Parody is enormous fun. It’s a very good way of finding out about other writers’ styles, although you have to choose someone with a distinctive voice. I think the greatest gains are to be had writing poetic parodies. You discover new verse forms, new ways of looking at things, new ways to use images, alliteration, metaphors
For decades I was terrified of poetry. It all seemed so incredibly technical and difficult. I didn’t see the point; I wanted to tell a story. So when I did my MA I made myself face up to this and do the poetry module, even though the scriptwriting one beckoned as I’d already had five radio plays broadcast. What’s the point of doing a course if you don’t learn something new? I struggled. It hurt. I came to realise that this was something I had to actively learn.
A fantasy setting is usually closer to the world as we know it than a science fiction one. It’s more accessible, and consequently more attractive to a child who is still awed by things that are all too familiar to an adult. Fantasy is unlikely to change gravity, or body chemistry, or a breathable atmosphere, so the creatures that populate that world would be at home in ours.
During my student days I hitch-hiked round Europe, getting as far as Istanbul and meeting interesting people, getting in and out of sticky situations, and becoming more and more hooked on other cultures, climates, scenery, wildlife. It’s only now I’m in my sixties that I’ve had the time and money to pursue my addiction – the gathering of exotic material for my writing.