There is no such thing as an aspiring writer: you’re either writing or you’re not. Richard Milward sat down at home in Middlesbrough with a pencil and paper aged 12, immediately after devouringTrainspotting in the Britpop-soundtracked summer of 1996, and hasn’t had a month off since. He’d already produced half-a-dozen novels before one of them, a tale of acid-gobbling teenage mums titled Apples, was published in 2007. His second, Ten Storey Love Song, followed in 2009. Written as a single pill-fuelled paragraph, the unbroken text mimics the novel’s tower-block setting, where lives intertwine and interrupt each other at will.
His new book, Kimberly’s Capital Punishment, is a sprawling epic which pushes the formal inventiveness still further: there are multiple endings, the dialogue of inseparable mates Shaun and Sean is rendered as parallel columns and the words from a memorised menu form the shape of a stag’s head on the page. That’s just the start of it, but Milward’s experimentation is always in service of his narrative. Here, he discusses death, drugs and the strange rituals of writing.