Interview with Don Lubov

An Interview with Don Lubov, author of The Plague

Don has been happily married since 1976. He was an artist for 34 years and exhibited his artwork at 3 New York City Art Galleries and the Heckscher Art Museum. He also spent 8 years teaching Art & Design and in 1985 he received a grant from The Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation for his work combining art & mathematics, with his “Quantum Pictures”. As an accomplished writer, he is the author of 9 books spanning the scope of spirituality and stress relief to science fiction!

You’ve written such a lovely range of books on a variety of topics. Do you have a favourite? Can you tell me a bit about the process of writing it?

I have 6 books currently in print and Kindle…5 of them published in June of 2018, so I suppose I can pick any for this interview. I believe you have an interest in science fiction, so let’s go with my sci-fi story: “The Plague”.

So far, I am writing about a book a year. I can write, with a pencil, almost anywhere quiet. My favorite place is in my den, late at night, with no distractions.

Years ago I wrote a 2-page, 500-word, flash fiction, sci-fi story. It sat in my drawer a long time. I decided to make it into a book. It became my first novel. Until this, I had only written non-fiction. I soon realized I was in over my head.

I bought 9 books on novel writing and 2 workbooks and spent 18 months studying these. I  belong to a writing group, and they helped by making suggestions to my sfds (shitty first drafts). Between my writing group, the writers Bloc Club, and my wife and friends, I have some very helpful beta readers.

I didn’t want to write the somewhat standard cowboys and Indians in the far-flung future shooting ray guns at each other. I wanted something more cerebral, like “Fahrenheit 451” or “1984”. I wrote about a plague of anger that swept our entire planet.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? What are you always on the lookout to read?

As to the smell of books, you’ve got that one absolutely right. I like all bookstores, but my preferred one is our local Barnes & Noble.

My tastes have definitely changed over time. Although I read hundreds of sci-fi books (Bradbury, Heinlein, Assimov, etc.) and books on architecture as a teenager, since 1971 I have read over 100 books on spirituality.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

Other than emails, the only social media I do is Quora. I do have a website: http://donlubov.com, and I have been teaching classes in spirituality for the past 11 years. My current book on spirituality (and creativity) is: “An End to Stress” – A Guru’s Guide to Inner Peace.

If you are interested in reading more about Don’s work, either visit his website, or download this Brochure about his current books.

Interview with Catherine Evans

An Interview with Catherine Evans, author of The Wrong’un

Catherine Evans’s novel, The Wrong’un, was released by Unbound in May 2018. She’s the founder of www.pennyshorts.com, a website which offers short stories of all genres to readers around the world. She’s a trustee of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival and sponsor of the ChipLitFest Short Story Competition. She lives with her husband in Oxfordshire and has a daughter and three stepdaughters.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I abandoned my first novel for good. It was a thinly disguised memoir of a very turbulent time in my life. It’s intensely intimate, like reading my own secret diary.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Observation. The older you get the happier you are to just sit and watch.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

If I was a hermit I’m sure I could pump out a novel a year. My head is always way ahead of my hands; I have the next few books juggling around in my head.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I can write anywhere, usually directly onto my laptop, often with pencil and paper. The kitchen table is my favourite place because it’s warm and close to the kettle and I really don’t mind interruptions. I love working late into the night when everyone else is asleep; often I realise with a start that it’s 3am, my hands and feet are iceblocks and I have to get up in a couple of short hours for the school run, but I go to bed happy as I’ve done 3,000 words. Those are good nights.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I have an old schoolfriend who is a natural bookworm, and several other friends from the writer’s groups that I’ve been part of for the past 15 years who are always happy to read whatever I give them, so I’ve never used a beta-reader. My publisher, Unbound, assigned me my editor after I specifically requested her, as she had done such a wonderful job editing ‘A Thing Of The Moment’, by Bruno Noble, a friend with the same publisher. I was lucky she was available; she was forensic in her thoroughness and she really cared about the manuscript, the story, the voice and the characters. I accepted 99% of her suggestions, and I feel that the resulting book is ours, not just mine.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I love the look, feel and smell of a real book, the covers, the blurbs and I like to know exactly how far along I am and to be able to flip back and forth between the pages. E-books are very useful for travelling, and I often download the sample chapters, but there’s very little I love more than browsing for books, whether it’s in bookshops, in charity shops or at car boot sales, and whenever I go to someone’s house, I can’t stop myself from looking at the books on show. E-books will never replace real books.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I’m happy to read any genre as long as I care about the characters. I love books that confound genre, for example David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’. I don’t much care for romance (reading about it, that is), but I loved David Nicholl’s very unconventional love story ‘One Day’. My tastes have definitely changed over time. I’ve become a much more critical reader, and I seldom finish a book without thinking about what the writer could have done to make it stronger.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I perform all the usual tasks that fall under the role of mother; feeding, instructing, lecturing, nagging, hectoring, threatening, bribing and chauffeuring. I’m a trustee of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, now in its seventh year. We’re always scheming and dreaming up new ways to raise cash, including running writer’s workshops and Open Mic events. Every year in the run-up I wonder why I do it, then I always enjoy the Festival weekend so much and the feedback we receive always fills me with renewed passion for the following year. I’m the Editor of www.pennyshorts.com, a website which publishes short stories of all genres from writers around the world online, making them available for free download. It now features around 200 stories from new and established writers and is steadily growing.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

Much to my disgust too. Social media provides an anonymous forum for the most appalling rudeness and sheer vitriol, which then spills over into all other spheres of life. I seldom read a thread that doesn’t disintegrate into childish name-calling, and the inane virtue-signalling, loud calls for apologies and screams that this or that is ‘offensive’ can get incredibly boring.

Saying all that, when I add new stories to pennyshorts I tweet about them with a suitable picture and also post about them on Facebook with some info about the author. I’ve been told to open an Instagram account and to start an Author’s page on Facebook, but there never seems to be enough minutes in the day. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it, it just means it’s not high up on my list. It all seems to be a giant echo chamber. I’ve had a twitter account for three years, and have never read a book promoted by a tweet. Sometimes I get unsolicited direct messages from Indie authors, one of which was ‘I’d drink battery acid to get you to download a sample chapter of my book.’ Really? Please don’t, and no thanks.

As you don’t maximise social media, what do you do instead?

I think old-fashioned word of mouth is the most powerful way to promote books. Books demand something of their readers, and if you inhabit the world of a novel for a few hours of your life and love it, you will want others to share that experience. When a friend whose judgement I trust tells me that they loved a particular book, I pay attention, and will read it. I love reading book reviews in newspapers and magazines and online too. I get a lot of ideas from the Sunday Times ‘Culture’ mag.

Now that your first book is out, what’s next?

I’m actively working on two books simultaneously: a novel which examines the pernicious effects of early sexualisation on young girls and a non-fiction book about the philosophical teachings of Martial Arts, and how it can be of benefit in all spheres of life. Once I’m done with those, I’d like to write my mother’s life story. She grew up on a farm in rural Transvaal in the 40s and 50s and studied at the University of Cape Town in the 60s, where she met my father. She’s not a writer, but she’s a born storyteller, and has a unique perspective of South African history and apartheid and many tales to tell about farm life, relationships, neighbours, family and community dynamics. Lastly, I’d like to turn a three act play I wrote several years ago into a novel. So that’s four books in total that have yet to see the light of day – should keep me busy for the next few years.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next? 

Not at all. It’s like free therapy, innit?

An Interview with Jimmy Brandmeier

An Interview with Jimmy Brandmeier, author of Be Who You Are, A Song For My Children

Jimmy Brandmeier is “the Dad” in a beautiful, wacky family of three daughters—Jamie (age 24), Jessie (age 23), and Josie (age 19)—Paula his wife of twenty-five years (ageless), two doves, a couple of goldfish, and a cat named Squeakers. Though their loving yellow lab, Satchmo, went to doggy heaven, his doggy hair will always be with them.

The couple moved their family from California to Wisconsin to raise their kids closer to family. They managed to be hands-on parents through the demands of two busy careers—Jimmy, a music industry veteran flying back and forth to California, and Paula, an airline pilot flying back and forth to Europe. Flexibility and priorities kept them from missing a beat in their children’s lives.

Apart from family, Brandmeier is a Telly Award winning composer/producer and a Summit award marketer. He’s worked directly with celebrity artists raging from Eric Clapton, Carole King, Avril Lavigne and Joss Stone, to Wynona Judd, Jason Mraz and Dave Mathews among others; written jingles for brands from Mazda to Mattel.

Brandmeier is a seasoned jazz flutist who has played everywhere from town halls to Carnegie Hall and a teacher, passionate about inspiring students to create a life of abundance and fulfillment. He has a deep-seated dedication to help people transcend inner and outer obstacles and understand the point of life, so they may live fulfilled and happy lives—which at its core, is the essence of his book Be Who You Are, A Song for My Children.

Why did you write Be Who You Are, A Song For My Children?

I didn’t intend to write a book. The book started out as a song, which took on a life of its own. Each line grew into a separate topic. The lyric spun like a thread that wove into the prose that unfolded into Be Who You Are: A Song for My Children. I was grabbed by the gut, by what turned out to be the tip of a message, which expanded as I wrote.

I wanted my three daughters to hold on to their authenticity—to the unrepeatable sparkle in their eyes—no matter what. I thought the right words could protect them; shelter them from the inner and outer storms of life. I didn’t want life suck the life out of them. And I wanted to leave them something they could lean on, long after I’m gone.

But it wasn’t until reaching the end the book that I fully understood what the book was about—what it really means to, Be Who You Are. That unexpected message has unfolded into an unexpected life mission, one that I believe will help people be happy no matter what happens and live their best lives.

So, you never expected your song to grow into a 368-page book?

Writing the book was a surprise. But the process of writing the book took me on an “unexpected” spiritual journey. Turns out the message I was grabbed by the gut to instill in my three daughters was the one I most needed to hear. Be Who You Are. And again, there are layers to being who you are, most people don’t think or care about.

So, what’s the overall message of Be Who You Are, A Song For My Children

The big picture message has three parts.

1-The Framework of Life: There are two roads, which layer and lead towards or away from who you are.

The inner road and sole purpose of life: Transcend the ego. Rise above fear (ego) into the essence of who you are. (Love!)

The outer road and secondary purpose of life: Make the most of yourself, your talents, your livelihood, and your life in this world. (Live!)

All you can imagine, do, be, achieve or experience is found on these two roads. The quality of your life depends on the relationship between them.

2-The Big Mistake:
Believing the outer road is the only road that matters.
Believing the outer road leads to happiness.
Everybody is scrounging for happiness in all the wrong places. Happiness is not an external event. Your inside life “is” life.

3-The Point:
The real journey in life is the voyage from fear to love.
Casting off from the ego and returning to who you are—born again into the love of your infinite essence—is the point and purpose of life.

Does being who you are mean, doing what you love?

Doing what you love is a beautiful part of life’s big picture, and part of the overarching message of this book. Doing what you love can also be part of the curriculum in the course of authenticity. It can fade the façade of appearance, into an opening for your essence to shine through like the sun.

Lose your self (ego) in what you love, and you’ll find your Self (Essence) through what you love.

But doing what you love is only a portal to the point, which is perfect happiness—being who you are, inside and out. And finding happiness on the outer road only, no matter how much you love it, is an impossibility. As comedian Jim Carrey says . . . “I wish people could realize all their dreams of wealth and fame, so they could see it’s not where you’ll find your sense of completion.”

What is the meaning of your cover illustration—two separate puzzle pieces, that when aligned, transform into birds soaring free?

The two puzzle pieces represent the inner and outer roads moving into alignment. When the amazing outer road of our talents, dreams, passions, career, finances, relationships, achievements, accolades, adventures, and motivations merge with the spiritual purpose of the inner road—the ultimate and only point of life. When heart and heaven beat as one, as the song lyric says—you’ll be happy, no matter what happens. You’ll be fearless. You’ll be free. You’ll have reached, The Point.

What would you say is the best way to improve your writing—to master your craft?

I probably come from a different writing background than most of the authors reading this. I’m a musician. My first non-fiction book started out as a song.

As a composer, I’ve been immersed in writing songs, jingles, scores, music beds and anything else the client of the moment asked for. What comes first—words or music? Answer—the phone call. But certain truths for mastering the mechanics of writing—in order to free the soul of writing—are universal. The most powerful and least glamourous tool of all . . . butt in chair.

Habit is a hammer that builds virtuosity. Consistency activates a creative force in the
universe sending us insights impossible to come up with sporadically, on our own. As Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way, says, “were not thinking something up, were taking something down.” As I point out in my book, “world class dreams, require world class routines. Your goals and dreams must match your habits and routines.” What’s the difference between an artist and an amateur? According to Malcom Gladwell author of Outliers, about 8000 hours. Amateurs put in 2000 hours, by age 20, artists who’ve mastered their craft, put in 10,000. Talent is not enough.

I’ve noticed that many aspiring music students do not listen to music. I’ve met aspiring authors who do not read. If you want to be a better writer, be a better reader . . .

Read! Read! Read!

Creativity—at least the non-contrived, unexpected, happy accidents kind of creativity—originates almost entirely in the sub-conscious. You can program the sub-conscious with cable news and video games, or inspiring books, that shake the soul and expand your consciousness. Either way it’s going to come out in your writing.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I write most often in a quiet place, in my home. The challenge is . . . it’s not always quiet. In a crazy household filled with three wonderful daughters, (for whom I wrote the book), a fantastic wife, dogs, cats and pet rats, its necessary to escape to a coffee shop to get in the zone.

But for me it’s more about “time” than “place.” I’m most creative and tapped in to the muse, early in the morning. I set up my “writing chair” the night before—wake up at 3AM, meditate, pray, visualize and sip that first magical cup of coffee. After saying hello to my writing partner—a great big Evergreen tree outside my window—I get to work. (I know. Weird! Kind of like Tom Hanks talking to his soccer ball in the movie The Cast Away), But hey, me and the tree have been through a lot of writing together. 

It is easier to slip behind the veil of ego, and the white noise of world early in the morning. The wee small hours of the morning opens the channel, for insights to flow through me, (not from me) with ease. I call it a dialog with divinity. Call it the force, the source, the muse, the universe; It doesn’t matter—it’s all the same reservoir of creation to me.

On average, I write for 90 minutes and take a break, then write another 60 to 90 minutes. I walk away after that, and deliberately quit thinking about writing. It’s part of the creative process, as described by Graham Wallace in the book, The Art of Thought. Know it or not, whether you’re writing a book or baking cupcakes, the same 4 stages are happening.

1- Preparation. Questions, what does the story want, what do I want to say etc.
2- Incubation: Quit writing let the mind/universe process questions and problems.
3- Illumination: Aha! The answer/idea/insight comes when you least expect it.
4- Verification: Plug the answer and verify how it works. Adjust accordingly.

When I’m done with my morning, preparation stage, I work out, wake the kids, do errands in order to let the writing, incubate. Because the initial creative heavy lifting is over in the morning, total quiet isn’t necessary. I can write at a coffee shop for the next session. When I come back for round two, everything flows much easier.

And one more writing, so called, place: I love to walk my writing. Walking frees the mind. I’ll go on long 2-3-hour walks and record insights, ideas and paragraphs on my iPhone. I’ve written full songs without touching an instrument. When I get back to my desk and enter the verification stage, the ideas I’ve walked out of me generally stand up. Per the last part of this question. I write on a Mac Book Pro and always keep my iPhone handy.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor?

My wife belongs to a local book club that meets once a month. They were nice enough to beta-read my book. We had a party at our house for the book club. It not only helped the writing process, it was a lot of fun.

Interview with Patrick Canning

An interview with Patrick Canning, author of The Colonel and the Bee

Patrick Canning was born in Wisconsin, grew up in Illinois, and now lives in California with his dog, Hank. He is primarily focused on turning coffee into words, words into money, money back into coffee.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

The only other novel I have is called Cryptofauna so I’d that takes the prize. It’s a dark comedy set in the 1980’s, so drastically different than the whimsical Victorian Age world of The Colonel and the Bee. The genres are so different, I can’t imagine there will be too many reads of both (other than my Mom of course).

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Cryptofauna (mentioned above) was my first foray into novel writing. It was pretty ugly at first but the revision/publication process was so long that it was able to morph into something I’m proud of today. But even if a writer has to relegate that first book to the drawer/hard drive, the good news is you can always take another crack at it later, or, more likely, just harvest the best stuff out of it for your other works. Some projects do die and go nowhere, but, manuscripts keep on giving, even in the afterlife (in addition to all you learned by writing it).

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I’m trying to close the gap between the best ideation of a story and how it eventually ends up on paper. It’s very frustrating when something is amazing in your head, but you can’t communicate it well enough to match the initial vision. I think craft helps minimize that particular disparity, and while certain pockets of creativity are maddeningly impervious to time invested, craft is something that can be learned and improved with effort.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

I definitely let ideas percolate for a few years but there are always a few percolating at once, so hopefully my output ends up being closer to one of those novel a year people. I think the time required for each project is dropping as I become more comfortable with writing, but I think you can only push the delivery schedule so much before quality suffers. Time away from a project, after a first draft for instance, is massively valuable to retain some objectivity, so streamlining is only useful to a point.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I rotate through a cycle of maybe 10 coffee shops. I always work in Word. I’ve messed with Scrivener for more complex stories with lots of characters and world building, but I think simplicity is best, so usually it’s just Word. I’ve heard great things about pen and paper, especially for first drafts, but haven’t tried it yet. I’ve been typing so long now my handwriting is basically doctor-prescription-pad bad but some people swear by the analog method. In any case, it seems like most of the pros can write whenever, wherever, however, so I try to keep the qualifications at a minimum. Semantic procrastination costumes pretty easily as “essential” routine.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

Right now my beta-readers are family and friends. The trick is to be polite and grateful (they’re eating undercooked dough after all). I make sure the document is readable (a simple spell check should be the minimum decorum) and I always try to keep in mind this is a great deal of time for someone to spend on a project that isn’t at its best. I sought out my first editor freelance and had one assigned by my indie-press for the second book. There are many fantastic editors out there, it’s mostly just finding someone that understands your style of writing/the style of that particular book. Then trust that they’re usually right and be professional.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I’m with you on the great smell of books (especially books from like the 70’s and 80’s, they all have a decade-specific musk). Aside from that, I don’t care too much about format. I love paper books, but I have a e-reader that always surprises me with its readability whenever I come back to it. They’re great for vacations when lugging an omnibus in your carry-on is spinally inadvisable. I’m fully on board with audiobooks too. I live in LA, meaning lots of time in traffic. Audiobooks make it bearable.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I actually wouldn’t say I have a favorite genre. If something sounds interesting or comes highly recommended, I’ll pretty much check it out no matter what. I love going into books (and movies) knowing as little as possible. So as soon as the minimum level of interest is reached, I jump in, because additional information might serve only to spoil plot or unfairly raise expectations.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

The only social media I have for my books is Instagram. It’s still mostly a personal account (meaning an abundance of pictures of my dog) but hopefully I’ll have more and more book-related content. I like the idea of theoretically connecting directly with (theoretical) fans someday, but it’s not a huge factor in my career these days. Promotion of my work so far has come through book review bloggers! Those mysteriously benevolent people willing to read unknown authors. Twitter is probably the most popular for authors, but it seems like one of the more toxic social media ecosystems to me (and that’s saying something), so I’ve avoided it thus far.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

I’m always mortified when I tell someone a story and they say “You already told me this.” If you do 20 interviews about 1 book, you’re inevitably going to cover a lot of the same ground, but I always try to at the very least phrase it differently. I may eventually be forced into pig Latin, but I say death before repetition. Death before repetition.

Interview with James Tingle

An Interview with James Tingle, author of Mervano

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

Well, I enjoyed writing one called Symmachia that is quite long and unusual and has an odd structure which was challenging to complete but still somehow fun to do. I also enjoyed writing this one, Mervano, as it was light hearted and not too serious and so it was fairly pleasurable to write.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

My first one was Head of an Apostle which I did a few years ago. It is out there to read now but I may change it a little at some stage to make it easier to read as it has long paragraphs which some people seem to dislike- have to see!

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I think my writing has gotten a little bit more natural maybe and i think I can now write quite a variety of different things and so I’m not restricted to one genre or one specific voice which is good as that would get tedious both for me and readers.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

I seem to write quite a few but the one mentioned at the start of the interview did take a while, maybe a year and so different books take different amounts of time. I wouldn’t want to take years over a book as it would become too much of a burden and would become a real pain to have to finish.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I always write in my bedroom, on a comfortable armchair as it is a bit quieter than being downstairs with people wandering about and making a load of racket! I do it all on my laptop as that seems the quickest way but have taken notes in notebooks before in the past before writing it onto a computer, but only occasionally.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

Sometimes I get a family member to read a novel I’ve done just to see what they think and other times not…I don’t use an editor and instead do it all myself. Some people will use editors but I like the end product to be exactly as I want it…each to their own!

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I used to live in Manchester and had a few good bookshops there but never get the chance to go nowadays. There was a few good places locally but one closed down a while back and so I’m just trying to read the books I have at home now and save money- I bought a lot of books online years ago and still have many left to read!

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

My favourite genre is perhaps modern classics as I like books by Kerouac, Salinger, Fante, Hemingway and Isherwood and the likes but I did read fantasy a while ago and do still like some of that kind of thing now as well as odd, hard to categorize novels by Mark Leyner and people like that who push boundaries in fiction…anything a bit novel!

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I don’t do that much social media really but do post about my books in the Facebook groups every day, trying to post different books on different days so as not to annoy people too much! I message the odd person on Goodreads about new releases to see if they want a free book sending and sometimes do an interview like this which is promotion if not strictly social media.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

I try to write different things all the time and don’t do many interviews but a little bit of repetition is hard to avoid. As long as there is always a good chunk of fresh detail, then that’s fine and is as well as you can do I suppose!

Interview with Mike Russell

An Interview with Mike Russell, author of 3 short story collections and 1 novella (and a novel – shhhh)

Mike Russell was born in 1973. He grew up in the small village of Pulborough in the south of England. As a child, he enjoyed daydreaming, art and writing strange stories. As an adult, he enjoys daydreaming, art and writing strange stories.
Mike has a master’s degree in fine art and is a qualified art tutor.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

I don’t have a favourite. It wouldn’t be fair to the others. I like them all for different reasons. My latest book ‘Strange Secrets’ contains some very mysterious and magical imagery. Those are the aspects of my stories that I like the best. They are the active ingredients.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I attempted to write my first novel when I was 12 years old. It was called ‘Imagine Infinity.’ I wouldn’t try to resurrect it but its essence is probably in all of my stories. I seemed to know what I wanted to do back then. I just didn’t have the means to do it.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Thankfully I only started publishing my books after I improved my ability to step out of myself and read my own stories from a different perspective. This came from performing my stories for many years in clubs and bars and theatres and art galleries. You learn quickly in front of an audience. The stories in my first book ‘Nothing Is Strange’ were all performed live many times and honed over a long period of time. Performing my stories helped me to develop a way of writing that is very clear and vivid, creating a vision in the reader’s mind. Once that is established it is possible to take the reader to unusual places.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Ideas do need time to connect with other ideas and to reveal themselves completely. I work on many projects at once, all at different stages of development. Otherwise I would need ten lives to get anything written. I plan to only be a writer in this life.
My published books are three short story collections and a novella:

I also have a novel completed. It should be published later this year with a bit of luck. That’s a scoop.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I used to need to be in a hermetically sealed space to write. Doors and windows closed, no interruptions. Now I can write pretty much anywhere. That change came I think from myself becoming more mentally flexible, a result of meditation and greater peace of mind. I write initial inspirations on post-it notes. I have pads and pens in every room and every pocket. Last week I awoke in the night with some ideas and couldn’t find the pad that is usually by my bedside so I wrote on my arms and legs. There is always a way.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

Jay the StrangeBooks secretary helps with every book in the final stages. I call her the StrangeBooks receiver and transmitter maintainer. If you imagine a machine that magically receives stories from the ether, then transmits them to people all around the world, Jay ensures that machine keeps working. I also have a friend, John Zonn, who has read each of my books before publication. His input has also been invaluable. No one person really creates a book. I didn’t invent the English language or paper, nor did I physically make any of my books. So an author is really just one part of a book’s creation.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I love the smell of books too but I’d rather read a scentless good book than a beautifully smelling bad book. In fact I’d rather read a badly smelling good book than a beautifully smelling good book. I buy a lot of second hand books and enjoy searching second hand bookshops. I can imagine what my favourite bookshop would be like but I haven’t found it yet.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I would be happy if genres didn’t exist really. For something to be generic means it is in some way conforming to a stereotype. I like books that cross genre boundaries the best. My books tend to be squeezed into the fantasy genre, which is fine. They can sit comfortably on that shelf but when no one is looking they float up into the air and fly around.

As a child I read a lot of science fiction. I loved HG Wells. Later I moved on to Philip K Dick, who is science fiction on the surface but something else beneath. I like Angela Carter who is termed fantasy, though her twisted fairy tales are almost like anthropology, investigating our society’s myths. I love Kafka, who could be put in any genre: fantasy, horror, comedy, detective… My tastes have broadened over the years but the essence of what interests me in literature is still the same as when I was 5 years old. I search for wonder.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I joined facebook and twitter and the rest to promote my books. I wasn’t interested in it before then. If you keep your wits about you and remember why you are using it, social media can be a wonderful tool. It is an extraordinary thing to be able to communicate with people all over the world. We shouldn’t take that for granted. Not so long ago it would have seemed unbelievable. I have met some great friends through social media and many more people have discovered my books. Both myself and Jay manage our online presence every day. It’s fun. We host free to enter competitions on our Facebook page. Come and see what we’re up to.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

No, Rose! I would never do that.

Interview with H.W. Vivian

An Interview with H.W. Vivian, author of In Hiding

H. W. Vivian is the YA/Sci-Fi/Fantasy author of In Hiding and the War of Rain Trilogy. Her debut novel is entitled Chasers. She also writes general fiction under her pseudonym, Alex Chu. Novels written under this pseudonym include the IndieReader 2015 winner for Best Humor Novel, Days of Amber, and the Suspense/Thriller, Monarchs.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

I would say that every newest novel is my favorite because it describes my latest personal and spiritual growth. So since In Hiding is my latest release, it’s my favorite right now. In another year or so, my favorite will most likely be different!

What is In Hiding about?

My latest novel is about a young girl who believes she was abandoned at a young age. She was brought up inside a nuclear power plant after being found by her “guardian”, who is less like a care-giving adoptive parent, and more like a boss. This “guardian” makes her work to power the nuclear reactors in the plant. When she gets older, she starts seeingflashbacks of her life before she came to the plant, and eventually realizes that what she’s doing is not what she was meant to do. I like to add a philosophical element to my novels, so in essence In Hiding is about the dissidence between what others in society (specifically those in power) tell us we are here to do with our lives, verses what we believe we are here to do. I think this ideal is very prevalent in our modern commercial global society.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I would say my first rough draft was the one that I published as my first novel, so it’s quite revised and refined. I do have several short stories from my earlier years that are still in the hard drive because I never delete story ideas. So you never know – one of those could be the next novel I publish!

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Honestly I think my writing has remained the same throughout my career. I always aim to write as descriptively as possible, so I suppose that lately my descriptions have been more specific, and I’ve been diving much deeper into character development.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

I’m definitely inspired! I can usually finish a novel within 6-8 months. I’m always writing something!

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I only write in my home, because, living in New York City, I get easily distracted by the bustling sights and sounds (not to mention the instability of writing in my place of work or in a public area). I think there’s a special connection between writers and their thoughts when using the pen and paper, so my first draft is always on paper. I then transcribe the words onto a typical Word document, and edit/proofread on that.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I used to have a beta-reader who has since fallen out of touch… but the very nice advice she’s always given me was that, no matter how weird or awkward anyone thinks of my stories, it is one that I must still share because it is a testament to my existence during the however many decades I’m allowed to live on this earth!

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

Yes, bookshops (and cafes) are always interesting and alluring to me. I could get lost in a bookshop/cafe for hours! E-reading is a good way to organize one’s home and save space, but physical books (and writing pads) are always my preference.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I like every genre except romance. I don’t know… I’ve just never quite been drawn to them. But I have been pleasantly surprised by some romance novels that friends recommend me.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

I know what you mean. Social media is such a drag on my time! What I do is I just schedule posts in advance, so I don’t have to remember to post something every day. This method has done me well, and I highly recommend it to everybody! I manage everything myself! I wish I had a social media manager, though. Scheduling posts has changed my life, and kept me on-track with my marketing goals!

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

I don’t recycle my answers because every blogger I’ve met has been creative enough to ask different questions!

Interview with Derek & Dave Philpott

An Interview with the enigmatic Derek & Dave Philpott, authors of Dear Mr Pop Star

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

This isn’t a novel; it’s a second instalment of deliberately deranged and very funny letters to iconic rock and pop stars concerning the lyrics to their most popular songs, with equally witty in-on-the joke replies from the artists themselves. We did self publish the first installment many moons ago, but Dear Mr Pop Star is actually our first proper literary endeavour.

(Editor’s note: I think this still counts as a novel, even if it can’t be classified – or perhaps because it can’t be easily classified)

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Actually, in our case, this really doesn’t apply. We write letters and then send them off to the pop stars concerned never really knowing how long it will take them to respond, if they ever do. We don’t just fire these letters off; we do so with prior consent from the artists after they’ve informed us that they would like to be involved in the project. Then it’s a case of waiting and hoping that they’re kind and inspired enough to respond.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)? 

We get our ideas on the fly – we could be in the car listening to the radio, or listening to the in-store radio station in Superdrug, or watching a repeat of TOTP on the telly and a lyric will strike us as ridiculous, or something we can easily misinterpret. Then it’s a case of jotting the idea down as soon we can before it escapes, so we find ourselves with scribbled notes or something hurriedly typed into a document on the laptop. The seed of the letter is then worked up into a more elaborate correspondence, generally just sat in the living room. It’s not a terribly formal process and honestly, because each letter is standalone and there’s no over arching theme to tie in, we’re able just to do it in a more casual manner.

When you write, do you have any sense of other people reading your words?

I have to fight the realisation of that inevitability or else I wouldn’t write a word!

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel? 

We self-published our first volume of these letters and so we recruited a small but dedicated army of family, friends and fans of our work to do all the proof reading and editing and to make sure it all made some kind of sense! We were very lucky that so many people were kind enough to give us their time. We even did all the distribution ourselves and hand-wrote address labels.  Looking back it was a mammoth undertaking. We’re relieved to say that this time Unbound, our publisher, is taking this work off of our hands.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from? 

There is definitely something quite special about a physical printed book, the weight of it and the feel of it makes it a bit more of ‘a thing’. We’re incredibly excited to get hold of a copy of the hardback edition of Dear Mr Pop Star, because so much work has gone into the cover design and the typesetting and it promises to be a magnificent thing of beauty. That said, having e-books makes life a lot more convenient and perhaps, for some, not having to carry a paper book around, it might encourage them to be more prolific readers and anything that encourages folk to read more and use their imaginations is smashing.As for where we source our material, we don’t! What we’ve put together is entirely unique; no one has ever done this before and so we’ve just had to play it all by ear.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I’ve always been fascinated by mystery and mythology. When I was younger I read a lot of books about the folklore surrounding the Loch Ness ‘Monster’ and similar cryptids, I still have a deep interested in such things,  I am captivated by the rich ancient history of this country, such as Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles. I also love a good music biography, which I guess is no surprise considering the book we’ve just written.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

Oh, Social Media is one of the most important parts of what we do! The wonderful little community of Facebook friends we’ve built up have provided us with invaluable input and insights. Also it’s amazing how many links to pop stars we’ve found just through FB; there’s always a friend of a roadie, a cousin of a drummer, or even a musician themselves who are hiding on there. When we first started writing we made a profile and we were shocked when we reached 100 friends. Then it grew organically via word of mouth as others caught on to what we do. Suddenly we hit a thousand, then two thousand and now we’ve got in excess of 4.5k. friends.  We manage the page ourselves,  because knowing your audience is essential and if they like what you do then they share your work with others. For us authors who rely on crowdfunding to make their work a reality social media is something to embrace.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next? 

It’s incredibly tempting, especially when you are doing a whole slew of interviews, as we’re doing now being so close to publication, but no! Everyone is entitled to equal time and consideration because every interview goes out to a whole new set of people and we believe in staying enthusiastic and energetic about what we do. We really believe that what we have in our book is pure gold and we’re so very keen to spread the word to everyone.

And finally… If one famous person who you admire were to read this book, who would you like it to be?

Keith Richards.. I think that anyone who laughs that much in interviews realises the absurdity and surreality of the industry he is ‘working’ in.

Interview with Philippa Stasiuk

An interview with Philippa Stasiuk, author of The Wonderful Whippet of Winifred Weatherwax

Writer, rover, animal and plant lover, Philippa has lived in Zimbabwe, where she’s from, South Korea, Mexico, New York, and Copenhagen. She grew up with Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Bichon Frises, Dachshunds and mutts. She now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband, two daughters and three cats, who have banded together and forbidden the acquisition of dogs. The Wonderful Whippet of Winifred Weatherwax is her first novel.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external hard drive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Winifred Weatherwax is my first novel, but it has many abandoned drafts, mostly those experimenting with different perspectives. I started my story by telling it from the perspective of the dog –both first and close third-person. Eventually, I realized the dog perspective could (and does) work for novels, but not for a mystery – at least not mine.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

When crafting a story, I refuse to be rushed. This book took me about seven years to write. Maybe with the next one, I can cut that time in half?

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

Right now, I seem to only be able to write on my bed, or at a coffee shop with noise-silencing headphones on. My desk, for some reason, isn’t working. I generally sketch ideas (and plenty of doodles) in a notebook first before braving the blank page of the laptop.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

My story has to do with conformation dog shows. I found some extremely kind dog handlers through the American Whippet Club who gave me feedback on the rules and regulations of the shows. I still missed things though. I’ve already gotten one irate letter from an offended reader stating that even though they could, dachshunds never go first in the group hound judging. My husband has provided invaluable feedback too. He’s an architect now, but he was a lit major and did his thesis on Herman Melville.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I love bookshops, and was lucky enough to hold a book launch party at Francie & Finch, this magical little bookstore in Lincoln, Nebraska. I struggle with e-books as well. I want to fold down corners and underline and stuff old photos and lists between the pages of my books.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I’ve always loved gothic mysteries – good mysteries of any kind really. “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier and “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman were revelations to me. And I love beautiful writing. “Persuasion” by Jane Austen is a favorite, “Day” by A.L. Kennedy and “Holes” by Louis Sachar. I just read “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders, which is like absolutely nothing I’ve ever read.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

My day job is managing social media accounts so I feel pretty comfortable in that universe. I am, however, almost entirely focused on Facebook. I just don’t have time to do more. Twitter has never appealed to me as a medium so I’ve given up. I also created my own website for the book: https://www.winifredweatherwax.com/ because I like the idea of telling my own story.

Why did you choose Young Adult as your genre, and what makes it, as a genre, so special?

For young teens, discovering that they love being transported to another universe through words is so magical – at least it was for me. And I love the pride children take in telling you what their favorite books are. Because they’re realizing that their tastes are forming their own unique identity.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Writing, in any form, will always lead to better writing. I’ve freelanced articles, written for newspapers, and been a copy editor and content writer. In every one of those spaces, there’s an opportunity to learn. Generally, dialogue comes much easier for me than exposition.

Blurb

Sometimes, bad things happen to good dogs. Winifred Weatherwax begins summer with a pedigreed puppy – a Whippet named Shumba with Best in Show written in his stars. But when Shumba starts winning, other hounds start disappearing. As more dogs vanish, Freddy and her new friend Eli team up to investigate a mystery that includes dishonest dog breeding, the colorful world of dog shows, a first crush, a nefarious villain, and chicanery more sinister than common dog theft. On her way, Winifred discovers the magical bond between humans and dogs.

Shipping info: The book ships in the US via Amazon, and anywhere in the world via the website.

Interview with Josie Jaffrey

An Interview with Josie Jaffrey, author of the Solis Invicti series, and promoting here her latest novel The Gilded King!

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

My favourite tends to be my latest work, because I like to think that I’m constantly improving as a writer (my latest book is my sixth). But if I had to pick a favourite out of my published novels, it would probably be the third book in theSolis Invicti series (a four-book paranormal romance series), The Silver Bullet. It has a really annoying cliffhanger of an ending, and it’s the book in which the emotional conflict of the series is finally fully revealed.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I’ve fully abandoned it, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Like many novelists, I started out writing as a teenager, thinking that I would write a serious and melodramatic piece of literary fiction that said very important things about how I saw the world. As I got older, I realised (thankfully) that it’s much easier to communicate meaningfully when you ditch the pretentiousness and concentrate on entertaining the reader, so now I write fantasy with vampires and zombies, although I’m increasingly moving towards historical fiction.

My first abandoned novels were great training, and I don’t regret the time I put into them, but writing is definitely more fun now I’m not trying so hard to be important.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

I’m a mixture of the two. I happily pump out two or three novels a year, but the ideas for those novels have been busy percolating for years while I write other things. I’m plotting twelve books at the moment while working on my latest draft, and I already know what the next seven books I write will be. It’s just a matter of finding the time to get them written!

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I’m definitely a digital girl. I like to write on a laptop, or on my iPad mini with a little keyboard, but I can write anywhere. My preferred place is somewhere quiet, ideally on my sofa with my cats, but I’ve written entire short stories on transatlantic flights before. The key for me is a calm environment in a safe corner so I can forget my surroundings and lose myself in my imagination.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

When I wrote my first novel, my family were among my beta readers, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t a great idea. Family relationships are often a bit fraught, and they’re not the people you want to ask to criticise your work. Parents in particular can rarely read with an unbiased and directed eye – they tend to focus on strange parts of the story because it’s written by their child, and that’s always at the front of their minds.

These days, I have a few book-loving friends who beta read for me, as well as a fellow writer and a bookshop-owning friend, who’s very good at story editing. My husband does a thorough proof read for me as well.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I actually like both physical and electronic books. Day-to-day I prefer paperbacks, particularly because I can support my favourite bookshop by buying them there (Wallingford Bookshop in Oxfordshire – it’s excellent), but also because I like the feel of a book in my hands. I like to be able to feel how far through a book I am, and get an idea of its length just from the spine width and type size. I find that difficult with ebooks, but I do still love my Kindle for holiday reading because it holds so many books. I get most of my ebooks from Netgalley, but I’ll also get them direct from Amazon onto my Kindle if I’m reading an exciting series and can’t wait to pick up a paperback of the next instalment. That’s something I do fairly frequently – I’m a sucker for a cliffhanger ending!

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind?

I tend to read more fantasy and sci-fi than anything else at the moment, and a particular favourite is dystopian fiction, but I read quite widely in fiction and non-fiction.

When I was a kid, I read whatever was on my parents’ bookshelves, so my childhood was filled with Arthur Ransome and PG Wodehouse.

When I was a young teenager, my mum started reading Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, and then the entire family was hooked. I remember the frustration of having to wait for my dad to finish reading before I could have my turn! That series and Tom Holt dominated my young adult years (together with all the latest commercial fiction releases, which my mum always lent to me) before my reading life became inundated by the truckload of Roman and Ancient Greek Literature that I was reading for school and University (I have a degree in Classics from Oxford).

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I got into Terry Pratchett, and he quickly established himself as one of my favourite authors. I also started reading a lot of paranormal romance (Charlaine Harris, Kerrelyn Sparks) and I found my way to the classic sci-fi and horror of Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft, respectively. That took me on to Michael Marshall Smith, another favourite.
So, I’ve got a lot of favourites!

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. How do you cope?

I use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. On the first three, I try to post something every day (and frequently fail), and I post a few videos a month to YouTube. My following isn’t impressive on any of the platforms, because I just don’t devote enough time to it. Honestly, I’d rather be writing!

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

I don’t recycle answers, but if two people ask me the same question then they often get very similar responses! Interviewers are usually good about coming up with original questions, which make participating in interviews much more interesting for everyone. Thankfully, it also means the majority of the answers they receive contain something new from authors.