Cliff McNish talks to Papers Pens Poets about his newly discovered stationery idiosyncrasies.
I thought I didn’t care about what pens/paper I use … until I realised, thinking about it, that I did. I prefer ink-roller pens to standard biro, and I like blue ones – though in perverse moods I like green too. Jealous pens. And red – school! – for corrections of course is de rigeur. And though I write straight to my PC these days, when I’m sketching ideas I like to use a new note pad. Any note pad, but it needs to be A5 format and here’s the weird thing … even if I only make 3 or 4 pages of notes before I go to the PC I then like to discard it and start with a new notebook for the next book. All that space wasted. Pencils: 2B preferably and I’m obsessed with keeping the lead sharp, too.
And signing books? Well, I’m lazy there: I prefer a sharpie fine point, as does any sensible other person, but I’m always forgetting it. Children are invariably slightly disappointed when I ask if they have a pen to sign their book. Adults don’t seem to mind what you sign with until you request a vial of their blood. I prefer to use a Becton, Dickinson & Co needle. They feature thinner needles with larger lumen, therefore increasing flow rates during injection and collection of liquid. Oh – I’ve just realised something: if I extract too much and they die I always list their name in a red folder as well. It does have to be that folder. Well, I look for it anyway. And I keep all my school workshops in a beautiful plastic folder I was given by my Japanese publishers Rironsha in 2004. It’s not suitable at all – way too small – but I just like it.
My latest book is called MY FRIEND TWIGS. It’s about a ten year old girl bequeathed a huge cockatoo to look after. It’s funny and tender but I don’t think anyone has read it. I need a folder for unread books. Black, I suppose. Or grey. Or white. Unread words should be white, I think. White pens or translucent ones with invisible ink should re-write over black, making them less and less legible.
Now that I think about it, as a (mostly) supernatural author I haven’t thought that much about stationary’s possibilities or rightful essences at all. I’ve just been a bit OCD and fussy about it. What kind of stationary should a ghost have? Glass: condensation: window: and every word erased as the next by a tremulous finger is written …