Foto: Nick Mailer
I am really glad you’ve accepted my interview. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Can you tell us a bit more about how you became a writer?
I was an avid reader when I was young, then when I went to university, I fell away from it. I spent a miserable four years working at a power company, then I went back to university to become an English teacher. As I started studying, I started reading again. The more I read, the more I wanted to write. I had a bash at my first novel just to see if I could. I’d no idea what I was doing, but I persevered… and ground out a first draft that’s probably horrible. I don’t know if I could bear to read it again. Still, I’d done it.
Then I had to decide if I was brave enough to let anyone else read it!
(Spoiler: it’s been published now, so I guess I was…)
Was it difficult for the first book to find a publisher?
Oh yes! Well, getting a publisher happened relatively quickly, actually, but getting an agent…
As I said, I’d no idea about writing novels or about the publishing world, and I’d no contacts. I Googled it, and decided I wanted to try and get an agent. I wrote my little introductory letter and sent a synopsis and the first three chapters, then I fired it off to about ten agents and hung about anxiously all afternoon.
You won’t be surprised that I didn’t get any responses back that day!
Agents are very busy and they take an age to get back to you. In the end, two agents wanted to read the full manuscript of that book, but no one loved it enough to sign me. Undeterred, I wrote another book, then another, and another… I’d just completed my eighth novel when I landed my agent (Ben Illis @ The BIA). He liked the sound of some of my older stories and asked to read my backlist. His favourite turned out to be that very first book I’d written – which happened to be Ferryman!
He signed me up, and quite soon afterwards Ferryman was signed up with Templar publishing. It’s since been re-released in the UK with Flois, and now is available in German with Arctis Verlag (and eighteen other languages!)
Could you describe literature in three words?
Escapism. Adventure. Joy.
Is there a book you would never read? Why?
There are books that don’t really appeal to me – I’m not a massive fan of horror, for example, I get too stressed out! – but I don’t think there’s a book I’d refuse to read.
No, I tell a lie! I’m never ever going to read the Game of Thrones books, because I know all the awful things that happen to the characters now, and I don’t think I could bear to live through that again!
What’s your favorite book?
Ooh, I can’t pick just one! I love the Harry Potter books, but the book that changed reading for me was Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman. It’s a love story between two characters – Sephy and Callum – but they live in a very rigid society where black people (Crosses) old all the power and white people (Noughts) are repressed. As you can probably guess, Callum and Sephy are from opposite groups.
If I’m talking about adult fiction, I love the Outlander series, but The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley is probably my favourite. Time travel and a swoon-worthy Cornish smuggler!
He who hesitates is lost.
Though, if you want a book quote? It’s from Dr Seuss, The Places You’ll Go:
“Except when you don’t. Because sometimes you won’t.”
It’s about dealing with disappointment and adversity, and understanding that things don’t always go your way.
EBooks or paper print?
I always said I’d never go ebook… then I got a Kindle & now I find it really hard to read a paperback book. I love that I can have a library at my fingertips wherever I am, and that I never lose my place!
What inspires you?
Places. Whenever I go to places that move me, I try to find a story to set in that world. They make me feel small or scared or amazed or overwhelmed. That feeling is something I try to hold onto to inject into the story.
Imagine you were given the opportunity to meet a book character in real life. Who would that be?
James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser
Because I want to marry him…
(I mean, I’m already married, but I’m sure I could get around that somehow)
What’s your worst nightmare?
I have a recurring nightmare that all my teeth fall out. People tell me that means I’m afraid of losing something, but my teeth are really weak and prone to breaking, so I think I’m just scared of loosing my teeth!!!
I’m also really (really) scared of being stuck underwater. I’m a very good swimmer, so I don’t think I’d drown, but being trapped underwater freaks me out. When you see divers going under the ice and they might potentially lose the hole they dropped in from on nature shows? I’m hyperventilating. You will never get me on a submarine.
The best decision of your life was?
Writing the first word on a blank page.
I can’t wait to read your next book. Are you currently working on a project? Is there any release date to reveal?
I’m always working on about six things at once! I just had a novel come out in the US called The Last Witness which was previously released in the UK under the title Black Cairn Point. It’s a paranormal thriller where a group of friends disturb a creature hiding in a cairn on an isolated beach. A new project I’m working on is called The Drowning Pool and is about a fortune teller who’s trying to escape his own fate. It’s due for release in Chinese, I think this summer, but I don’t have any news on other languages just yet.