Interview with Andrew Ives, author of Oblique

My guest this week is Europe’s answer to Michael Crichton, Andrew Ives. Originally from London and now based in France, Andrew is the author of a series of science fiction thrillers, Psinapse, Sirene, Parallax and Oblique.

Andrew_EchoProfilePic (2)  Cover (2)


Welcome, Andrew. Can you tell us about yourself in exactly one hundred words? No more and no less.

I’m from London, grew up near Cambridge and have lived abroad for ten years with spells in France, Holland and Italy. I have a mild interest in old cars and motorbikes as you might be able to tell from my books. I’m *cough* 40ish and due to a misspent youth in IT, don’t get out as much as I ought to. This tranquil haven in the Dordogne affords me plenty of time to write in between power cuts, with four pygmy goats, lots of birds and a noisy almasty to keep me company in case I ever become too prolific.

Why did you decide to become a writer?

While I was still at school, I had an idea for a story that was rather too long for a piece of homework. A few years later, I came by my first ‘proper’ word processor, WordWorth for the Amiga, and set about writing said story during those long summer holidays between school and university in 1989. That book was Psinapse which I Kindle-ised a few years ago, and is still my best-selling title.

Who are the authors who inspire you?

My tastes are rather wide and varied, but the one author that has most influenced my work is probably Jules Verne. I had always considered the broader sci-fi genre to be full of giant spaceships and crazy bug-eyed monsters from far-off worlds, but Verne’s more plausible, Earth-based, steampunk sub-genre with its predictions for technology and life in the near future – a future one might actually live to see – fascinated me more. Verne’s stories, so often very macho and lacking in female characters, always crescendo with bombastic, uplifting messages of Victorian scientific progress. Michael Crichton’s more 1970s taste for ‘science gone wrong’ plotlines rather appeals to me, so with the addition of a European setting, a female lead and some moral undercurrents, you have my chosen style and genre in a nutshell.

Tell us about your books.

I recently finished my fourth book, Oblique. People always ask me: “is it one of a series?” to which the answer is an awkward “yes and no”. All four of my books feature the same lead character, they follow a chronological order, but they can be read separately and not necessarily in that order.

Oblique is mostly set in London and the surrounding area, partly in Dublin, Milan and cyberspace, spanning the timeframe 2020-22. The world in which Karen lives is not wildly dissimilar to the present one – technology has advanced a little, London’s population has grown, unemployment, houses prices, homelessness, crime and civil unrest are the expected knock-on effects. An ‘Aztec Apocalypse’ is predicted for 22/2/22 on an ancient calendar which drives the more superstitious parts of the populace into a panic while genuine, man-made ‘life challenges’ go mostly unnoticed. My writing style is always some way from being deadly serious. If such a thing as a sci-fi satire exists, this would almost be one. As ‘high-brow’ modern films such as Inception are bristling with assault rifles, I made a point of writing a (hopefully) cerebral thriller featuring no guns and no murders. Imagine that.

What words of advice would you give to any budding writers out there?

Read. Read lots. New books, old books, newpapers, anything, but lots of it and with plenty of variety. Write what you know. You will see tips and advice from self-proclaimed ‘experts’ declaring that you can bang out a book in a week if you set your mind to it. You can’t. Well, you can but it’ll be mindless tripe. You need the groundwork. There is no elevator to success, you must take the stairs.

Describe a typical writing day for you.

Normally, the day begins full of good intentions. “I’ll just check my email, news and Facebook then get cracking.” By about noon, I’m drinking a cup of tea, have not written anything and am ‘just thinking through a few scenes that I will definitely write up this afternoon’ while Bargain Hunt passes before my vacant eyes. Around 2pm, I’ve got the laptop out, gone through all the Java, Adobe and Avast updates, found the charger, loaded up Word, typed “The night was sultry” just as my next door neighbour starts mowing or rotivating, the phone rings repeatedly and someone visits. By about 5pm, I’ve usually written a line or two that I’m not particularly happy with, then at around 11pm, I actually get 600 words down, quite different to what I intended that lunch time.

I usually write a whole chapter, or at least a few segments, edit it until it seems decent, read it again on the Kindle, find and fix about a dozen things wrong with it, then sent it off to my reader friends. At the end of the book, I go over the whole thing a few more times on the Kindle, add a few explanatory hyperlinks, maybe notes, pictures or music links, but I normally just rearrange scene order. I might include an extra line or two, but I don’t generally rewrite much.

Social media seems to be playing a big part in the success of books these days. What are your thoughts on this and how active are you on various sites?

I fear this is all too true. I have a sparse Facebook page, I don’t have a blog, I don’t have a Twitter account. I personally dislike seeing spammy posts on Facebook every day about “I’ve got a new book out. It’s like totally earth-shattering and only $2.99 today, tomorrow and every day, so get it while it’s hot.” in a dozen groups or “I haz wroted 20,000 words b4 breakfast, amn’t I amzazing? Lol” so I will never do that either. ‘Connecting’ with your audience with the occasional question such as: “What did you like best about character X?” is ok, but fearing your audience might stray after a while means you start asking “what’s your favourite shade of green?” and things take a turn for the spammy again. I imagine Twitter is even more mindless, so I keep away. I wonder how Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy or Oscar Wilde would’ve fared in today’s Twittersphere? I suspect they would’ve gone unnoticed behind ‘noisy’ authors who retweet a lot of Lolcatz pictures and commentate on breaking news from Heat magazine fifty times a day on their phones. How witty can anyone repeatedly be in 140 characters or less?

Every writer must dream of seeing the big screen version of their novel. Who would you like to see playing your lead characters?

I would prefer unknowns to play all the roles in all my stories in a new wave of Euro neo-realism, but anyway… In Oblique, Karen is aged 26-28 so, as I said elsewhere “perhaps Naomi Watts or Evan Rachel Wood ideal for the Hollywood version at different ages.” I pictured her unduly narcissistic boyfriend, Nathan, as a sort of smarmier version of Robbie Williams who could therefore be played by any slimy, young London estate agent.

Declan could be played well by Jonathan Rhys Meyers maybe, while Trofimena and Chelsea could be the first two ‘valley girls’ that audition. There’s a dull auctioneer on Bargain Hunt who would be ideal as Brian. Homeless art teacher, Deirdre, would be played by someone a bit like Jan Leeming and her restaurauteur friend, Nikos, would be perfectly personified by the bloke who runs my local Wimpy. An eclectic bunch.

If you could find out the answer to one of life’s mysteries, which one would you choose?

Although I would be very interested to find out whether we are alone in the universe, how ancient peoples made the Nazca lines, how they welded rocks to make ancient temples, whether Bigfoot exists, ghosts and all that other X-Files phooey you see on the History Channel, the one thing that really puzzles me is why do computers become worse as they become better? After thirty or so years, home computers should be a breeze to use by everyone, and no more difficult than a toaster or record player. I’ve heard Frederick Forsyth still uses an old typewriter and he probably gets a lot more done than I do.

Share a personal fact that no one would ever guess about you.

I was accepted into my first school about six months later than the other kids because I was deemed too backward for being unable to say “yellow” in the interview. If I really concentrate, I can say it now, on a good day. Maybe even twice. It amuses my mum to remind of this foible whenever I get too flash.

What would you do in life if you knew you couldn’t fail?

I don’t know what you call it, but you know when you jump out of a plane on a surfboard and surf for miles across the sky like the Silver Surfer before you open your parachute? That.

Share one quote, or saying, that keeps you going in life.

An enigmatic one for you that I’ve remembered since an Encarta CD came with my first PC – “Wie goed doet goed ontmoet.” I like to believe it holds true.

To find out more about Andrew, please follow the links below.



Interview with Megan Denby, author of A Thistle in the Mist

7663_461646007237718_1917467598_n BookCoverPreview (3)

I am delighted to announce this week’s interview is with Canadian author, Megan Denby, who you may remember wrote a fascinating guest blog on my site last year about the great-grandmother who inspired her debut novel, A Thistle in the Mist, and her road to getting it published. Her new novel, Lost to the Mist is due to be published later this year.

Take it away, Megan.

Tell us about yourself in 100 words? No more and no less.

Megan Denby is a novelist who grew up on a farm, where she spent much of her time riding the dirt roads on her bike and sprawled on the porch swing reading books. Writing for over thirty years, her debut novel, ‘A Thistle in the Mist’ was inspired by the turbulent life of her Scottish great-grandmother. Megan is an avid dragon boater, and, a true Canadian, she is a rookie goalie in the local women’s hockey league. Residing in the lakeside community of Port Perry with her family, Megan is currently working on the disturbing sequel, ‘Lost to the Mist’.

Tell us about your book.

‘A Thistle in the Mist’ is a fictional drama revolving around the life of a young highland lass named Meara MacDonald.

When Meara finds her mother dead, she cannot imagine how terrible her life will become. Up until the death of her mother, Meara has enjoyed an idyllic life on Isle of Skye, dreaming of the day she will wed the gallant Duncan MacLeod. Fate, however, has other plans and when Aunt Deirdre and Uncle Sloan arrive, Meara’s family is taken, one-by-one, for reasons she discovers are both personal and nefarious. Unable to reign in her spirit or her tongue, Meara falls prey to an intricate web of lies and deception and finds herself catapulted from Scotland to a household steeped in mystery in Nova Scotia. Guided by her strength of will, she fights her way back to the remains of her family; her heart and soul.

Bits and pieces of my Grandma Ross’s life are woven into the tale. Burdened with lies and deception, ‘A Thistle in the Mist’ is a fast-paced read set in Scotland and Nova Scotia in the early nineteenth century. It is entwined with family, humour, resiliency of the human spirit and characters that stay with you.

How did it feel when you first saw your book published?

It’s hard to put that feeling into words. I think I felt a mixture of disbelief, pride and relief – relief that I was finally able to let it go after 10 years!

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on book two, ‘Lost to the Mist’. It features Meara and her family and of course I am bringing back the much-loved villain, Deirdre. ‘Thistle’ is such a fast-paced story and I am finding it a bit of a challenge to keep that pace but it’s a challenge I’m up for! I have lots of twists and turns in store for my readers.

What words of advice would you give to any budding writers out there?

Never give up! If you have a story to tell, tell it. Edit like crazy and be sure to have it professionally edited. I believed I could edit myself but was extremely lucky to cross paths with a chap from the UK who generously offered to proofread and tone down my glaring ‘Canadianisms’. If you decide to self-publish, be certain to promote yourself through all avenues available and be careful not to cross the line between promoting your book and ‘shoving it down people’s throats’! Take the good with the bad and try and take something positive from every review you receive.

Social media seems to be playing a big part in the success of books these days. What are your thoughts on this and how active are you on various sites?

Social media, I’ve learned, is an invaluable tool. Facebook, Twitter and Google + are a few sites I’ve taken advantage of. Besides promoting your book, it’s the best place to connect with other writers. I’ve been lucky to connect with some fantastic authors worldwide whom I now consider friends. The group I chat with are hugely generous and have helped me immensely. They also make me laugh every day. Personally, social media has been my best friend. My day job took me away from social media for awhile and I saw a drastic drop in sales. When I resumed self-promoting via Facebook and Twitter, I saw an immediate climb in sales.

Every writer must dream of seeing the big screen version of their novel. Who would you like to see playing your lead characters?

Rachel McAdams would make a beautiful and feisty Meara but she’s Canadian. If she could pull off the Scottish burr, she would be my first choice. However, if I were to stick with actors from the UK, I would choose Emily Blunt – lovely and quirky.

I think, UK actor, Tom Hardy would make a dashing Duncan. He also possesses that vulnerable quality I feel is an inherent part of Duncan’s character.

Without a doubt, Tilda Swinton is the perfect Deirdre. Not only is she Scottish, she is an amazing actress and does evil very well.

Another Scottish actor, Robert Carlyle, has the physical characteristics to be a convincing Sloan. He knows how to do ‘bad’ without going over the top.

If you could find out the answer to one of life’s mysteries, which one would you choose?

Why do all writers procrastinate?

What would you do in life if you knew you couldn’t fail?

I’d give up my day job, move somewhere beautiful on the ocean and spend the rest of my life writing and enjoying my family.

Describe the most terrifying situation you have ever been in?

I was nineteen years old the night the police called our house and asked for my dad. The police officer would not give me any information but when my dad took the phone, the look on his face as he listened, turned my stomach to ice. My brother had been in a terrible car accident. I will never forget the terror I felt during the ride to the hospital or the relief that filled me when I saw my little brother’s face. He was badly injured and spent weeks in hospital but he recovered fully, thank goodness.

And the cliché question, four guests at your dinner party (dead or alive), who do you choose?

I would choose my grandparents. My father’s mother passed away when he was a baby and I never met her. My grandpa always told me I looked just like her so I’d love to meet her and see Grandpa spend time with her again, if only for an evening. My mother’s parents, Nana and Grandad, were a huge part of my life growing up and I miss them every day. I’d love to see them both one more time.

To find out more about Megan and her book, please see the following links.






Interview with David T Procter, author of Dead Men Lie

IMG-20120701-00023 (2) images

This week’s interview is with David T Procter, a former plumber turned writer from the South of England. His novel, Dead Men Lie, is a multi-genre tale that includes romance, murder and adventure.

Welcome, David. Can you tell us about yourself in 100 words? No more and no less.

Born into a working class family I grew up in a council house in the early sixties. Even then I knew I was different, but unlike my siblings I was denied a grammar school education, not through inability, but because the family money had all gone. Only in later years did I discover the rich tapestry my family has left me. It is their stories I use to build my tales. I am proud of my heritage proud and thankful for who they were, and what I became.

Why did you decide to become a writer? 

I didn’t find writing, more like it found me. Having left school and become a self-employed plumber I was content to carry on perhaps until retirement. But for years, while under baths or scrabbling beneath floorboards, a story kept niggling away in the back of my mind. I didn’t do anything about it until one day a customer looked at an estimate I had prepared and said “you should write fiction this is pretty good.” That and a series of unforeseen circumstances involving a wife with deteriorating health issues gave me the kick I needed. My first attempt at writing was born but I soon discovered I had lost much of what my English teacher had drummed into me, so I enrolled in some creative writing courses. Even now I am still re-learning.

Tell us about your books.

My books are pure escapism; they have a beginning middle and end. I tried short stories but prefer the scope which the longer novel allows, the ability to develop characters and places. Forgotten Souls was my first book, a good story, badly edited and published far too soon. I removed it from sale, perhaps one day I will re-write it. I have at least six other books in draft form awaiting finalising so I am well stocked for many years to come. As for Dead Men Lie, my latest, that is something which I am most proud of (at the moment). It was born from an item I discovered while researching the family tree and just developed.

And tell us about the authors who inspire you. 

I love anything military and historical, combine the two and I am happy for days, I read Clive Cussler, Bernard Cornwall, Douglas Reaman and lots of other authors. I enjoy any autobiography of those who have lived a long and interesting life and hate anything to do with pop stars or so called celebrities. I actually read and like all the Harry Potter books by J K Rowling. I also like some of the classics but unfortunately not Dickens, and I have read and enjoyed Homers Iliad

How did you feel when you first saw your book published? 

Excited then frustrated. Forgotten Souls should have been better prepared; when I saw it I recognised my stupidity. Vanity had ruled my heart and since then I vowed no one would have control over my work. It was a salutary lesson to learn and an expensive one, now I control everything and so far, apart from one stupid error, it seems to be working out fine.

What are you working on at the moment? 

Once Dead Men Lie is re-launched in June, then I have a prequel to complete and a family history for my granddaughter. I want her to know where the family originated from and to know her background which I didn’t. It took my own daughter to ask where does the name come from to force me to learn and I am eternally grateful to her for that encouragement.

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

That moment came about a year ago. It was pure theatre and so very self-indulgent but it made my wife cringe, and me chuckle at the absurdity. To understand the significance I have to tell you that Dead Men Lie was banned by my local council. Seems we infringed their strict moral code somehow, any way the local paper ran the story, we made the front page. Which explains why, while doing our monthly shop in a crowded supermarket, I was approached by a woman who asked for my autograph. Notoriety has never been so appreciated.

Is there any advice you would give to budding writers?

So much I could tell them. Firstly listen to your heart, if it feels right it most likely is. Secondly believe in everything you do even if it is proven to be wrong. Lastly trust no one, we have been ridiculed, almost destroyed and told so often that the book will never amount to anything that we no longer listen. Remember it’s your work; don’t let anyone detract you from what you first envisaged.

Describe your writing day.

I wake at about 4am, have at least three cups of tea, than work for a few hours before the house wakes. This involves answering e-mails, checking the web site and reprising the previous day’s work.  If there is any time left I try and write at least a thousand words. Then, in the afternoon, I do the bulk of my writing and research. All in all, I aim to write at least four thousand words a day not all are used, most is either filed for future use or deleted, only a few nuggets of worth actually makes it into a story.

Social media seems to be playing a big part in the success of books these days. What are your thoughts on this and how active are you on various sites?

I have a web site, which works really well. While I am on facebook, twitter and Google+ Do these work? I am still debating that question. We all use them, but we all seem to gather on the same places, and lets be fair few authors buy other authors works or not in sufficient quantities. Do such sites attract readers? I think not but we have to be seen, perhaps one day, we will all get a chance of being front of house so to speak.

Every writer must dream of seeing the big screen version of their novel. Who would you like to see playing your lead characters?

Funnily enough we have discussed this at length. If the chance ever occurred I would have to choose English actors, some of whom may not be that well known. So for the Reverend Edward Bayles I would ask a fine character actor by the name of Philip Martin-Brown. I think he would give the character a lot of depth. Abigail Wood I would ask Michele Dockery best known for her role as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey, she is feisty but innocent at the same time. As for Benjamin Turnbottle I think another Downton actor would fit the role nicely he is Rob James-Collier who plays Thomas Barrow the under butler. These three would do my creations proud.

The world is ending and you are about to be blasted off into space – Bruce Willis style – to try and save mankind. You are allowed to take two people with you. Who do you choose?

I am too old to be jumping around saving anyone but Einstein and Benjamin Franklin would be interesting travelling companions.

If you could find out the answers to one of life’s great mysteries, which one would you choose?

I would love to know where all the shoe laces go to and if they share some third dimensional space with all the missing pens.

Share a personal fact about yourself that no one would know.

I play a mean Bass guitar, all self-taught.

You are on death row and it’s your final supper. What do you choose? 

Hopefully I will never find myself there but if the fates decree I would not prolong the agony something light, an omelette perhaps then get it over with.

What would you do in life if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Being at the birth of my daughter. I escaped the other two occasions but the wife was determined I would experience it once at least.

Share one quote that keeps you going in life.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.”  Connected nicely to “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” From each end of man’s journey, rather poetic don’t you think.

Describe your perfect day.

Easy. A whole day with my darling granddaughter as she is now, innocent and full of life.

And the cliché question, four guests at your dinner party (dead or alive), who do you choose?

I know you expect names of great statesmen and politicians, writers or philosophers but I am going all sentimental. I would invite my mother who died far too young and missed my marriage and the births of her grandchildren. My five times great grandfather born in 1702 and to whom we all owe so much to. More importantly I would like to ask him where he was born and why he came to Sussex, information apparently lost. Lastly my dear departed gran so she could explain her side of the family to me far too complicated for a poor soul like me to unpick.

Find out more about David through the following links.


Blog site:









Interview with James Ferron Anderson, author of The River and The Sea

1484984_10151936208172979_467113132_n 1533469_10151936208167979_163060292_n

This week’s interview is with my fellow Rethink Press New Novels 2012 competition winner, James Ferron Anderson, who won best new novel for The River and The Sea, a story of love and hate, set in 1918 in a dying enclave of end-of-Empire Britishness on the Thompson River and in 1920 in a cabin on the Thelon River, Canada. He is also a judge of the Rethink Press New Novels 2014 competition.

Over to you, James.

Can you tell us about yourself in 100 words? No more and no less.

I am a fading orchardist, dying of cold and hunger… no. Sorry. That’s Jack Butler of The River and The Sea. I am a fading Hollywood actor… no. Sorry. That’s Rory Devlin of Terminal City. I am a layabout author and former alcoholic, now editing and writing novels, conducing research into various histories hoping to make novels and other yarns out of them, and promoting myself as an anti-theist. Making statements that are true and a laugh at the same time is a talent to which I aspire. If only. Life, while seriously overrated, can be nevertheless a joy. (Coughs)

Why did you decide to become a writer?

I decided I was a writer when I was about eleven. That first novel never got past page two, for I couldn’t read my own handwriting even then. It was all I could do anyway well. That and run. Nippy on the streets and nippy with words. Now my knees are banjaxed the words are all that’s left. I took a novel sabbatical for about thirty years after that first attempt, but battered away at poems and short stories. Then loads of drafts that went onto shelves straight away. The first million words are just practice, that’s what I say.

Tell us about your book.

My novel The River and The Sea was published last year and won the Rethink New Novel Award. It’s a tale of love and loss, set in Canada in 1918 in the arid interior of British Columbia. The interest in telling a story of how people need each other, hate each other, love each other and dispense with each other was there first. I suspect it has been there all my life. It’s not a theme I think I’ll be exhausting any time soon. Setting The River… where I did grew out of an interest in the rise and fall of the British Empire, which in turn grew out of an interest in the Irish Famine when I was researching an earlier book. One hot day in 2007 I was driving with my family from Kamloops to Cache Creek when I stopped to read a road sign telling of an English middle-class town that flourished and then failed completely in the seven years before the Great War. I had my location. The protagonists and events grew out of combing my relationship theme and the rise and fall of Empire.

Tell us about the authors who inspire you? 

I’m not sure I think like that. A lot of frogs have been kissed that remained frogs. But when wonder is found and language sings there is no substitute. Well, except possibly sex. Or a long hard fast run. And I can’t run much any more. I could also equally honestly say I’ve been inspired by everyone I ever read, either thinking that while I could never attain that height, that accomplishment, I could try, or alternatively, that a cat could write better than that and I certainly could. All, in their way, are inspiration to write if you are already so inclined. If… Brendan Behan inspired me to drink and write. Hemingway inspired me to stop drinking and write. Charles Bukowski inspired me to write. All these statements are in their way true.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m working on Terminal City, a book that excites me and satisfies me and frustrates me as I struggle with it. It should be no other way. I labour to make it better, and I think I succeed. Another day I’ll not be so sure. So be it. It were ever so. It is a story of… well, as above: how people need each other, hate each other, love each other and dispense with each other. It’s set in Vancouver in 1939 and 1959. An event happens on Wreck Beach late at night in the week before the outbreak of WWII. For twenty years it lies forgotten. Then faded, ill, former Hollywood movie star Rory Devlin returns to Vancouver to sell his last possession of any value, his yacht, the Zara. As a young unknown he was on the beach that night. The wealthy Westwood family want the investigation re-opened… The dots are to indicate that you’ll want to read on.

Describe a typical writing day for you. 

A typical writing day for me would be to rise at 05.30… honestly… make coffee and toast and get to the laptop and the novel until about 06.45. Then I trot across the road to the Sportspark and be in the gym at 07.00. I pound away there until 08.00, and trot home again. I only live over the road. Easy peasy. Then coffee with my wife, get back to the laptop. A lot of procrastination often follows. My great industrious start gets flung out the window. I feel terrible. I nap for ten minutes that turns out to be an hour. I feel worse. I think about how I feel. I feel worse again. I make more coffee. Then I go food shopping. I get impatient. I should be at my desk and not looking at sandwich spread and wholenut peanut butter. I come out with half the things. I’ll have to go back tomorrow. I get into the writing again, but only after making more coffee and eating the muffins I bought. So little free time and here I am wasting it. I feel worse all over again. I get to work. After ten minutes it flows. It’s great. After fifteen more minutes it’s time to stop and get some dinner ready for my wife coming home. So it goes. On and on. And on.

Every writer must dream of seeing the big screen version of their novel. Who would you like to see playing your lead characters?

The River and The Sea Sarah Underhill: Keira Knightley. Is she both attractive and tough enough? Emily Blunt. Ditto. Jack Butler: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who has played Vronsky and John Lennon. Can he be vulgar enough and do an Ulster accent? A bulked-up-a-bit Rupert Friend, of The Young Victoria and Homeland. Terminal City Rory Devlin: Johnny Depp could do it, but nobody would ever forget they were looking at Johnny Depp and not at an ill and dying reprobate suffering from social diseases and malaria. Dan Kearney: Colin Farrell.

If you could find out the answer to one of life’s mysteries, which one would you choose? 

I would discover why so many people opt to preference superstition over reason and fact. How people can argue that evolution is ‘just a theory’ while not having one fact to support their own waffly creationist half-wit theory. Where does the desire to believe we, and only we, have a purpose come from? That the entire universe was put in place to accommodate us, a tiny dot on the left buttock of that universe? That a god who can create all this gets himself in a tizzy over what I do with my genitals? Because science can’t answer every question, no… it’s not all right to substitute your favourite comforting superstition instead. SO WHY DO PEOPLE DO IT? That’s my life’s mystery that I’d like answered. Then I’d like to burn at the stake or stone to death everybody who still disagreed with me. After all, that’s the religious way.

What would you do in life if you knew you couldn’t fail? 

End world hunger, bring peace and love everywhere… No. Well, maybe. Get creationists (see above) and Republicans and right wingers generally to be able to add two and two and get four, to tell old hippies that chemicals are not per se bad… that everything we can see, touch, feel, including them and that daisy over there is made up of chemicals… get over it. Then make a lot of money from writing and go live with my family in a wee house on the west coast of British Columbia and wait for the inevitable earthquake and tsunami.

Share one quote, or saying, that keeps you going in life.

You must be joking. No, that’s not it. Well, it could be. Yes, that’s it.

And the cliché question, four guests at your dinner party (dead or alive), who do you choose?

Christopher Hitchens right off. More informative fun dead than most of us alive. Gore Vidal, ditto. Socrates, for those tricky questions where he pretends he doesn’t know the answer but does, really. Jesus, just for the hell of it. A fifth: a translator up to handling all this.

Interview with Phil Simpkin, author of The Borough Boys series

Phil Simpkin

The subject of my third interview is Leicestershire’s master of rhyme and crime, Phil Simpkin, author of The Borough Boys series.

untitled untitled2

Take it away, Phil.


Can you tell us about yourself in 100 words – no more and no less?

Late fifties; over-worked and under-paid aspiring, self-published author. Married; Two daughters; five grandkids at last count. Retired cop and emergency planning specialist. Likes – Guitar music – both playing and listening. Rock and Blues. In fact, there is little music I don’t like (except country and western – which I hate).Rugby Union. Golf. Fly and Carp Fishing. Drinking wine and whiskey , real ale, and anything else vaguely alcoholic on occasions. Currently part way through major lifestyle change for health benefits – a long and painful process. Also currently seeking employment – my royalties will not keep me to the style my wife is accustomed!

Why did you decide to become a writer?

As a young cop, I was fortunate to work part of the older, historic parts of Leicester. On dark, cold, winter nights, I often used to wonder what it would have been like to have been a cop in the days when cobbles, coaches and gas-lamps were the order of the day, and being a cop was still something of a novelty. I decided that not only would I find out – which lead to years of reading and research, but I swore I would write a novel about it when I retired. I retired in 2006 and finished the first novel in 2012. That’s why I became a writer.

Tell us about your books.

My books are a series of two novels featuring the Leicester Borough Police circa 1850. Samson Shepherd, a rookie cop, is taken under the wing of John Beddows, a hardnosed and street wise veteran. Together they set out to fight crime in what was a time of extreme poverty for most, and extreme luxury for a limited, fortunate few. Life was hard and unfair for many, and crime was actually a realistic option to life in the workhouse, or likely death from poverty. At a time when crime fighting was about wits, instinct, courage and tenacity, the series looks to expose the society and it’s problems, and create realistic, likeable characters that will grow through following novels.

Who would you like to see play the lead characters in a screen version of your books?

Sam Shepherd would have to be someone young and a little naive, but sharp and quick, so perhaps Daniel Radcliffe. John Beddows is a darker, harder yet honourable man, somewhat older – so Daniel Craig. The two Dan’s!

What are you working on at present?

I am part way through my third novel in the series, which will add a vast amount of detail to the personalities of my main characters, and introduce one or two new favourites. I am also looking for an illustrator for a children’s’ book I have written, a tale of an over-sized creature who becomes a folk legend. I also have a more contemporary novel underway, which will be much more humorous in format to The Borough Boys. My experiences in lifestyle change which I am running as a daily blog, will also become a diet / lifestyle change book after the end of the year I have given for the process – warts and all look at the pains and highs and lows of major weight loss and lifestyle change.

What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

I started writing as a bit of fun, and to fulfil a promise to myself. I never, originally, saw it as a career or saw myself as ‘an author’. Not long after releasing my first novel, ‘Jack Ketch’s Puppets’, it went up to number thirteen in all crime thrillers on Amazon and Kindle book charts, amongst the best. I was sandwiched between Val McDermid and Lee Childs – albeit for just a few hours. That was surreal, and several people contacted me to tell me. When people talk about me as an author and I receive fan mail, I get really embarrassed, as I can’t see myself in the same light as the writers I enjoy. A few weeks after my second novel was released, I had both in the top 35 of all Amazon and Kindle crime thrillers – that blew me away. It looks impressive in charts, but sadly it doesn’t pay as many of you will identify!

Describe your typical writing day.

On a good day, I will get up and be at the keyboard for about 8 or 9am and my day will start with checking emails, social media posts and blogs. I then write my daily blog. Then I will concentrate on my next novel, and when it flows, I can get through 5 or 10k words. However, if I create something and realise that I am unsure of facts, I will distract and spend some time checking and double-checking facts, using Google, genealogy and historical directories, etc. I will work until four or five and then give time to family and friends. On a bad day I stare at the screen or just go off and play golf! I would sooner not write if I don’t have the heart to write positively.

If you could find out the answer to one of life’s great mysteries, which one would you choose?

Is there life after death? If so, I could perhaps stop worrying about dying and leaving people behind. Then again, would I have to have the same mother-in-law?

What would you pick for your final supper on death row?

It would have to be a full on Indian blowout. Papadoms and pickles; a good chicken or prawn madras; daal; parathas and a gallon of cold Indian beer.

Tell us about the most terrifying situation you have ever been in.

As a young cop, one night, one of my colleagues went missing. He had been doing observations from an old factory that was going to be demolished, and I was sent to search the building for him. I started to climb up a fire escape, and on about the fourth level, I had got two or three steps up, when it fell from the wall and crashed to the floor. I jumped off as I realised it was moving and landed on a landing. It turned out that they had started dismantling top down, but had not had time to remove the actual flight. That was my first experience of what we called ‘brown adrenaline’! My colleague was later found alive and well, asleep at the station.

Describe your perfect day.

To wake up somewhere in Mediterranean sunshine – preferably Menorca or Crete. A swim before breakfast. A leisurely breakfast whilst people watching, getting characters for my books. A few hours writing, perhaps. A round of golf. A stroll to a local taverna or bar, and an early evening meal and drinks. Some live music. The company of an attractive woman. When are you free?

And the cliché question. Four guests at your dinner party (living or dead), who would you invite?

There would have to be a great comedian – so Spike Milligan – just for the unpredictable and whacky! Someone fascinating – Pythagoras – so we could lie up looking at the stars and he could tell us about ancient Greece and all his theories. Someone interesting and at the same time, attractive – Joanna Lumley – or if she couldn’t make it, Elle McPherson (I can dream). Finally someone who has made a big difference to the world I live in – and as a cop – Sir Robert Mark – who stood out and stood up against bad cops, and made it a more honourable profession.


Interview with Paul Beaumont, author of A Brief Eternity


PB 3 (2)1545863_10152114486706427_1213442342_n

I have been very fortunate to connect with a fantastic and supportive group of authors over the past year and my plan is to introduce them to you in a series of weekly interviews.

First up is Paul Beaumont, whose thought provoking and extremely funny first novel, A Brief Eternity, was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize.

Take it away, Paul.

Can you tell us about yourself in 100 words? No more and no less.

To my general astonishment I find myself in my mid-fifties and enjoying my first proper adolescence. My teenage one was hijacked by God, who made me become a Christian but who, like Bad Santa, failed to deliver His Presence. I am a slow learner and it took me 25 years to leave my Imaginary Friend. At about the same time my wife left me, I lost my job and I had to sell the family home. What else could I do but become a writer?! In real life I work in the renewable energy sector, saving the planet. Go me!

Why did you decide to become a writer?

To impress my wife. We were going through a rocky time in our marriage and everyone knows that women cannot resist a writer, right? Well, that turns out not to be the case, as it happens, but once I had started writing I enjoyed the story so much I had to keep going. In the end, I created a book that a publisher was delighted to publish, but I’m now a bachelor, so I guess I won the battle and lost the war, in some sense at least.

Tell us about your book.

The Old and New Testaments are simply crying out for the sequel to make the trilogy complete, aren’t they? In spite of the fact that they have sold pretty well, God doesn’t seem interested in doing the job, so I’ve stepped in with my debut novel, A Brief Eternity. The book begins with the Rapture and the Second Coming, as you might have predicted if you know your Bible. Our hero, Jerry, is amazed to find that Heaven is real, and mortified to discover the same is true of Hell. Jerry’s life in Paradise has its good moments, but slides inexorably towards misery when he realises his girlfriend, Rachael, has been sentenced to an eternity in the Underworld. He makes it his mission to rescue her, a feat that will merely involve out-witting an omniscient, omnipotent God and all his angels. The story is, I hope, both thought-provoking and entertaining; it’s certainly a lot funnier than anything God ever wrote and has already received some great reviews.

If you could find out the answer to one of life’s mysteries, which one would you choose?

What triggered the Big Bang and how did the first self-replicating molecules self-replicate? (Strictly speaking that’s two questions, but I’ll get away with it because I’ve only used one question mark!)

Tell us about the authors who inspire you?

Philip Pullman, Christopher Hitchens, AC Grayling, Markus Zusak, Garrison Keillor, Ben Elton, Voltaire, Jean-Paul Sartre. Basically, anyone whose writing is either clever or funny, and preferably both.

How did it feel when you first saw your book published?


What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?

Well, being short-listed for the Dundee International Book Prize was pretty cool; and receiving the e-mail saying “Yes” from my publisher was very exciting; but nothing beats the book launch party for A Brief Eternity. Fifty lovely, interesting, kind people came and made it the best book launch party I have ever been to. OK, so it was my first book launch party, but it was still the best!

What words of advice would you give to any budding writers out there?

Write something good, then find a publisher who is sympathetic to the genre. If no-one will publish it for you, publish it yourself. Don’t give up.

Describe a typical writing day for you.

Distraction activity. Read what I wrote yesterday. Fiddle with it. Distraction activity. Start writing new stuff. Distraction activity. Have lunch. Review new stuff; consider it rubbish and delete. Un-delete. Distraction activity. Decide new stuff is OK and write some more. Write something really funny and celebrate with well-earned distraction activity. Review new new stuff and realise it’s not so funny after all. Delete. Distraction activity. Un-delete. Have dinner. Decide new new stuff has potential after all and develop it. Get in groove and write undistracted for an hour or less. Distraction activity. Wrestle with new new stuff in order to avoid the guilt of an entirely wasted day. Eventually produce new new new stuff, some of which is OK. Pour glass of wine as it is now the early hours of the morning. Read through the day’s output. Resist temptation to Delete All; it’ll look better in the morning. Sleep.

What would you do in life if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Be a stand-up comedian

Share one quote, or saying, that keeps you going in life.

Eternity is a very long time, especially towards the end (Woody Allen)

What would be the perfect day for you?

Seeing my kids; playing tennis; reading something clever and funny; writing something clever and funny; watching a play; having a dinner party with clever and interesting guests.

And the cliché question, four guests at your dinner party (dead or alive), who do you choose?

Brian Cox (the physicist); AC Grayling; Tim Minchin; Woody Allen


To find out more about Paul, please see the links below.



Author Facebook page:




Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Don’t you forget about me.


Everyone needs to recharge their batteries now and again and I have just returned from ten gloriously sunny days on the Spanish island of Menorca.

Before I departed England, I made a conscious decision to switch myself off from all social media. No Facebook or Twitter posts, no blogs, no book promotion at all. I knew my pages would take a hit. After all, out of sight is out of mind, and a week and a half is a fair amount of time.

I was right and on return my Facebook author page, where I am most prolific, and where it is easiest to analyse viewer statistics, had dropped by over a 100 regular viewers to just 6. Proof perhaps to those who think they can write a novel and sit back for an easy life, that if you want your book to sell, you have to be marketing on a daily basis, making the public aware of your existence.

By that, I don’t mean shamelessly self-promoting your book on every web page going, but instead building up a presence as you, the author, and engaging with your audience through entertaining posts. There is nothing wrong with an occasional polite and gentle reminder of your product, but keep ramming it down your audience’s throats and they will soon grow sick of you. Instead tell them how things are going with your current book, give updates as to what you are working on at the moment and mix things up with a few witty anecdotes from your personal life.

So readership of my page has dropped and over the coming weeks my job is to try and get this back up. I don’t regret my decision to switch off. I needed a break, to forget all things Dead Letter Day related for just a little while, and spent my ten days lazing in the sun and catching up on reading.

I used to be a voracious reader, but between writing, promotion and a full time job, I’ve struggled to complete more than a couple of books over the past six months. While on holiday I had time to immerse myself in four excellent novels (two by established authors, Karen Rose and Nora Roberts, and two debut novels by Megan Denby and Phil Simpkin) and I was reminded of the importance of reading to an author.

When I wrote Dead Letter Day I was probably averaging twenty books a year and I fully believe that reading makes you a better writer; not in terms of plagiarism, but because it helps unlock your mind and gets your creative juices flowing. And I can’t wait to get back to working on my new book.

If you are interested in checking out my holiday reading, please see the links below.

Karen Rose – No one left to tell

Megan Denby – A thistle in the mist

Phil Simpkin – Jack Ketch’s puppets

Nora Roberts – Black Hills