Around 1999, I used to sit at my dad’s computer and type the contents of James Herbert’s The Rats into Microsoft Word. My dad confiscated the book when he found his nine-year-old reproducing its gore but I had barely noticed the meanings and mutilations in its sentences because I was simply typing out a thing nearby for its own iterative, clacking joy, like a prudish carpenter unknowingly sculpting a priapic symbol on commission while enjoying the innocent, repetitive, manual rubbing.
This early experience of reforging someone else’s work set me up for my first attempt at a novel – inspired and uninspired by video games – which I finished at fifteen. I spent £20 of my pocket-money sending chapters unsolicited to literary agents who were closed to submissions. Most samples came back unopened; pre-rejected by the Royal Mail as I hadn’t used enough stamps. A few did return with responses, each a curt formula-refusal enclosed “with compliments” that no one cared to detail. When I rediscovered some copies in the loft at twenty-two, I set them adrift in an ice-decked burial boat, stacked with other misshapen treasures, and watched them drench and burn on the sinking ship-pyre.
Today I write less dreadful things. In 2013, I was a shortlisted poet for the Bridport Prize and, in 2015, a finalist for the BBC Radio 3 Young Composers Award. I was also commended as an essayist in philosophy and am writing a first novel about the last years of Galileo’s life. Though it is my wont to avoid professional specialisation, I work on discovering why it is we have this thing called ‘language’.