Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a human man. I have written nine kids’ SF books, two books published by *Fingerpress*, a very good independent publisher (Smallworld and Littlestar, in that order), and a number of adult books (*Elder Shepherd*, *Phil and the Death Machine*, and *Warlords of Llantatis*, among others).
The kids’ books comprise the *Ant and Cleo* series. They’re set in a world where flying saucers not only exist, but are flown by the US government (and the British government, and the Soviet government, which still exists in outer space in 1999, when the series begins). The story centres around the United States of the Zodiac, a set of rebel colonies of the United States of America.
I’m often asked what order to read *Ant and Cleo* in, so I’ll mention that:
1. Saucerers and Gondoliers
2. Sister Ships and Alastair
3. There Ain’t Gonna Be No World War Three
4. Destination Alpha Four
5. Dog On The Highway
6. At The Goings Down Of The Suns
7. Time Held Me Green And Dying
8. The Moon A Ghostly Galleon
9. Today’s Stars For Dinosaurus
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
*Phil and the Death Machine*. I wanted a *Buffy the Vampire Slayer*-style setting where heroes and heroines could battle the paranormal on a regular basis, but I also wanted to my version of the paranormal to have structure, rather than simply making up a new scary thing each chapter that broke the rules laid down by preceding scary things in previous episodes. So I decided to set the story in the Parapsychology Department of a British university – only a parapsychology department with a difference, in that the department is entirely staffed by people who have the ability to sense things we mere mortals can’t. I set it in the fictional British town of Kingshampton, which is what my home town of Northampton could have been if it hadn’t fought on the wrong side in two civil wars and lost both its university and its castle. And if ghosts and ghouls and demons had existed, of course.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I can only write while I’m hanging upside down from a door wearing my special writer’s hat. No, no unusual writing habits.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
The *Ant and Cleo* series was heavily influenced by the Enid Blyton stories I read as a kid, but with hopefully less casual racism, and later on by Diana Wynne Jones and J K Rowling. *Phil And The Death Machine* was influenced by *Buffy The Vampire Slayer* and the *Rivers of London* series by Ben Aaronovitch, among others. And *Elder Shepherd* is my attempt at a James Bond novel. Around about 2015, I grew annoyed with internet chatter on the subject of ‘we need a black female James Bond’. Bond is an icon of antifeminism. Why on earth would feminists feel they need a female Bond? Do they also feel they need a Jewish Osama Bin Laden?
So I set out to write myself a James Bond story that made sense (difficult – James Bond doesn’t make sense to begin with. No espionage agency on earth employs exploding, flying cars). And that had a black, female protagonist. The result was *Elder Shepherd*.
What are you working on now?
Episode 10 of *Ant and Cleo*, which as yet has no title, and the second book of *Elder Shepherd*.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
You really don’t want to ask me for tips about promoting books. I am honestly terrible at it.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Make sure you have a second job that isn’t writing books.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Do not wear earmuffs in the land of the rattlesnake.
What are you reading now?
*Seveneves* by Neal Stephenson, which is good so far, though like all Neal Stephenson books, thick enough to stop an artillery shell; a number of manuscripts by my wife which I’m proofreading, one of which is exceptionally good; *The Goblin Reservation* by Clifford Simak. I have more unread books than I know what to do with.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Episodes 11-12 of *Ant and Cleo* – the story may end in a couple of books’ time, it’s building towards a climax – and more of the *Phil* and *Elder Shepherd* series.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Escaping Desert Islands for Dummies; The Bumper Edible Encyclopedia Britannica In Vanilla Flavour; Caution: This Book Expands Into A Gigantic Inflatable Raft; The Shark-Repellent Edition of the Gulag Archipelago.