Your debut LLP stories took place during WWI. What about that time period inspires your writing?
I’ve always had an interest in the First World War. As a child I went on a school trip to the Imperial War Museum in London where they had a very realistic mock-up of trenches and a dugout, complete with dry ice, air raid sirens, and the distant crumps of mortars. That made a very strong impression on me, as (about to give my age away here) Blackadder Goes Forth had only finished a few weeks before our trip. You can show the closing clip of that final episode – the field of poppies – to any British person of A Certain Age and you’re almost certain to elicit tears from them. For comedy to do this to an audience at the time was virtually unprecedented. Shows now mingle comedy with heartbreaking drama to great effect: Scrubs, Boston Legal, and Futurama have all brought their audiences to tears, but for me Blackadder Goes Forth was the first.
What inspires me about it is the way we as a nation were utterly unprepared for the technological advances made elsewhere in the world. We sent men on horseback against machine guns, and when that failed we did it again and again. The thought that anyone could drop gas onto our troops to kill them – and in such a miserable fashion – hadn’t even occurred to us. We were so wrapped up in doing war the old way which had served us so well for centuries that the loss of life was absolutely obscene, and yet top brass who had made their careers in the previous century refused to adapt.
We sent some of our greatest artists and poets to the trenches. We lost a generation of trained chefs. The skills we wiped out just to put bodies on the front line cost us fifty years to re-learn, during which time we had another war.
It’s a turning point in the history of the United Kingdom, and it changed everything about us.
You are switching genres for Jack of Thorns! Can you tell us more about it?
Jack of Thorns is a novel I began to write two years ago. I’ve shelved it, reworked it, canned over 60,000 words, started over, and now that it’s finally here I feel like I’ve carved out a chunk of my heart and tossed it out into the wild.
It’s a story about two broken men who don’t have it within themselves to recover from their pasts. Laurence Riley turned to drugs to cope with the bullying he endured throughout school, and Quentin d’Arcy is on the run from his abusive father. To find peace and healing they need to learn to trust one-another with their deepest fears, and Jack of Thorns is the first step in that process.
I like writing human characters, even amid all the psychic powers and wandering deities in the Inheritance series, so Jack of Thorns sees both Laurence and Quentin wrestling with their own demons and flaws, as well as coming to learn of each other’s.
Who has been your favorite hero to write?
Honestly I couldn’t say. I loved writing Siegfried, but at the moment I’m pretty 50/50 split on Laurence and Quentin. I just want to hug them both and tell them it’ll be all right.
What does your writing space look like?
My desk is barely wide enough for my keyboard and mouse, and sitting under my monitor is a ceramic maneki neko from Tokyo. To my left are the ubiquitous IKEA Billy bookshelves with (no exaggeration) approximately 3,000 books. To my right is a small year planner stuck to the wall.
That’s it, alas. This is London, there’s no room for more than that.
What do you enjoy about being part of the LLP family?
I love the support we give one-another and the friendships which have been forged. We cheer each other along, and some of our more experienced authors are always willing to help the newer ones. It really is one big family, and I love it!
How did you start the journey to full-time writing?
I was writing full-time while gainfully employed. All non-fiction: technical manuals, website content, bid tenders and the like. In my free time I began freelancing for some UK newsstand publications, and then I decided to leave the full-time work to allow more time to freelance and to go back to writing fiction – something I did a great deal when I was younger, but hadn’t had the time for lately.
Alas, soon after going fully freelance my mother developed breast cancer and work got put on the back-burner. I’m incredibly fortunate that I’d already quit full-time work, because it gave me the time to be with mum and get her to all her appointments without her having to go through any of it alone, but once things settled there I was able to focus on freelancing at last and as I got back into it a friend suggested that I also look into self-publishing my fiction.
The rest, as they say, is history.
I don’t make any. Why wait until January to make huge life changes? Life is short. Get started right away!
Last question! What have you been reading lately?
Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk, Just One Night by Sebastian Carter, Lines of Sight by Wolf Specter and Clara Coyle, and a pile of research material for Jack of Thorns. I haven’t had a lot of time for recreational reading these past few weeks, alas.