My Life as a writer
When did you first realise you wanted to write for a living?
When I was a kid I used to write plays and other stuff – have them performed at school. This led me to become an actor but I set myself a target of writing at least one play a year. I started directing and was offered a play to direct but it needed substantial work doing to it but the writer wasn’t available to do it. So I told the company I had a ‘friend’ who could do it. I borrowed an Amstrad and rewrote the play over a weekend and have never looked back.
Which writer, past or present, do you most admire?
In school we studied Stoppard. Later I became a devotee of Brecht and Ionesco. But Howard Barker’s The Castle deeply influenced what and how I wanted to write – though my ambition to write such visceral madness never really came to pass. My writing style led me to writing for radio and TV where Dennis Potter was a real inspiration as was Jimmy McGovern. All that said the most important writer in my life has been Shakespeare.
When I was younger Dennis Potter changed the landscape of what writing could be on TV.
What was your first published (or performed) credit as a writer?
When I was at school I wrote a 30-minute play about a sociopathic head boy. Seeing my name in print was a real thrill – as was hearing the audience laugh when they were meant to.
Which piece of writing work are you most proud of?
I wrote a community play for Greenwich Theatre way back in 1989 which was a real challenge but we packed the theatre for a week and some hundred local people got involved along the way. For TV I guess Code of a Killer has been the most rewarding and satisfying drama to date.
Who or what inspires you to write?
Real stories are usually the starting point. I love research, meeting people. The truth is always more exciting and weirder than anything you can make up.
How do you switch off when you’re not writing?
Bizarrely I play Minesweeper when I need to solve something – the game is customised so that I will never win. Watching TV can be more like homework but I still enjoy it – when it’s good. I have five kids so they are always switching me off.
Which one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep writing and keep showing it to other people. It’s a really hard thing to do – even now – but it’s the only way to write better and get things made.
Why are you a member of WGGB?
Initially I joined because I won an award – which now seems slightly ridiculous as I had been meaning to join for years. Now I see it as a union that can really help writers – and not just me.
Michael Crompton started in the 1980s as a stage and radio writer. For TV he has written Code of a Killer, Safe House, Kidnap and Ransom, Silent Witness (10 episodes), Carrie’s War, New Tricks, Murphy’s Law, Midsomer Murders, A Likeness in Stone, Bramwell, The Bill, London Bridge.