A bit more about me as a writer…
As I said on the landing page, aside from acting, I’m a novelist and screenwriter. A recurring theme is the ‘outsider’ (and twins, I constantly have to censor my Gothic drive to put twins in every damn thing). My writing tends to be character-driven rather than concept-driven but I do like a compulsive story.
As well as devising my own projects, I love to collaborate (obviously when the chemistry’s right, otherwise it’s the freshest of hells). I’m currently working with Kate Ashfield, (writer of CH4’s Born to Kill), the American playwright, Lans Traverse, actor, Preeya Kalidas and novelist, Laura Lockington.
My début novel, The Cuckoo Boy, was published by To Hell With (set up by Laurence Johns and Lucy Owen to publish first novels). If you can be bothered to read them, there’s a whole host of review extracts below. (The good ones obviously. There was only one poor one penned by a blogger – which is also – naturally – the only one I can quote from.)
The Cuckoo Boy: ‘Armed with the wrong set of circumstances, is there anything a child isn’t capable of?’ James has landed in the wrong nest. Adopted by well-meaning parents who are anxious to conform, he enters a family where any wrong can be righted by a half-hearted trip to church, cake, vacuuming or, if all else fails, denial. Stifled by shepherd’s pie and scones, James imagination comes to the rescue in the form of David, an invisible friend, conspirator and agitator. When James meets a real life David – whose gentle spirit soothes the unsettling effects of his make-believe world – James becomes more sociable. He also becomes more vulnerable and, once hurt, his revenge leads to an act which shocks his community and breaks the hearts of his parents. The Cuckoo Boy is a beautifully observed and disturbing parable that shows just how destructive normal can be.’
My short story, The Upper Hand, features in the collection, He Played For His Wife and Other Stories (published by Simon Schuster).
About the book: ‘Poker has grown into one of the most popular sports in the world, with millions playing online, while the drama it creates has made it a natural subject for film-makers and writers such as John Steinbeck. Now Anthony Holden, author of the poker classic, Big Deal, has brought together some of the best original new writing on poker in this wonderful collection of superb short stories.’
I’m regularly commissed by The Other 1% to write – often with Laura Lockington – and sometimes voice, tongue-in-cheek horror podcasts. You can listen to one of them, Pass it On, here, if the mood takes you.
As a long-time resident in – and lover of – Soho and the West End, I was flattered to be asked (and Dear Reader, I said, ‘Yes’) to pen and voice an guide, for Audiocompass, describing the notorious artistic figures of the area and touring you around their haunts. I also contributed an essay to For the Love of London, (published by Cassell) alongside people far more erudite than I, including Stephen Fry, Sir Paul Smith and Dame Zaha Hadid.
Below are excerpts from The Cuckoo Boy reviews:
The Guardian, Catherine Taylor
‘Enterprising new publisher To Hell With states its intent with Gillespie’s emotionally visceral debut. The spectre of Lionel Shriver’s Kevin is omnipresent, particularly in the black comedy and ambiguous aspects of the tale. Yet this is a confident, impressive work in its own right. First Novels
The Observer, Mary Fitzgerald
‘Through James and David, Gillespie explores the chasm between how children and adults perceive the world, and the devastating consequences of falling through this gap. The Cuckoo Boy is a savage indictment of hypocrisy and forced social convention.’ Debut Fiction
Irish Examiner Review, Dan MacCarthy
‘With strong parallels to Golding’s Lord of the Flies which demonstrated the savage nature of humanity detached from civilisation, Gillespie’s superb debut avers that such isolation is possible within our own societies and that the consequences can be tragic. In this case, the mob rules.
Inside Books, Simon Quicke
‘Very clever…this book is both relevant and provocative. It might not be comfortable reading but as a way of taking a reader on a journey, which good books should do, into the mind of a unloved and desperate child it delivers.’
Farm Lane Books Blog Review Jackie@ Farm Lane Books Blog
‘Many episodes are quite chilling. It reminded me of The Fifth Child and classic Gothic ghost stories. It’s gripping and thought provoking, but also contains many of the amusing observations that only young children can get away with. There were so many talking points that I’m sure I could spend hours discussing it – making it a perfect book club choice.’
JustWilliamsLuck.blogspot.com, William Rycroft
‘It would be easy to expect an actor to be good at writing dialogue or creating a narrative voice (in fact most actors are terrible at improvising dialogue that sounds real – never underestimate the skills of the playwright!) but Gillespie deserves genuine credit for what he achieves with all his cast and particularly with James and David.’
The Bookbag, Louise Laurie
‘Fine comic lines throughout. It is a fine piece of writing. Who is right? Who is wrong? A deeply thought-provoking book. Recommended.’
Dovegreyreader.co.uk, Lynne Hatwell
‘Grant Gillespie is a wizard, an absolute natural at dialogue and inner voice with an omniscient narrator who sifts out all those perceptive angles.’
Forbidden Planet International – Best Books of the Year, Doug Wallace
‘To Hell picked up the amazing Grant Gillespie’s debut. The unique thing about this book is that Gillespie is able to step inside the head of the main character, his mother and his father and make you really feel like he was there.’
Dovegreyreader.co.uk, Lynne Hatwell from the first of two articles:
‘A fabulous concoction of emotions and observations, lots of nature versus nurture ponderings and a razor-sharp narrative voice to die for, which all adds up to my first truly un-put-downable new novel of the year to date.’
‘This impressive debut is a parable that deconstructs the ‘perfect-family’ model with eerie tension. The spirit of Gillespie’s novel lies in penetrating suburban conformities. Through a mixture of pathos, humour and sparse prose, he deconstructs the model family with care, wrestling with weighty topics like nature over nurture.’
Evie Wyld, author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice and All The Birds Singing:
‘A dark and elegant story of childhood, The Cuckoo Boy is horrifying and disarmingly funny. A book to keep you awake at night.’
If you’re really keen, you can watch a video of me talking about The Cuckoo Boy with Laurence from To Hell below: