A.J. Reid knows how it is to live in A Smaller Hell


He’s been a barman, a floor mopper, warehouse hand, a personal trainer for LFC players, high-ranking CID, gangsters, venture capitalists, security firms etc.

He’s a published musician/composer and a department store lackey, whence he drew inspiration for A Smaller Hell.

He’s 35 years old and he lives on a peninsula between the Mersey, the Dee and the Irish Sea in the Northwest of England.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you A.J. Reid…


– How did you decide to pursue a writing career? 

Up until I left school, I received a great deal of attention from teachers – and the odd child psychologist – for my writing.  I won all sorts of prizes and even landed a spot at a posh school that no-one thought I would get into.  I struggled by with maths and science, various child prodigies knocking my confidence on a daily basis.  When I think back to how brilliant some of those guys were, it was a privilege to be at school with them, but they also served to convince me that my real strength was writing.  I became a reporter for The Early Times and the Young Independent, but found that I was a lot less enthusiastic about writing fact as opposed to fiction.  I chose both English Language and English Literature as two of my five A Levels, gaining an A grade in each, then went to interview at both St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and UEA in Norwich.  The second Cambridge interview didn’t go so well, but UEA offered me an unconditional place on the M.A. course, studying writing under the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion.  I look at it now and think what an opportunity I passed up, but I was in love at the time, and decided to put Liverpool University as my first choice, as my girlfriend did.  Unfortunately, she didn’t get the grades and ended up going to Hull, while I still went on to Liverpool, but I travelled to and from Hull for three years to stay with her.  There was something of a catastrophic event during those three years which did the relationship no favours: we were both victims of a very serious violent crime which made the front page of the local papers etc.  I became somewhat manic through chronic insomnia (I still sleep with a knife and a bat under my pillow).  I didn’t want to know about victim support or criminal compensation, refusing both.  I was going out drinking and getting into fights constantly.  I left university and suddenly all of my friends stopped answering my calls.  After about 18 months, it occurred to me that instead of reclaiming masculinity by going out and getting into fights, that I might do so by returning to serious writing.  However, I found it hard to change my ways overnight, and I ended up fighting with the police on one occasion (inspiring A Smaller Hell’s opening chapter), landing me in quite serious trouble.  I was handed a suspended sentence on the condition that I attend counselling for PTSD, which I had refused thus far.  This led me to begin the outlines for The Horseman’s Dream, which will be published next year, hopefully.  I suppose that the short answer to your question would be that I didn’t have any say in being a writer: it’s just always been something that I’ve done for as long as I can remember, and that it makes me feel very peaceful and free.

– Was getting published hard? 

Being self-published, it wasn’t hard at all: this is both the glory and the horror of the digital revolution!

Are your characters based on people you know? 

They are composites, usually.  Indicators of personality traits are of great interest to me: the peculiar and idiosyncratic things, you know?  I keep a very keen eye out for these at all times.


– What genre are your books? 

I hate the concept of genre.  Hate it.  I know that’s a massive cliché for authors, but it really is counter-productive.  I think it’s a menace to creativity, and to the imagination.  A Smaller Hell is most definitely rooted in the Gothic tradition, but I can’t market it that way.  I think that darkly-comic Gothic Modern Fantasy Thriller just about covers it.  The next project – The Horseman’s Dream – will be an Existential Science Fiction trilogy which will actually shift genre to full blown Fantasy for the final book.  That’s how I feel about genre: I want to be an eel in its grip, wriggle free and bite its fingers off.

I probably won’t be talking so tough when sales drop off, though.

– Which of your books is your favourite? 

Whichever I’m working on at the time.


– Do you have a specific writing routine? 

Mandheling Sumatra in the cafetiere, pine in the fire if it’s winter, at least 1000 words a day.  If I’m writing away from home, I need only earphones to make it happen.  I have a music playlist for writing that includes a lot of Mozart, Ennio Morricone, Craig Armstrong, Satie, Howard Shore, Vangelis and even some video game soundtrack composers who are just as good as the composers working in film.  I got myself a tablet this year, too.  Being able to carry around all my notes and ideas without risk of losing them is like some kind of dream for me, so that has changed my routine, as now there is potential for me to sit down and write anywhere, anytime.

– What are your current projects? 

The Horseman’s Dream, as previously mentioned, is the priority.  I also have 20k words on a smuggling idea, a dark comedy about a serial killer, a book of poetry, and a survival thriller about civil war in the UK on the back burners at the moment.

 Boutique display window

– What’s next for you?

I’m learning all the time.  Being an independent author, it has taken me a while to learn how to market a book.  A Smaller Hell has done well so far, but I would still like to see it do more.  I think that there is enough demand now for a short run of hardbacks, so that and a few book signings will happen in 2015.  A small theatre company had it shortlisted for a production, but that never transpired.  For a while there, it was a real thrill to imagine seeing it brought to life by a dramatic crew, so that’s something I am still hoping will happen one day.  I have recently had the privilege of interacting with various artists and authors whom I admire, and taking advice and learning from them, so I am planning to put all that into practise when writing The Horseman’s Dream.  My goal is really to create the best book I possibly can – the book that I have always dreamt of reading myself – and then see what happens.  I know that I am setting myself up for something of a commercial fall, but I think that to write this story any other way would be somewhat dishonest.  I don’t want to cheat my readers: I want to thrill them, move them and lift their spirits beyond the confines of whatever hell they might feel trapped within, as so many wonderful authors have done for me.  I think that you can only do that if you’re being truthful.

 Author Bio:

Caveman, heavy build, big beard, 35 years old with GSOH seeks open-minded readers for symbiotic relationship. Must have own transport and be willing to travel long distances through their Imagination. Interests include boxing, heavy/psychedelic blues/soul/rock (Curtis Mayfield, Pink Floyd etc.), Absurdism, Surrealism, fishing, kissing, cigar-smoking, laughing, fires on the beach, animals, teaching, debating, films (David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Peter Mullan, Mike Leigh etc.) and cooking. Seeking readers with a healthy disdain for and distrust of the daily doo-doo banquet served up by the mainstream.
Big fan of all imaginative writing, but JG Ballard, Franz Kafka, TS Eliot, Martin Amis, Will Self, Aldous Huxley, HG Wells and William S Burroughs are some of my favourites.

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