Charles Stross

The Laundry Files novelist loves a bit of writer’s block, curious fellow…


Describe the room in which you typically write.

I live in a flat: my office is a former bedroom, walled with bookcases and a giant cat-tree for my furry co-worker to hang out on [Menhit, pictured]. I mostly write at my desk, on an imac.

Do you have any personal mementos or knick-knacks on your desk?

Loads! My desk is a junkpile. (There are two types of writers: those who are incredibly tidy and keep a clean desk, and the ones who will eventually be found dead under an avalanche of kipple. I’m one of the latter.)

Do you find it helpful to listen to music while writing?

I have the weekly Chill Mix off Apple Music on auto-repeat: auditory wallpaper.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I marinate in it joyously! Writer’s block only bites me when I’ve made a mistake and my subconscio­us is yanking the brake and shouting “Back up!” It means it’s time to re-think, not to write myself deeper into the swamp.

Which of your books are you the most proud of? Glasshouse (which ironically didn’t sell very well); also the entire Laundry Files series.

Which was the most difficult to write? Accelerand­o took more than five years to finish:

I was breaking conceptual ground, and at one point in the middle of the fifth story (it was written as five novelettes) I found it so hard to grapple with that I wrote The Bloodline Feud by way of distractio­n. Only 600 pages!

Is there anything about your books which you wish you could travel back in time and “fix”?

Yes: If I’d realised in time that Iron Sunrise didn’t have to be a sequel to Singularit­y Sky, it wouldn’t have been – and there’d probably have been sequels to it.

Were you a keen reader as a child?

Apparently I was a non-reader until I was four years old – then my parents took me to a play: The Wind In The Willows. Afterwards,

I disappeare­d. When they found me a couple of hours later I was holed up with the book, making progress rapidly… I burned through the SF in the local library (mostly Andre Norton, some Captain WE Johns) between ages five and seven, then moved into the adult section. I bought my own copy of The Lord Of The Rings aged 12 cause I kept re-reading it.

What would be your desert island book?

I’m going to cheat and pick a web novel: Worm by Wildbow, because a) I have a soft spot for supervilla­in fic, and b) at 1.7 million words the re-read will keep me busy for quite a while.

What’s the biggest misconcept­ion people have about being an author?

That it’s a lifestyle of the rich and famous, rather than a day job for ordinary folks.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

From Mary Gentle, decades ago: if you get to write for a living, structure your social life around your friends who have regular day jobs. They’ll keep you sane, but their time is regimented: you can fit your work in around the clock, they can’t.

Quantum Of Nightmares, the latest book set in the world of

The Laundry Files, is out on 13 January, published by

Orbit Books.

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