Where have you spent most of your childhood?
Whilst I was born near London, we lived in the North East of the UK until I was 8, and then we moved to Berkshire.
Do you remember the first story you ever read and the impact it had on you?
I don’t remember the first story, but one of the earliest which sticks out is The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. I read it more than once, and it was great to be transported to another world. It didn’t inspire me to be a writer, per se.
What hobby do you miss most from your childhood? Why?
This is embarrassing to admit, but I was a fervent trainspotter. Whilst it is a very geeky and solitary pastime – although writing is solitary too! – I did travel widely throughout the UK. It was great for developing independence, and I even broke a World Record.
What developed your interest in science fiction?
One of the authors who had the most significant impact on me as a teenager was Isaac Asimov. That, plus a preference for scientific subjects at school, and TV like Star Trek and Blake’s 7, created a melting pot of ideas and influences. My first sci-fi books didn’t get written until I was in my late 20s, though.
Why did you decide to novelise Tow Away Zone if it was originally designed as a Coen Brothers-type offbeat film?
Around the turn of the millennium, I was mainly writing screenplays. One of the outlines/treatments I produced was for Tow Away Zone. As well as the quirky humour, visuals & motifs of the Coens’ canon, I was also influenced by a little known Italian comedy film in which colour and black & white elements are cleverly merged on screen.
After querying a couple of the screenplays, I realised that getting a film script accepted was even less likely than getting an agent or publisher for a novel!
So, by 2004 the treatment lay undeveloped, as I then moved on to writing pantomimes and went to film school (and met my future wife!).
In 2018 I picked up the treatment, looking for a new book to work on. I was apprehensive because the idea was conceived with the visuals at the heart of the work, and I was unsure how that would translate. However, I took a brave pill, and the book turned out better than I could have hoped.
What fears did you have while publishing the space opera “Sacred Ground”?
I wrote Sacred Ground in about 2002 and queried it after that, without success. At the time, it was my best work so far. E-books were in their infancy, and the ease of Amazon self-publishing wasn’t available, so the script sat in a drawer.
When KDP came to my attention in 2012, I thought there was nothing to lose by getting the book out into the world. The worst that could happen was that nobody would buy it or like it. It’s barely sold any copies since – and in hindsight, was in dire need of heavy editing and proofing before publishing. The 2021 edition is much improved – and the writing is unlike anything else I’ve done – so whilst I’m happy with the fundamental story and idea and the lyrical prose, it won’t compete with today’s great sci-fi authors.
What challenges did you face in continuing the story taking the characters into a rom-com caper in "Go Away Zone"?
Tow Away Zone was never conceived to be part of a series, and I battled over whether to taint the first book by trying to write a follow-up.
In the end, I enjoyed writing Tow Away Zone too much not to see what I could do with a sequel. The key challenge was that all the wonder and uniqueness of the small town was primarily conveyed in the first book, and the hero had reached the end of a huge arc. I didn’t know how he could experience such oddball highs again – and I was concerned I couldn’t get into the same writing ‘voice’ again.
Unarguably, Go Away Zone is not the same beast as the first book, but there are still many of the ingredients, and the supporting characters get more weight.
Jai bhole kuldeep kaprwanThe third book, Stow Away Zone, is currently in progress, and I’m more relaxed that it owes more to book 2 than book 1. For the readers, I hope that if they like the characters and setting enough, and if there’s an adventure, that’s pleasing enough.
What was the most unusual fact you discovered about robots while writing your novel, Imperfect Isolation?
Honestly, most of my research was around the other science and technology which underpins the off-Earth elements. The detail of the robots is not critical to the story, but I wanted to keep the futuristic feel (“hard sci-fi”) as believable as possible.
Who inspired the character of Enna Dacourt?
Enna, as a wisecracking, slightly tomboyish person, took influences from characters in films. These were predominantly Dorinda Durston (Holly Hunter) in Always, Carolyn Fry (Radha Mitchell) in Pitch Black – and her ‘look’ shares much with those two performers.
Why is Tow Away Zone your favourite work to date? What makes it so special to you?
I’d always liked the story, but the writing gave me so much pleasure because I enjoy writing comedy. This was a new comedic voice – it wasn’t the absurdity of my early short stories or the wisecracking of Enna Dacourt.
The positive feedback from readers – which shows the book has broad appeal and makes people laugh – validates its originality, quirkiness, and humour.
Which option do you prefer, reading some books or watching movies adapted from them?
I’ve always been more influenced by film & TV than books, but I’ve seen very few book adaptations. Sometimes the influences inform the type of thing I want to write – my early & somewhat naïve sci-fi books were very redolent of Star Trek, but often it is only ideas or moments which get mentally stored away and later riffed on.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your journey of being a sci-fi, speculative fiction, and humorous author since 1992?
That I never know as much as I think I do.
What are common errors made when people write their first book?
I have no idea! I know that my first book just came from an idea I wanted to get out of my head. I didn’t follow any rules on structure, character etc. The grammar is probably sorely lacking too. My error was probably lack of knowledge about how to do things ‘properly’, but then I consider the first 3 books of mine as part of an ‘apprenticeship’ in which I learned what I like to write and that it was something I wanted to do more of.
Are you working on a new book? Is it going to be a series or a standalone?
The current project is “Stow Away Zone” – see Q7. Next will be the 4 th Enna Dacourt book. What I’m most excited about, though, is a post-nuclear drama, which will hopefully be penned in early-mid 2022. It’s very different to anything I’ve done before; a 4-character, single setting book. There are enormous challenges!
When did you first join AllAuthor, and did you join as a free or pro-member first? What are your thoughts on this website?
I joined in 2020 but became pro in 2021. I like that it’s straightforward to use, and certainly, in the last few weeks is generating good interest.