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Q&A/Interviews

Not necessarily frequently asked, but definitely questions I’ve received over time. I hope you find a few of the answers interesting. I’ll place links to any online interviews at the bottom of this page.

What do you do with your spare time?

What spare time? Once you’re a writer there truly is no such thing as ‘spare’ time in your life…ever! That’s because you can always fill any time with writing. Most of us all have time that we choose to do what we like with. I mostly choose to write, but I wish there was enough time available for many other things. I love to read. I’ve always tried to read at least an hour a day since I was a child. I don’t always manage it now, but I try.

I like art but mostly as a hobby. If I can manage to find some spare time for that it relaxes the mind. Many artists refer to drawing as a meditative state and I can understand why. You can be so absorbed in what you are doing that you forget the rest of the world and its troubles, and truly relax for a short time. Writing does that for me to a certain extent, but I find the mind is still active when writing in a way it isn’t when drawing or painting. I’m not saying it’s the same for everyone, but that’s how it is for me. Alas, I’m seriously out of drawing practice owing to ‘not enough’ time. I used to do some cross-stitch, but it’s taking longer to complete a project because other things draw my attention. Good for long trips, though. When the dog was alive taking her for walks took up a great deal of time although I wouldn’t change that for the world. I like holidays — who doesn’t — but I like exploring whether it’s in my own country or abroad. I seldom just sit on a beach unless it’s to read a book.

Does someone else take care of your website?

No. Somehow, I’ve managed by trial, error, and necessity, although a friend helped set up the basic files for me so don’t ask me how to do it.

What influenced the design?

I was asked this question some time ago when my site was much more elaborate than it is now. My answer then was that I was thinking of one of those shops you come across in places such as Devon or Cornwall, sort of small, sometimes dark, a treasure trove. My site has changed with me over time and I hope developed into something more streamline and user-friendly.

What are you working on now or next?

Difficult to answer. It changes constantly, obviously. I’ll write a short story if I’m struck by an idea, or if I am struggling with something I may take a break and turn to a short idea, a writing exercise, anything to get my mind working again.

For longer work, I try to complete the draft then take a break from it before revising it with a fresh eye. There’s no set duration for this, whatever the length of work. This ‘dormant’ time after a draft may even last a few months if I can afford to wait, or if I happen to be caught up in other things with more immediate deadlines. Then, of course, the delay is largely owing to the necessity. The important thing is to get the story down. If I’ve some kind of deadline on a work then obviously I simply cannot put it aside for months. Even then, I like to take a week or two off from a project to refresh my mind between my personal drafts, which isn’t always possible between edits with a publisher.

In the past, I’ve been called on to write an article at short notice. I’ve been asked to fill a space or cover a specific subject. The shortest notice I’ve had was a request for a medium length article with a polite but blunt,  ‘Could you do this today?’ And yes, I managed, but that doesn’t mean I want to make a habit of it.

What do you write? Why do you write in more than one genre?

The simple answer to both these questions is I write as I read. My reading taste is varied and therefore so is my writing. While this has no doubt caused me some problems — I’d probably be more well known and even more successful if I stuck to one genre — it’s given me a rich field to work in. Saying that, I have noticed most of my non-romance work contains dark themes so I think I’ll be increasingly focusing on that.

I don’t like fantasy or any of those things — I prefer reality.

This is more a comment than a question, but one I hear frequently. Although I write in different genres a large proportion of fantasy seems to dominate my work. My simple reply to this is that when an author writes fantasy they are still writing about the real world. The setting is just another tool to explore the human condition, but it’s one that often gives the writer greater scope. If you don’t believe me then look into the background of Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes. The Lord of the Rings has dissertations written concerning its contents, but for many, Tolkien’s work explores self-sacrifice. I’ve done similar things, often with good cause. You can give an argument a unique twist and perspective by altering the setting.

Do you express personal opinions in your writing?

Yes and no. That is to say every writer likely expresses a personal opinion in their work at some time, but I (and I believe this is true of many writers) express other people’s opinions too, even if it contradicts my own. Therefore, whatever the subject, even if the story seems to be championing a certain cause, I wouldn’t advise anyone surmising that is how I necessarily feel.

A writer has to show a protagonist and an antagonist in their work so it’s good to write from viewpoints that aren’t your own. It’s even necessary. If you ask me directly for my opinion, if I didn’t know you then I probably wouldn’t answer. My opinions are between me, my friends, and my family, or I will express them appropriately when they can make a difference.

A writer friend of mine once said he liked to ‘push people’s buttons’ and I understood what he meant. My writing is mainly intended for reader enjoyment, but it’s nice if it makes someone think. Still, it’s not intended to stand as a soapbox. If I want or need to do that I’d take a more active role to stand up for my beliefs.

What was your first published story?

I would say my short story Silver Apples of the Moon. Actually, it was my first acceptance, but it wasn’t the first to see print. That’s just how publishing is. These things take time.

Do you suffer many rejections? Does rejection ever get you down?

I wouldn’t say many to both questions. I’m very choosy about what I send where. I always joke that I had less rejections than Stephen King did before I had a story accepted. In fact, I had just one and that was largely because I sent it to an semi-inappropriate market. They were impressed enough to give me advice and following their guide and through a little market research I found the perfect publication to submit it to.

Every writer feels bad when they have a rejection but it doesn’t last long. I tend to bounce back fast and it usually makes me more determined. It’s part of the process and a rejection doesn’t mean the story is no good. There are so many reasons a publisher will turn down work, none of which necessarily has anything to do with the quality of the writing. If you don’t learn how to handle rejection, the chances are you aren’t going to make it as a writer, and may even give up very early on.

What about criticism?

Criticism as opposed to rejection is another matter. I don’t mind constructive ‘critique’ — I even approve of it — but there are plenty of groups for that. If an editor is kind enough to explain a rejection it can mean they saw something good in the work that was worth taking the time over, as they are very busy. I listen to all comments and then temper that with my own judgement.

Often, if a remark or the advice is good, you’ll know instantly. This isn’t the same thing as someone yelling they really hated that story, it was horrible. Fine, but explain why you found it horrible. It’s also not the same as someone missing the point of your story. I’ve had that happen. I’ve had someone complain about some aspect of a story and then less than two days later a reader gush over the book for that very reason. That’s just part of writing. It does happen that you’ll get one person complain over a certain point that a hundred people have loved. It’s all personal opinion at the end of the day, personal likes and dislikes. You can’t please everyone. And the thing I most admire J.K.Rowling for was she said she’s not taking dictation.

There are two ways I handle this: if I have an ‘answer’ for the point raised then I don’t worry too much. If I don’t, then I pay attention to it and apply it to future work or a if a rewrite occurs.

Why Loose Id as a publisher?

Since I was asked this question, I’ve gone on to write for other publishers in the same market but I chose Loose Id first. And yes, as much as they chose to publish my work, this all began with my being determined to write for them. Simply put, I loved the concept. I want to continue to write for other (non-romance) markets, but to have a genre where your imagination can fly is marvellous for a writer. This may not be quite the avenue I expected to travel, but I’m enjoying the experience. Many writers feel these are just modern romances and they are as varied as their authors.

Why write GLBT romances? Why m/m? If GLBT why not f/f?

I’m grouping these questions together as the same answer applies. I will state this once only; otherwise, it will become a case of the lady doth protest too much.

Simply, I never set out to write gay romance. Many of the authors do and that’s fine, but that’s not how I came to it yet I’ve found it’s a fun genre to work with because it sparks so many ideas for conflict. I’ve read authors such as Anne Rice and Carol Berg among others, who all use same-sex themes in their stories whether blatantly, or in a more subtle way. I suppose it was a combination of years of reading material that led to an idea that nagged at me. I ‘had’ to write it.

I found that idea sparked others. The publisher requested I turn Uly’s Comet into a series and while I was working on that, I came up with the idea for Snow Angel and if you’ve read that title you will understand why that was another book I had an undeniable desire to write. Since then I’ve had requests from readers to write more. This genre is working for me at the moment, and I’m fine with that, and thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve never written anything I didn’t enjoy writing to some extent, sometimes because of the characters more than the story or vice versa, but there’s been something in the idea to truly inspire me. If it doesn’t grab my attention, how can I expect it to grab the attention of a reader? As a writer it’s difficult to ignore inspiration or reader requests, especially if they happen to spark off each other.

So GLBT titles became part of my repertoire by accident even though I’m grateful for it. I also quickly realised that while I didn’t want to set myself up to be any kind of spokesperson it became obvious that having written a gay title I had to stand by my beliefs. Writing books with different pairings is almost a natural way to say ‘live and let live’. I’ve always believed that love is love — indeed, it’s the theme of my one and only lesbian book — and if a book is written well, my enjoyment of it isn’t reliant on the sex or sexuality of the characters.

I’ve gone on to write a couple of menages because ideas sparked those stories into being. I write as ideas strike me. I also plan to write more hetero titles, but I call it ‘non-traditional’ romance because I suspect most will have at least a paranormal twist.

As I’ve said, I do have one lesbian title out: A Swithin Spin 1: A Queen’s Move. This came about because I believed that my small queen deserved her own kind of happiness, and the story was important to me as was the dedication I included. The basis of the book isn’t just a lesbian love story, but speaks of the sacrifice people have made in the name of freedom and I don’t just mean freedom to be accepted for their sexuality. I’ve friends who had suffragettes in their family history. Unfortunately, f/f titles are simply a poor selling market at present. I’m not saying I wouldn’t write another if a sensational idea struck me, but it would have be exceptional under the circumstances. I also find it more difficult to write. Writing about men comes more easily. LOL.

For a first book with them (Loose Id) why Uly’s Comet? And why produce a m/m book and yet include m/f scenes?

The idea nagged at me, which is always a good sign. It begged I write it. Initially, with the first spark of the idea, I had no clue that it would be a m/m love story. As to why I included a female in the story, the answer is simple. Markis is a prince and will need a heir. Also, the Swithin freely take lovers of either sex. Without a female lover at some point in his life he wouldn’t be Swithin. It’s still essentially a m/m love story though, although it has a strong fantasy background so it’s not a straight-forward romance either.

Not all of the characters in your books are good guys. You show bad traits even in your hero, even in romance. Why is this?

Because it’s real and it’s human. We all have bad tendencies. That doesn’t stop us from being ‘good’ at heart and it doesn’t mean we won’t do the right thing when it really matters. People make mistakes. They repeat errors, but that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually change. How many chances a person deserves in real life depends on the circumstances — for all involved. We often forgive those we love the most, especially when we have hope for them, sometimes foolishly.

As for using this in romance, for example, in Uly’s Comet that was a very deliberate decision. Markis reacts violently more than once, yet this isn’t ‘Markis’. It’s not within his ability to control. In the first instance, his friend’s influence draws him back from his actions. In the second, he brings himself back. I was really pleased when a particular reader got that completely (as you can see in my reviews page), especially as a reviewer completely missed it. It’s a mark of how much he’s progressed in a short time. Certain scenes are a statement of his personality. Likewise, the scene early on in the book with the horse shows that Markis may be a congenial figure, but that he’s very much a man with a sense of right and wrong, a sense of duty, and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. This is why his inability to control the comet is doubly frustrating for him.

Presenting a character this way in a contemporary setting can be more difficult. Nick in Acting Out is very chaotic and erratic and that’s hard to do and have him remain likable. I think (hope) I succeeded, although I’m positive some readers won’t like him. Likewise, Dean in Snow Angel/Angel Heart seems selfish. He’s not. He has a big heart, is a British ‘lad’, but not everyone is going to get that. I was delighted when the owner of Loose Id contacted me personally to congratulate me for such ‘subtle nuance’.

ULY’S COMET has a fabulous magical premise. Have you always been a fan of the fantasy genre? (Question courtesy of Lacey Savage interview).

Absolutely! I can no longer remember a time when I wasn’t. I started out reading horror novels from well-known writers such as Stephen King or James Herbert and in time, that progressed to include many fantasy authors. Pratchett, Brooks, Goodkind – strangely enough all named Terry – David Eddings, Robert Jordan… I could go on. Even as a child I read books such as The Water Babies. I definitely would not have been able to write Uly’s Comet without that reading background, but I have very eclectic tastes in books as I do all things and the same applies to my writing.

How did the plot for ULY’S COMET develop? Were there any surprises while writing it? (Question courtesy of Lacey Savage interview).

My vision behind the novel started when I saw a man sitting on a bench in open parkland and a thief about to creep up on him. I had no idea who the man was or why he was sitting there, or the identity of the thief for that matter. Shortly afterwards, I was searching through a book of names for another project and I came across the name Shavar, meaning ‘Comet’ and suddenly something just clicked into place and I had my story.

The biggest surprise came in the form of Ryanac. He was intended as a background character only, but the more I worked with him, the more he seemed to draw his own focus and become a guiding force throughout the book. I decided to run with it and let him manipulate. You never get into his head at all — I tell the story through Uly and Markis’s viewpoints — and yet, most people tell me he is their favourite and I can understand why. I’ve had a query from someone who asked why he wasn’t the main character and the answer is simple. It’s not his story. He’s there to manipulate and make others notice what they are too blind to see or don’t wish to face. I’ve tried writing him another way and he just lost force. I love him just the way he is and will keep him that way for the trilogy. For those who love him, they’ll be happy to know he features just as heavily, though. Still, I would like him to get his own book one day. For that, I just need the right plot to come up and bite me.

(Note: after answering this question, I finished the trilogy. Ryanac never got his own book, and likely he never will, but I played with varying ways to use the character to my great personal satisfaction and I hope that of my readers).

If you could change one thing about the way you write, what would it be? (Question courtesy of Lacey Savage interview).

I think in general terms every writer would like to be more organised. I wish I didn’t procrastinate quite so much. I wish I didn’t dither between projects at times. I do the same thing when choosing my next book to read — which one shall it be? With writing itself, for a long time I wanted to settle on a personal style, but I think that’s happening now.

What do you think of writing courses?

It really depends on the person, what kind of course they are looking for and for what reason. I’ve done a couple and they did help polish my work, but they didn’t teach me to ‘write’ or to think up story ideas. I’ve been doing that from an early age. One of the courses wanted to push me towards mainstream magazines, particularly the woman’s magazine market, and I’m not knocking the publications or the course, but it wasn’t what I wanted. While I appreciate they are a good market, I wanted to find someone who understood where I was coming from and would let me explore other options. I eventually found the right tutor for that (Hi Anna!) who understood my work and what I wanted to achieve.

Will you become my writing partner/correspond with me?

No and probably not. Don’t get me wrong, I do answer any fan-mail, but I cannot say I will take up long term general correspond with anyone. I just don’t have the time. That doesn’t mean if you’ve said you liked a story once you can never drop me another line. Just understand my time is limited. As to a writing partner, I’ve only done this for fun with other writers and I have known their work, or we have become friends before attempting this. Generally, I prefer the freedom of writing all on my lonesome. I’ve also heard a couple of horror stories when things have gone wrong between writing partners so it’s made me wary. If I write with someone there’s going to be a reason and long-term trust.*

*Update to this. I have since penned my first co-authored work with Andy Frankham-Allen, but our paths had crossed and I was already involved with the Space, 1889 project having drafted a standalone title.

Will you read my manuscript?

No. Reason as above. I just don’t have the time and I’m not running any teaching classes. If I help anyone it’s probably because I’ve made contact with them some other way, some other time.

Who is your favourite author?

I don’t have one. I have a long list of favourite books and writers.

Are you aware there are spelling errors in some of your work/on your website?

No, there isn’t. There may be a typo, but that’s not the same thing, and almost impossible to avoid even though several pairs of eyes all work on a manuscript — writer, reader, editor, proofer etc. This question arose from an American reader who didn’t recognise UK spelling. I’m English and I write in UK English whenever I’m allowed to do so. I’m of a mind that a work should reflect the author, the characters, or the setting, with preference depending on the work. I mostly write with British characters set in the UK. If writing a fantasy setting then…well, in my head they’re still mostly British if not completely alien. It’s my background. And yes, we do spell differently and use different words in the UK and US. We sometimes use s instead of z, use two of ‘l’ instead of one, and put in a u where the US don’t; hence: recognise, levelled, colour as opposed to recognize, leveled, color. Someone said to me that there is English and not English and he had a point — maybe it would be less confusing for all if we called it English and Americana or something. Regardles,s the point is I’m a UK English writer often working in an American market so spellings and punctuation depending onpublisher will be UK or US or a combination (they seldom allow me to use UK punctuation — yes, that differs too).

Interviews:

In June 2009 I was interviewed by Barbara Custer of Blood Red Shadows and Night to Dawn Magazine:

Read the interview HERE.