For the record, please state your name.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I think I first tried to write at the same time that I tried to read. So I couldn’t really tell you what inspired me, other than the inbuilt need all children have to tell tall tales. It is something I wish we encouraged more and in a broader way. Some people take to a pen and written words and some do not, but we seem to only recognize a story teller these days if they also can write proficiently. I suspect we kill a lot of young imaginations by shoving them down just the one route. If they prefer to stand up and make up a story or record it or anything else, it is just as valid.
So, what inspired me? The same thing that inspired every other human on the planet: Just being human.
What are your hobbies?
This is awkward. I am a sound producer and composer by trade, though only do the composing bit these days, and music was also my hobby. This has been the same with much that I do. Once I get better at it, I wonder if it might become a living; writing is one of those.
However, one creative pastime I love and has yet to become a living is cooking. I really am a stunning cook; much better than I am a writer or musician. Maybe I got all this backwards?
What are you passionate about?
Other than food? I just like people and what they say; however they say it. I like that language and stories change depending on the person and how they bend and break words and grammar. I am a lover of terrible grammar; it is so wonderfully honest and real!
What interests are you into?
I think this snuggles up to the hobbies question, so I will add another bad side of my character here: I am very political. I am not left of right, but highly selective about what I am political about. I don’t like the idea of nations or borders, and I abhor the artificial differences created by some cultures and all the major religions. I am fiercely egalitarian, especially when it comes to the sexes. Needless to say, this all gets me into trouble far more often than it gets me out of it.
What social media do you use to contact with your fans?
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
Twitter is my main output. I use Facebook less effectively and have only recently got into Instagram. I need to do more on all of these, but I run out time.
What is your username on the different social media platforms?
What did you do before you became a published author?
As I said up a little way, I was a sound producer for many years working in film, TV, radio, advertising (lots of that) and news. I gave that up some years ago and concentrated on composing music and some script writing for radio ads.
Do you have another job other than writing?
At the moment I have put a few years aside to get the writing sorted. However, since I am skint, I am setting myself up as an audiobook narrator, using my many years as a producer, and I hope that this will build up and compliment my writing.
How long have you been writing for?
I have been trying to squeeze a book out of my system for many years and there are scattered, sad little piles of failed attempts everywhere. Back in 2014 I decided I was crack this nut and dig out a book from my brain. Surprisingly, it didn’t take me long. It was a bit like giving up smoking – felt impossible until I actually did it. The book was The Stink. I have now written seven more fantasies and there are more on the way, including resurrecting one of the sad little piles.
What’s your writing style like?
Well padded! I like detail and have always been attracted to books that paint complete pictures and delve into the very hearts of the characters. I like Gormenghast because of that. But I also like humour and like my characters to show that they will still giggle in embarrassment when they stub their toe even as their world crumbles around them. That is what being human (or dragon) is all about – so why pretend it doesn’t happen.
I have been criticised for both of those!
What’s your favorite genre to write/read in and why?
When it comes to reading, I don’t have one. When it comes to writing, I love world building, so high fantasy is a lot of fun. I have the sort of mind that can paint very large vistas, so any genre that gives me that opportunity will be of interest.
Having said that, The Stink is set in North London in the 1970s and I love that book. I want to write more like that.
Whatever the genre, it MUST have plenty of laughter and tears.
What’s your least favorite genre to write/read in and why?
I think I would struggle with pure romance where romance was the only plotline. For me, that is less believable than my dragons (which my readers keep telling me really exist), simply because I don’t think humans are that good at concentrating on romance 24/7. It flares up like a beacon momentarily, and then the kettle boils and coffee becomes the most important thing in the world. That is human.
Some writers have something playing in the background, do you and what?
Since I am musician/composer, I can’t do this. If I have music playing, I go into musician mode and simply stop writing. What I do is make my environment right. I light candles, I have cushions aplenty and I write using three large monitors. The desktop wall paper is the map of my world of Dirt. I have Word open in the middle monitor, OneNote on the right monitor and a web browser or Photoshop on the left.
My voice booth is behind me for recording my poems and my books.
I am surrounded by my cameras, musical instruments, coffee machine, bottles of beer/wine and I burn incense. It is a lot of fun and very cosy. A real writer’s nest.
What’s the inspiration behind your books?
People. I like people when they laugh and when they cry. I love their optimism and their heartbreak – including my own. So they are what inspire me. For instance, Silvi Farthing, the young woman who is the star of series two of Dirt, is based roughly on a friend from when I was in school in the 1970s. She was very independent of spirit, gay and determined that being a “girl” wasn’t going to be a disadvantage to her, though she knew she would have to fight for equality; despite the rise of feminism, Britain in the seventies was still racist, homophobic and misogynist. Being a “Silvi” back then was hard. And being Silvi on Dirt is harder still.
Despite that Dirt is a fantasy, everything, including the dragons, represents something from our own society.
If you could do it all over again, would you change anything about your books?
I think for series one of Dirt I would have even more dragons. Or rather give them a more important role. One or two did, but I really focused on the human story. In series two, despite Silvi being human, I readdressed the balance, and it is very much the dragon’s story.
Is there anything you found particularly challenging about writing?
Not having any money (long story) I have not been able to used pro editors and artists and the learning curve I have gone through has been very disheartening. I did try using friends and some beta readers on the first series, but unlike the editors I used to meet when dealing with major publishers back in my sound recording days, they didn’t understand me and what I was trying to achieve, so their suggestions were very mechanical and just didn’t fit in with the story – they were trying to make it their book and not mine.
So, I would love an agent, a publisher and an editor that works WITH me and not just takes money to beat up my book.
Who are your cover designers?
Me – I am broke, remember? Of course, I am in trouble now. Although I am not a good artist in any way whatsoever, people like my dragons and the personality I have given them; mostly accidental, probably. So, even if I could afford an artist, I probably have to struggle on anyway.
What authors are your inspiration?
I love Peter Carey and had the fortune to meet him years ago as part of my old job. Umberto Eco is another writer I have a lot of time for and also met him. Mervyn Peak, however, I never met. But I loved Gormenghast.
I also love books by Spike Milligan.
What is your take on fanfiction?
It is not something I have any interest in, but I have no worries about it. Most of it isn’t very good, but if the fans have fun writing it, what the hell? I have more of a problem with the rare person who is very good. They should be closing their eyes, turning off their favourite series, and inventing their own world. They owe themselves that.
What advice would you give any newbie author or anyone that wants to pick up writing?
Just like giving up smoking, as I said earlier, just get on with it. Also, be careful of much of the advice out there. I know you should write perfectly with wonderful grammar, but if you can’t, well write anyway. Telling stories is such a wonderful thing and should not be limited to just those who were good at language at school. People should be more tolerant of others when it comes to language usage.
What are your fondest childhood memories?
A girl who I loved when I was a kid, but didn’t realise it. I got it all wrong and missed a golden opportunity. I wrote a short poem about it. Can I share it with you?
The girl I loved most
Was only ten years old
She was fun and silly
With thick yellow-blonde hair
And she meant so much to me
The girl I loved most
Used to run down our road
Laughing as the sun chased her
Her hair blowing and bouncing
Leaving me dizzy and confused
The girl I loved most
Never knew I loved her
I was ten years old too and so scared
That rather than tell her
I pretended all girls sucked.
The girl I loved most
Got fed up of waiting
She stopped running down our road
And fell in love with an older man
Who I think was eleven.
The girl I loved most
One day grew up
And as I watched from afar much older now
I remembered my love
And cried for my childish stupidity.
If you Don’t mind tell us a little about your personal life?
I am a very private person, maybe as a result of working in such a public industry for many years. However, to cover the basics, I am in my fifties, I am overweight (though I walk 30 miles a week), and keep a very small collection of close friends. I am an accomplished cook and though I cook rarely for other’s now, when I do I go completely over the top.
My songs have recently been well reviewed, so after many, many years, I am thinking about gigging again.
Do you have any causes, charities, foundations that you are passionate about and donate to? If so why? How did you get involved??
I don’t these days, but back in my studio days, I did work for people like Amnesty and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. They all need time in studios and it was something easy to offer them, so we did.
Do you have any pets?
Some fun questions now
What age were you when you were first kissed?
Ummm – I haven’t the foggiest. I discovered alcohol very young thanks to an older brother, so it was probably then sometime and his fault.
Who was your high School sweetheart?
The best friend of the girl in the poem above. I really wasn’t very good at all this.
What did you want to be when you were little?
What is your favourite colour?
Don’t have one of those. Didn’t when I was a kid either. Colour to me is always part of something else. So the right colour is the one that tells the story best.
What is your favourite food/s?
You haven’t got room for this answer. When it comes to cooking, I am very good at Indian food, but also love cooking all Mediteranean food, whether that is French, Italian, Greek or Arabic. I love baking breads of all cutures and we never buy bread.
Much to the annoyance of a cooking-mad lady friend I am actually a good pastry cook. Annoying because I haven’t a sweet tooth and don’t eat pastries much myself.
What are you afraid of?
Criticism. I hate being told I am rubbish.
How old were you when you first got drunk?
See the kissing question.
What was your first car?
Open topped rusty thingy.
Did you live in a house or apartment when you were a child?
What was your favourite tv show as a child?
I am not sure if I had a favourite. If you had asked me at the time my answer would have been anything my puritanical parents stopped me from watching.
What was your favorite book?
As a child, probably the Chrysalids by John Wyndham. I had a crush on Sophie Wender.
Who did you have a crush on when you were in school and how old were you?
See the poem above.
Tell us about your Books?
The World of Dirt is my biggest project. It is my attempt at a saga but set in a fantasy world. It follows the Farthing family and their wish to bring fairness and equality to their poverty stricken world. As a fantasy it is very different. Although there are huge wars and lots of action, it concentrates on the people (both human and dragon) and their environment. It also is told exclusively from the point of view of the good guys. I wanted the readers to find out about the world at the same speed as the heroes. The dragons are the biggest difference. Although they are huge and live centuries, they don’t have scales, don’t blow fire and live in small communities. They have friends, dreams and needs. They are also my ideal. Dragons don’t lie, don’t understand nations and borders and have never had wars between themselves. I use them as a way to show failings in human society.
The Stink is set in North London in the long, hot summer of 1976. I was 16 then and so are my heroes. The Stink is a band set up by a group of young people who have just finished their exams. It tells about them falling in love, about the songs they write, about what they feel about racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia, and is set against a story of a double murder.
Oh, it’s a comedy by the way, but tissues might be needed. It is a Yound Adult work, but has lots of swearing and nose-picking.
I am close to starting on a new series of books for younger readers. It is the story of a 12-year-old called Dawn who goes to live on the moon. She has -to contend with school in 1/6th G and foil a mystery. The first book will be called Dawn on the Rock and I have just enrolled my best friend’s 10-year-old daughter to be my editor.
Tell us a little about yourself. Perhaps something not many people know about? Can you share with us the best way to contact you and where to find your work? This is where you have the floor.
I think you have all got to know me pretty well by now. My life might be pretty private, but my opinions are out there! I am a coffee lover, a wine lover, a beer lover, a food lover and I love nothing more than cuddling up with friends and talking bollocks. I still act as if I was 14 and tend to make friends who are likewise.
As for getting hold of me, my main website is the best way. It has all my links on there, my rare newsletter, my writing blog, my music and my poems. It even has some of my food, though I will be relaunching my old food blog one day soon.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview with us!!!