Exclusive Interview with
When did you start writing?
I started writing poetry back in my teenage years, but began writing serious prose 3 years ago. I wrote a short story based on an idea I had about time, and went from there.
What makes writing your passion?
I love writing characters and exploring ideas. Using the characters to explore the ideas is essentially what writing is; I also love writing comedy, and have discovered that my focus is more on that than the serious storytelling.
How long have you been writing?
Most of my life. I am a very active singer-songwriter leading a multi-award winning band, and have been the principal lyric writer in that band for 14 years. My poetry and songwriting date back to a decade or so before that.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
It was an amazing feeling. It was self-published, so I haven't had the huge thumbs up that would come from conventional publishing, but it is a wonderful feeling knowing people can access and read my books.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
For my latest book, "The Brown Yelp Gang" my characters are mostly parodies of musicians, music promoters, music opportunists or fans that I have met over the years. It's a science fiction book, so that allows me to be creative with the comparison, but ultimately the humour comes from the way I've referenced what is visible now on the music scene, and song titles etc, but in an intergalactic, multi-species setting.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
Annoys is a difficult term, but I guess I get frustrated about competing to get your book looked at; the same goes for the music scene. Now it is so easy to create something, the competition is much tougher.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
With writer's block, I tend to let it stew, and let the ideas come gradually. My years of songwriting have helped me remain rational and calm in those situations. I had one idea for a novel, or three part story, that hasn't gone anyway and is still gathering form in my head, but I am ok with that.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
As a new author myself, I am motivated by how much I enjoy writing. If you're not enjoying it, then you need to change how you do it; reduce the pressure you're putting on yourself. Always see every chapter that you've written as a huge achievement. Before you know it, you've completed the story and it's ready to be read by someone else.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Start writing earlier! - I started in my 40s, so I could have had other ideas that never came to be, because my radar wasn't up for prose writing.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Being extremely unknown has given me the luxury of not having to deal with that. If my books become more read and more reviewed, it's a problem I look forward to having!
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
It's a relief and a huge motivational sense that you know what you're doing.
I was spurred on to what my novel after getting great responses from my first book. Equally my latest book came about because of the emotional response people had for the novel I wrote as my second book.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
Being a music based parody, "The Brown Yelp Gang" is full of exaggerated examples of things I have experienced or seen in the 30 years of writing and performing on stage. Sound checks, songwriting, support acts, promotion, merchandise - lots of examples of my own experiences parodied in the book.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
There is a lead singer in the book, but I don't focus mainly on him; it's spread across most of the band, with the manager and lead guitarist having as much space in the book as the singer. Some of his perspective comes from mine, occasionally.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
The book cover was an important thing for me because it's such an outlandish set up in the narrative. It was good for me to give the readers, I think, a clear idea of what the band looked like. I commissioned an amazing cover from the brilliant cartoonist, Hunt Emerson. I have worked with him many times before and his work is incredible. I knew he would bring the characters to life on the cover.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I would love to. I imagine with this book, there'll be stories and experiences that they could share that would be comparable to those in the book.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
I love it. As a frontman in a band, it has meant a lot when someone has said the band or my songs meant a lot to them, so when someone said that about my books, it's an awesome feeling.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
That's a difficult question, so i'll give a few answers. When I was younger I was a huge fan of Robert Sheckley and Richard Matheson.
Recently I have been reading a lot of Claire North, Becky Chambers and Ursula K Le Guin.
There aren't enough comedic science fiction out there though; so I wish there were more authors to pick that write in that style.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I would love to have one of my books referenced as something to be recommended or something that influenced someone else. For me, it's not about being as big as one of the top authors, but if my books made a difference to someone, and in my case made them laugh so much they talked about it and spread the word, that would be great.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
I couldn't; I have an impatient temperament that means I have to force myself to proof read the books, let alone do them again.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
Neil Gaiman. He is great at reading his own work and has made a name for himself as a great storyteller.
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
I think it's one of the saddest things about modern times. Our lives are so public and ridicule and scorn is so easily targeted at people that are simply trying to be creative.
What would you say to your readers?
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for considering my books. I hope I have made you laugh or think in my books. I'd love feedback on what you think worked and what you'd like to see in future books that I write.
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I live in Portsmouth, UK, with my wife, 2 dogs and our cat. My two children have moved out now but live near us.
What is your day job if you have one?
I am a Music teacher and musician.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
My time is taken up with my music, or my teaching or my writing.
Did you have a happy childhood?
It was a complicated childhood.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
The first story I wrote in my new phase of writing "seriously" was about time manipulation and time has been an issue for me since I can remember. We never have enough time, and however we organise our lives, it's never enough.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
No, I had written half a book which was a comedy fantasy parody of the standard sword and sorcery quest story, but it was never finished.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
We lack a sense of the big picture, of collective empathy and a sense of history at play in our present lives.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
To fly, to read minds and to be able to breath under water.
What is your favorite music?
So much...being a musician and a music teacher...songwriters like Crosby Stills and Nash, Bruce Cockburn, Kate Bush, Randy Newman, Ben Harper, Rory McLeod, Loudon Wainwright 3, Ani Difranco and John Mellencamp. Bands like XTC, Oingo Boingo, They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies.
Share a secret with us 🙂
I had a recurring nightmare when I was younger that will one day appear in a story of mine; once I formalise how to do it.