Give me a brief summary of your life till now (education, Army, work, etc.) and how it led you to write.
I won my first award for writing when I was ten years old. Creative writing, as they called it back then, was about the only school subject that held any interest for me. Because I paid limited attention to anything else, I wasn’t qualified to anything much other than join the Army. I found myself to be a surprisingly good fit though, accelerating through the ranks swiftly and gaining an education along the way. Leaving the army at 42 with a first-class degree in Technology, and a master’s degrees in Engineering, Management and Business, I was surprisingly employable, but I had never lost the passion for writing and was working on different ideas through most of my time in uniform. It was not something I considered to be a viable career though, so it remained a hobby even though by then I had found Tempest Michaels and had mostly finished the first book.
What inspired the concept of Blue Moon Investigations taking a 180-degree turn because of the classified ad typo? It’s a distinctly different approach to the paranormal.
Blue Moon and Tempest Michaels came about by a chance observation about how many supernatural TV series there were to pick from. It linked with a separate observation about how many people I met who believed in it at some level. Even my sister was convinced the ghost of our father was blowing fuses in her house. Rather than ridicule them, I asked the question: who would a person call if they genuinely believed they had a ghost?
Is Tempest Michaels a version of you? You have the dachshunds and the Army background, although he doesn’t have any chickens, children, or wife.
Previous attempts to craft a working story failed because I was doing a poor job of inventing characters and making them believable. By basing certain character traits on my own, I found it easier to make Tempest Michaels a character who resonated. I gave him my dogs, a portion of my career, my parents. Then I added more characters who were based on other people I knew or had met. I even went so far as to add anecdotes and incidents from my own life. The tug-of-war with Big Ben in the door of the pub happened in a garrison bar in Germany. The discussion about the African lady in book one was written verbatim from a conversation I participated in.
Is Amanda Harper based on anyone you know, or is she a creation of your imagination? How about Jane Butterworth?
By the time I got to Amanda Harper and Jane, I was letting my imagination run. The bones of the story and its universe were formed, which made it easier for me to add flesh. With Amanda, I needed someone who was tough and willful but also someone that Tempest would be physically drawn to. In Jane, I wanted a character who would add instant comedy.
Have you had any paranormal experiences?
No, because the paranormal does not exist. That’s it. No questions. It’s all nonsense just like Tempest says.
How did Patricia Fisher introduce herself to you? She’s such a terrific character, and it’s been so uplifting to watch her gain self-confidence and form real friendships.
Patricia came about when the reception lady at my office asked how I come up with stories and characters. Poised in the door on my way to the gents, I crafted a central protagonist, invented a catalyst that would drive her to act out of character and then added fuel to the flames so that she would burn and be forced to emerge as a phoenix. The concept for her flight from a boring and unfulfilling marriage was one that stewed in my head for six months, gathering pace and noise until I had to write it.
Will we see Lady Mary Bostilhill-Swan again?
Lady Mary will be back in book 8 or 9. I haven’t decided yet, but she talks to me regularly and may get a more permanent role in a future series if Patricia is sufficiently successful.
What’s your research process like? What does it involve? It’s clear you draw on your Army experience for the Blue Moon series.
I don’t really have a research process. Most of what I write comes from my head, although I will look up bits here and there to make sure I get them right. As an example, I had no idea how long it would take a cruise ship to get from Hawaii to Japan but didn’t want to say three days only to have anyone that has ever taken a cruise to scoff at me.
What’s your writing routine? Do you have a dedicated office, or do you write at the kitchen table? Do you write longhand or type everything? Do you outline your stories or let the characters take you where they want to go? Do your characters speak to you?
I get up around 5 each morning, my Army-trained body clock forcing me awake still years after I took the uniform off for the last time. I write until 7, hit the gym for 30 minutes, cycle to work, out in 10 hours or more, then cycle home, play with my 3-year-old son, put him to bed, eat something, kiss my wife and write again until after midnight. Then I get up at around 5 the next day and repeat. It is killing me, but I have a destination in mind and a desire to get there quickly.
I have a desk in our dining room, which is littered with notes and books and stuff all linked to writing and advertising and marketing and all the additional tasks that go with writing.
I start each story with an idea and will flesh out a couple of pages before I start. About 10,000 words in, I will have a feel for the story and will do some more detailed plotting so that I can smash my way through the story and not get too lost. Often, what I plot and plan changes because the characters have other ideas about what they should do, or because I have started writing something but see a better direction once I am inside the story.
What writers do you admire, past or present?
I don’t know how to answer this. I guess I would admire anyone brave enough to challenge perceptions and forge their own path. I cannot name anyone, though.
What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like least?
I love crafting the stories. I feel intensively privileged to be able to do it. I also love getting feedback from readers when they are gushing about how they love what I have done with a certain character. I am not writing works that will be considered by the Nobel (Swedish) Academy, I write fun books for people to enjoy.
The less fun bit is all the marketing and advertising that goes with it. It is hard to get noticed in such a competitive arena and very hard to determine how much of the ad spend is wasted. I would outsource this if I could but have not been able to find someone I can rely on to do it for me – it is highly specialised.
What little personal quirk would you like to reveal to your readers?
I don’t understand music. I don’t own a single record or CD, the radio in my car has never been switched on, and I have never been to a concert.
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