Friday, 28 April 2017

Author Interview - Niall Slater

What's your name? 

Niall Slater.

What's the title of your most recent/forthcoming book? 

The Second Death of Daedalus Mole.

Describe the book in under 100 words.

In a galaxy on the verge of economic collapse, a greasy man in a spaceship takes on an unwanted passenger to make some easy booze money. He soon realises that his passenger comes with a lot more attention than he’s comfortable with, and becomes entangled in a star-hopping scramble for purpose when all he really wants is to sit down with a nice pint. He soon realises, however, that she isn’t the only one running from something. The book is about loss, guilt and the flawed ways in which we see those closest to us – for better or worse.

Describe the book in under 10 words 

 Sad man in space sabotages own life and those of others.

What is your favourite book and why?

If I had to choose – and apparently I do, you bastard – it would have to be Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. It’s a bizarre story set in a bizarre world: far in the future, after a devastating nuclear war, when half the world has mounted their cities on titanic caterpillar tracks to chase down and eat smaller, weaker cities and static settlements, which are seen as backwards and barbaric. It’s called Municipal Darwinism. A young London historian sees something he shouldn’t have and is thrown out onto the bare earth, and ends up having to chase down his hometown along with the assassin who got him into this mess in the first place. Also, they’re being chased cross-country by an ancient killing machine. If this sounds completely insane, that’s because (A) it is and (B) I’m not Philip Reeve, who has an enviable gift for sketching unlikely situations from a perspective that helps you slide into his universe without a hitch. A world of cities eating each other might sound like a stretch, but the story is really about a young man trying to find his way home, only to learn that home isn’t quite what he thought it was. Who can’t relate to that? The idea of everything you’ve ever known just getting up and moving, leaving you behind wondering where you really belong? He just made it a bit more... literal. I’m also a sucker for stories about robots that make me cry, so that helped.

Who is your favourite author and why?

It’s got to be Terry Pratchett. No contest. I’ve never experienced such a sudden and terrifying shift in perspective as when I read Small Gods. It was like – writing can be like this? Really? You can just… do that and get away with it? Then I read The Truth, which might as well be re-published every year and only get more relevant, get more cutting as the days go by. Reaper Man, though, was the one that really floored me. Pratchett, in my mind, might as well have walked right into the Vatican during the Pope’s lunch break and sat down in his chair. It seems obvious that a writer can write whatever they want, really, but I never intuitively got it until I read a story about Death quitting to go and work on a farm. To read a book about that, and for that book to be brilliantly-written, funny, warm, cold, touching, brutal and sinister all at once was like I went out for a curry and came back to find the wallpaper peeled off the inside of my head, then to think oh, there was wallpaper in here? Terry Pratchett was a genius and we are all of us deeply privileged that he managed to write so much. I can’t think of a better recommendation to give anyone, for any reason, than to read Discworld.

Name a book that you wish you'd written and why?

Hmm… maybe Station Eleven? It’s by Emily St. John Mandel and it (again) is a post-apocalyptic novel that follows a troupe of actors, musicians and general handy-people who go from town to town putting on Shakespeare plays in the aftermath of a plague that killed most of the world’s population. It’s a bit like The Road in how it paints such a quietly disturbing view of the end of the world, and it manages to be a very sincere vindication of capital-A the Arts without coming across as preachy or pretentious, which I’ve tried to do before and failed. As a writer I came away from it feeling very validated indeed. I’d like write something at least once that makes people feel better, more sure of their place in the world. It’s not the most important thing a book can do (and it’s not, by any means, the only or most important thing that Station Eleven does), but it is nice. Then again, if I’d written Good Omens then I would be both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, which is probably a better deal.

Describe a typical writing day for you.

 Okay, set the scene: it’s 5.35pm. I’ve just left work, it’s already dark out because it’s late winter. I plug in the headphones I found in a bush four months earlier and stick on the first playlist my numb fingers can locate on my out-of-date phone, which creaks audibly as it fires up one of Amanda Palmer’s more depressing albums. Resigned, I half-jog to the Overground station. On the way I enter a very artsy, literary-feeling kind of fugue state, neurons firing lazily as I sketch out brilliant ideas and beautiful plot threads in my brain, which is taking full advantage of that late-afternoon second wind. I arrive at the station, squeeze my way onto a train between two implausibly sweaty men and slowly let the will to live drain from my body on the short half-hour ride from West Brompton to an undisclosed location further north. By the time I climb the stairs and collapse into the chair by my desk, trousers flung aside, I have not only forgotten the strokes of genius from earlier, but also forgotten why I’ve ever bothered writing or doing anything at all. I source some cheap Shiraz/own-brand gin/lager found under the sofa (to loosen the creative muscles) and decide to play a couple of quick rounds of Rocket League. Four hours later my loved ones gently remind me that I was going to do some writing tonight, and I haughtily pour another drink and bash out a few sentences, cursing myself for every life decision I’ve ever made that contributed to me being here, writing, when I would clearly be much more suited to a career as a hedge fund manager, or a stuntman, or a rodeo clown. Come 11pm, unproductive and unsatisfied, I slink to bed so I can be up in the morning to hit the day job again. In my dreams I whip myself with thistles for not being a better writer. Thankfully I get a lot more done on the non-typical writing days. 

What's your biggest frustration as a writer? 

Having to treat your own emotional state as a kind of finite resource to draw on. Writers aren’t special, obviously – everyone feels drained in the evenings, everyone needs time to relax and recover for the next day, but trying to wrestle your evenings back and sit in that chair to not just write something, but to write something good, is the opposite of relaxing. Everyone needs free time, but people who have these weird solitary creative projects give theirs up like they’ve always got homework to be doing. That said, I’ve accidentally woken up early a few times and tried writing before the sun comes up. I find that works much better, though that puts you at a worrying sleep deficit... I’m sure proper, grown-up writers have figured out the whole work-life balance thing, but I haven’t quite nailed it yet and that’s probably the most frustrating thing. So, er, my biggest frustration is my own flaws? Like most people, I guess.

How do people find out more about you?

They can follow me on Twitter for incisive social commentary and lies, like that one. I’ve also got a website of sorts at, and people can check out me book what I gone and done at

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Author Interview - Ewan Lawrie

What's your name? 

Ewan Lawrie, McGregor was named after me… No, he was, I’m older than him, ergo...

What's the title of your most recent book? 

Gibbous House was published on 12th Jan 2017 by Unbound.

Describe the book in under 100 words. 

Gibbous House is a Victorian Gothic novel, with a will, a bizarre inheritance including a still stranger property and household, all of which is inherited by a most villainous and charming protagonist. Moffat is neither who he seems or indeed what he believes himself to be. He finds himself caught up in experiments and conspiracy at the birth of the scientific age. He encounters a cast of grotesque and venal characters against the background of Mid-19th Century London and Northumberland, before an exciting and thought provoking ending.

Describe the book in under 10 words. 

Murderous imposter receives a dangerous inheritance in 19th Century Northumberland

What is your favourite book and why? 

My favourite book is The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It is a combination of the fantastical and what passed for the everyday in the Soviet Union of the 1930’s. The devil is one of the main characters, as is a giant cat called Begemot (Russian for Behemoth). The story deals with samizdat, which was self-publishing but not as we know it, since the reward was often the Gulag, if you got caught, and also with the crucifixion of Christ. What’s not to like? Blasphemous, bitterly funny and boisterous by turns, I confess I’ve read it many more times than once.

Who is your favourite author and why? 

Dickens. Yes, I know, anti-semitism (par for the contemporary course, and you could find much worse offenders) , sentimentality (okay, don’t read The Old Curiosity Shop) and those long sentences. Yes, well, he was good at those long sentences and they are pellucid in their clarity. We should all be so long-winded. Most of all however, it’s the characters: Magwitch, Sydney Carlton, David Copperfield… Even dear old Scrooge.

Name a book that you wish you'd written and why? 

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.  Magic, comic books, escaping from the Nazis and making it in America. Maybe I’m sentimental too. The best 8 part HBO series never made.

 Describe a typical writing day for you. 

I’d love to make this up and say that I lock myself in a shed with a notebook and a Remington typewriter, but the truth is I tippety-tap on the PC/Laptop at various times of the day, when the mood comes on me and I’m not teaching. I do listen to music, most of Gibbous House was written to the entire works of Frank Zappa. I do take a notebook when I’m out and about, often scribbling things in local bars and caf├ęs or on the terraces outside them.

What's your biggest frustration as a writer? 

Marketing and the lack of money I have to do it.

How do people find out more about you? 

I have a twitter account @EwanL and I am on Facebook where my alter-ego Please Allow Me also has a page with a humorous take on marketing Gibbous House for me. I do have a blog which is updated about once a week if I’m lucky.

E-mails I save for contact with book reviewers in print media. I’m thinking of wondering round Fuengirola with a sandwich board.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Author Interview - Damon L Wakes

What's your name? 

Damon L. Wakes

What's the title of your most recent/forthcoming book? 

Ten Little Astronauts.

Describe the book in under 100 words. 

Ten astronauts are awoken from suspended animation – chosen from a crew of thousands to repair their steadily freezing ship – only to discover that one of their number has been killed, and that the murderer is now amongst them. They are trapped with no lights, no gravity, and no life support. In order to survive and restore the ship to working condition, they must work out who is responsible, because if the impostor doesn’t kill them, the cold will.

 Describe the book in under 10 words

And Then There Were None set in interstellar space.

What is your favourite book and why? 

Rumo and his Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers. The book is the size of two or three house bricks and its storyline follows all the conventions of the classical epic. However, it takes place in the most alien fantasy setting I’ve ever come across. There are no orcs or elves: every single character is utterly bizarre and completely original. The protagonist, for example, is an intelligent bipedal horned dog wielding a sword that has multiple personalities. Despite the abundance of unusual creatures with outrageous abilities, though, nothing ever feels like it’s pulled out of thin air when the plot demands it. Any detail that proves significant is always set up well in advance, and the overall story feels totally airtight.

Who is your favourite author and why?

It’s a tough choice, but probably Douglas Adams. I really enjoyed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well as the snippets of his work collected in The Salmon of Doubt, and he had the rare ability to tackle serious topics in an absolutely hilarious way. I also admire his text adventures: an early example of what great writing can add to games.

Name a book that you wish you'd written and why? 

It would be easy to say The Count of Monte Cristo because it’s extremely long and complicated and writing that would immediately make people think I’m super smart. Honestly, though, I don’t especially wish I’d written any book that currently exists. If the deal is that I get to go back in time and stick my name on the front of a great work of literature that otherwise stays word-for-word the same, I’d rather use my time machine to buy a bunch of winning lottery tickets. It seems marginally more honest and marginally less likely to tear apart the space-time continuum. If the deal is that I get to rewrite that book myself, then I can just go ahead and do it without the time machine. Ten Little Astronauts was largely an exercise in producing a more tense, faster-paced version of And Then There Were None. Fewer dinners, more axe murders. The books I really wish I’d written are the ones I haven’t yet.

Describe a typical writing day for you.

A typical writing day almost always starts with me sitting down at my desk and putting off something else I really should be doing. It usually finishes with me carrying on way longer than I intended. Occasionally I’ll open up a document last thing at night because I haven’t written anything for ages and feel as though I should at least get just a paragraph down. Often that leads to hours more work. Sometimes the hours of work are just a paragraph. I also take part in a lot of events—Flash Fiction Month, Flash Fiction Day, NaNoWriMo, Global Game Jams—that give me an excuse to dedicate some time to writing and offer a set deadline for getting it done. I like to listen to music while I work but it could be pretty much anything: at the moment it’s Gregorian chant covers of well known songs. I hesitate to describe coffee as an “aid” because it makes it sound like I’m liable to be disqualified from writing for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, but that’s probably the main one. My secret is drugs.

What's your biggest frustration as a writer? 

Digital Rights Management (DRM). It’s a kind of copy-protection applied to ebooks (among other things) ostensibly to prevent people making pirate copies. There are two problems with this. The first is that anybody with the most basic level of computer literacy can defeat DRM and make copies regardless. This doesn’t involve scrolling torrents of green ones and zeroes: it involves the ability to search for instructions on Google and follow those instructions. The second problem is that although DRM does nothing to hinder pirates, it can cause quite a headache for readers who actually paid for these books and don’t understand why they can’t simply copy them from one device to another for totally legitimate personal use.

How do people find out more about you? 


And if you’d like to read the opening of Ten Little Astronauts, you can do so here:

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Writer's Day

8.30am - Tea, granola, enter office. Start researching/writing/editing.

10am - Tea. More research/writing/editing.

11am - Elevenses. More tea. A Brief check of emails, social media etc. Then more research/writing/editing.

12pm - Meet a writer chum for a snifter at the Red Lion in Penn Village. Enjoy a well kept pint of ale, chat about author-ish things, admire ducks in pond, fawn over a chap's vintage Bugatti.

1pm - Raid Penn Cottage Bookshop for goodies.

2pm - Take dogs for yomp o'er fields and woodlands behind the house. Enjoy sunshine and watch the chemtrails poisoning the angels (one for the conspiracy nuts there).

3pm - Tea and a return to researching/writing/editing.

4pm - Tiffin. More tea and a hot cross bun obscenely buttered. Make stock from yesterday's chicken carcase. Return to researching/writing/editing.

6.30pm - Finish for the day. Exit office.

7pm - Cook evening meal (chicken, chorizo and asparagus risotto using fresh stock) and be sociable. Tea.

Amount earned: £0.00

Quality of life improved: Immeasurably.

Happiness levels: Medium to high.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Cover Story - Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blogpost describing how one of my book covers came about (see here).

The artwork for that cover was by the brilliant Tom Gauld.

I'm now delighted to reveal that the artist who will be tackling the cover for my next book (and first novel) A Murder To Die For is ... Neil Gower.

Even if you don't know the name, you'll know his work. Here's a sample:

Oh my.

How excited am I?

A lot. :)

Author Interview - Tabatha Stirling

What's your full name? 

Are you sure? Okay … Charlotte Alexandra Tabatha Hallewell Stirling. But you can call me ‘Tabster’ *bats eyelashes*

What's the title of your most recent/forthcoming book?

Blood On The Banana Leaf - which I regret now because I’m fairly sure I should stick ‘A Girl’ in there somewhere.

Describe the book in under 100 words.

Here are the stories of Lucilla, a maid from the Philippines, Ma'am Leslie, from England, Shammi, a young village girl from Myanmar and Madame Eunice, a Singaporean-Chinese employer as they strive to exist in a country that harbours darkness below its pristine exterior. As the narrative weaves its candid and often brutal way through the lives of each woman, it also examines the effects of loss, madness, abuse and hope during a woman's life and in society as a whole.

Describe your book in under 10 words.

Welcome to the black heart of Singapore.

What is your favourite book and why?

This is a beastly question. I refuse to be boxed in so I’m naming two: Of Human Bondage’by Somerset Maugham and Absolutely Anything by Simone de Beauvoir. Of Human Bondage was the first ‘adult’ fiction I read. I remember it so well; my parents had given me an account at the local bookshop and I went mad and ordered over fifty books. I hated boarding school and felt incredibly lonely until I discovered Maugham and his visceral characterisations that made me feel at home. I realised that these toxic behavioural patterns were part of other families and I had found my adolescent tribe. De Beauvoir is one of the greatest writers of the last two centuries. She knocked the spots off Satre when it came down to understanding the berserker dance of the white blood cells and the intimate fire-pin waltz danced by a synaptic transmission. In other words, she understood the relationship between the body and the mind and how, when in cahoots, could build empires, yet when fighting, could bring one so low you could feel the weight of a thousand centuries above you. Her understanding & courage when speaking about her own insecurities, her searing honesty that she was in a shitty relationship with a shitty man who received accolades in his lifetime that she deserved so much more. And frankly, entering into an open relationship because you want to be seen as cool and unbothered by something as bourgeois as infidelity when really you want to go at them both with a chainsaw, pliers and some boiling tar. Oh! And her glorious language.

Name a book you wish you'd written and why?

(From 2016) The Bees by Laline Paul. It is an astonishing work – a fictional account of the workings of a hive beset by misogyny, murder, death, horror & some particularly nasty wasps. She makes the environment completely credible, her language is vital, unafraid & mesmerising and I now have to go and read it again.

Describe a typical writing day.

It goes like this: I have a toddler.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< tiny bit of writing. It’s like having an angry drunk perpetually causing mayhem.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< wee bit of designing She is beautiful & likes cuddles.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< half-hearted attempt at editing It is like having an angry drunk perpetually causing mayhem.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< frantic poem writing She is beautiful & likes cuddles.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< sings, ‘Come into the garden, Maud, for the black bat night has ….’
Pass out.
Wake & repeat.

What's you biggest frustration as a writer?

I started taking myself seriously as a writer much too late to write all the books I want to.

You can go here and pledge for my book. Not only are there some spankingly good rewards, you are also the recipient of eternal Tabby love. for my shorts & playsuits. for my design portfolio.

 I’m very Twitter friendly at @volequeen. Come and make out!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Author Interview - Paul Holbrook

What is your name?

Paul Holbrook. I am a writer from North Yorkshire.

What's the title of your most recent/forthcoming book?

Domini Mortum, which is being crowdfunded by those lovely people at Unbound at the moment. 

Describe the book in under 100 words: 

Domini Mortum is a murderous tale set in London and York towards the end of the nineteenth century. It concerns an artist and journalist for the Illustrated Police News, the most sensationalist tabloid of the day, and his investigations into a series of murders of servant girls in the Paddington area. His journey brings him into contact with a haunted village, an asylum, a secret society, a brothel, a vicious crime lord oh and maybe the odd ghost. It's everything you want really from a Hammer Films style Victorian murder mystery, all wrapped up in a beautifully written novel.

Describe the book in under 10 words: 

Bad people do bad things in Victorian times. Cue thrills.

What is your favourite book and why? 

I think it would have to be Legend by David Gemmell. It's a heroic fantasy novel which was first bought for me by my Dad when I was about fourteen. I’ve read it a lot of times, probably too many to be cool, but, because of the time that I have invested in it over the years, it holds a great many personal memories for me as I can remember reading it at lots of different and important times in my life. As a novel. I still love it, the storytelling can be a bit clunky and the character development a little flawed but overall to me it’s a precious thing.

Who is your favourite author and why? 

Tough one that, because I go through phases and obsessions with writers, be it Stephen King, David Gemmell, Clive Barker or JRR Tolkein. My current favourite though is Neil Gaiman. I used to read the Sandman comics when I was a lot younger and when he moved into novel writing, initially I was very worried. I don’t love all his work, there are a few misses amongst the hits for me, but I love The Graveyard Book and I was totally entranced by ‘The ocean at the end of the lane’, which is just a beautiful piece of work.

Name a book you wish you'd written and why: 

Probably Swan Song by Robert R MacCammon. It's a lovely book made up of well written characters, short punchy chapters and overall an epic story. It's a post nuclear apocalypse tale, which I know has been done by a lot of writers before. For me though it’s the best of the breed I couldn’t recommend it highly enough and I just wish I could one day create something so expansive, engrossing and well written.

Describe a typical writing day for you:

When I have a day that I can put aside for writing I like to be up and at it early. I find that often the best stuff I write is first thing in the morning. There have been days when I have got straight out of bed and got on the computer and suddenly find that four hours have gone. I also like to have a good dog walk before I write anything of any substance. I live on the edge of the North York Moors, it’s a stunningly beautiful and inspiring place and often a dog walk in the fresh air, sometimes with stirring music playing in my earphones is enough to get the ideas flowing. In terms of musical styles, for Domini Mortum and its predecessor Memento Mori, I solely listened to Finlandia by Jean Sibelius. The music is based on the Finnish folk tales which feature heavily in the novels. I don’t tend to use any aids apart form my own addled mind. When I’m novel writing my brain is a box full of hummingbirds, ideas, narratives, dialogue and twisty turny bits flying in from all angles. The result is always highly pleasing though.

What's your biggest frustration as a writer? 

Time. If I could freeze time for about two hours a day I would be knocking out novels left, right and centre. I have so many fully formed ideas in my head that I thin I would need about three lifetimes just to get it all out there. I often work seven days a week also as I do two jobs, one in a school supporting children with learning needs and a second providing days out and respite for young people with disabilities and long term medical conditions. Sometimes I will only get one full day off a month, and when I do get a day off its nice to actually spend it with my wife and kids rather than shackling myself to a laptop. And so I snatch and steal time where I can, twenty minutes here an hour there. I get there in the end but its often a slow process.

How do people find out more about you? 

My most important contact point is my Unbound page There you can find out more about Domini Mortum, read a synopsis, and extract and most importantly pledge your support for my lovely creation.

I am often on Twitter @cpholbrook
 I have a blog at which I try to add to when time permits.
 I am on Facebook at