytic thrillers set in Freud’s Vienna. Two have been published so far: MORTAL MISCHIEF and VIENNA BLOOD. In 1999 he received a Writers’ Award from the Arts Council of Great Britain and in 2000 he won the New London Writers’ Award (London Arts Board). In 2005 MORTAL MISCHIEF was short-listed for the Crime Writers Association Ellis Peter’s Historical Dagger award. He lives in London, England.
What made you want to become a writer?
First and foremost, reading and loving books. A critical moment for me was sitting in a class room at junior school – many years ago. It was the end of the day and I was feeling tired. The teacher started reading a story to us – and I can remember resting my head on my arms and gradually becoming more and more enthralled by what I was hearing. It was quite wonderful, and when the bell went, I really didn’t want to go home. I wanted desperately to know what was going to happen next. The book was The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis, and it affects me as deeply today (perhaps even more so) as it did then.
Was the journey difficult?
I suppose the journey was difficult. For practical reasons, I had to spend many years doing other things before I could write as much as I do these days. You have to earn a living – and it generally takes a long time to generate an income from writing fiction. I qualified as a clinical psychologist and still see patients (although now for only one day a week). I wrote my first novel mostly in the time I gained when patients cancelled their appointments. I didn’t get any breaks – and on the whole, I haven’t found people that helpful. Indeed, at times, people seemed to go out of their way to be discouraging. I’m glad now I didn’t listen to them!
Any lessons learned on your writer’s journey?
Yes, the value of perseverance.
Where does that inner drive to write come from?
I think the drive to write – and creativity in general – both arise ultimately from the unconscious mind. My best ideas rarely come when I’m trying to have a good idea. They just pop into my head – fully formed – when I’m doing something else. This suggests that my brain is doing a lot of important stuff when I am effectively absent – asleep, reading, relaxing etc. I know a lot of other writers have the same experience.
How do you keep readers turning pages?
I keep my readers turning the page by trying to end as many chapters as possible with a mystery – or an interesting development in the plot. I also write quite short chapters, so readers are more likely to think to themselves: just one more …
How often will you revise and re-write your work?
Really, there is no such thing as writing, there is only rewriting. I work and rework every sentence many, many times before I’m happy with it. On average, I would guess that every paragraph I write has been modified at least ten times!
What are some creative ways you’ve learned to generate ideas?
Reading other authors’ work is my greatest source of inspiration. When I read something I like, I always want to do something similar.
What are some practical solutions for writer’s block?
When you finish writing a particular section, start writing the next section before you stop. A few rough notes will do. I find it’s always easier to get started again if I do this.
Do you have a favorite book?
I don’t have a favourite book – I have many favourite books. Here are a few of them: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Gulliver’s travels by Jonathan Swift, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Bleak House by Charles Dickens, and The Lost Stradivarius by J. Meade Faulkner. But there are so many more … I tend to like books that are slightly strange or magical.
Do you have a favorite time of day when you like to write?
I like to write between 8.30 am and 3.00 pm in the afternoon. This is when I am most awake. I also like to get my writing out of the way – otherwise I would spend the whole day thinking that I should be getting started.
What is one saying or proverb you live by?
Carpe Deum – seize the day
What advice would you give kids who wish to pursue a career in writing?
My advice to anybody who wishes to be a writer is: write as much as you can, ignore unhelpful comments and criticism, and NEVER GIVE UP!
Where can parents and kids find out more about your work?
On my web site – http://www.franktallis.com
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