Tell me what inspired you to write The Puppet Show?

It was my agent actually. I already had a series with another publisher but he wanted something new to sell. He suggested I stick with the Cumbrian setting as it seemed to work well. The idea was one I’d had for a while and I’d initially intended it to be the third book in the DI Fluke trilogy. I like the themes in the book and I like the stone circle element, as stone circles aren’t what Cumbria is generally known for – we have 63 in the county, more than any other in the UK.

Poe pretty much wrote himself – dark and cynical with secrets he’s keeping and secrets that have been kept from him. Tilly evolved over the book. Initially she was a kick-ass cyber vigilante, working for the Serious Crime Analysis Section by day and ensnaring paedophiles by night. It didn’t work though and she eventually morphed into the naïve and neurotic person she is now. Poe describes her as a social hand grenade and he’s not wrong. Of all the characters I’ve written, Tilly is by far the readers’ favourite.

What can you tell us about your second book?

Black Summer sees Poe in serious trouble. Six years earlier his evidence had been crucial in convicting celebrity chef Jared Keaton of his daughter’s murder. Her body was never found and when she staggers into a Cumbrian police station all eyes turn Poe’s way. Had he made a catastrophic mistake all those years ago or is something more insidious happening? I don’t have a release date yet but it’ll be sometime in 2019. Probably May/June.

How hard was it to get your first book published? How many have you had?

The Puppet Show is my 3rd full-length novel. I have two with Caffeine Nights (Born in a Burial Gown and Body Breaker): the DI Avison Fluke series.

How many publishers turned you down?

Caffeine Nights were the only publisher I submitted Born in a Burial Gown to. My agent handles submissions now obviously and he only tells me the things I need to know so I have no idea if The Puppet Show was rejected by anyone.

Do you try and read the online reviews you get on say Waterstones website?

I tend to read most reviews and try and take things from them if I can. If a theme emerges then it might be something I need to think about. By their very definition books will always divide opinions and the reviews will reflect this. I don’t worry if I get a bad review and don’t celebrate too hard if I get a good one – the important thing is to make the next book the best you’ve written.

Would you ever consider writing for children or teens?

I have a long-term project, a YA book called Buckle Jones and the Sarcastic Shrunken Head, which is almost at 80,000 words. I tend to work on it between Poe books and it’s become a bit of a hobby. It’s in the similar age range of the Harry Potter books I suppose. It’s enjoyable to do but probably unreadable. It’s certainly too long.

What did you do before becoming a writer?

I joined the army when I was 16 and left 12 years later to complete a degree in social work. When I qualified I took up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, Cumbria. 16 years later, at the rank of assistant chief officer, I left to become a full-time writer.

Which author inspires you?

As a crime author it’s Michael Connelly. His writing is so clean and nuanced and I love Harry Bosch. I’ve been described as the UK Michael Connelly and it’s the highest compliment I can be given. I also love Carl Hiaasen and Terry Pratchett although my favourite author at present is Mick Herron. Jackson Lamb is the most interesting series protagonist in fiction today.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Everything. I love crime and thrillers obviously but I have a soft spot for Sci-Fi and fantasy. I’ve been reading a lot of RR Haywood recently and really enjoyed it.

What is your biggest motivator?

To make a living out of writing is pretty high up there but overall it is get better with every book I write. The day I figure I’ve got this writing lark beaten is the day I will give it up.

What will always distract you?

I’m only distracted when I want to be distracted. When I’m in full flow only good weather can stop me. I like to read in the garden and there are so few opportunities to do that in the UK. If the sun is out I will normally down tools and get out with a book.

How much say do you have in your book covers?

A little but ultimately it is the publisher’s decision. My agent is also a bookseller and he gets a say in the matter as well. Ultimately I will go with what my editor, agent and sales say, as they know this side of the business far better than me.

As a child were you a great reader?

Yep. Massive. Started with Enid Blyton and worked my way up to Alistair MacLean, James Herbert and Stephen King. I’ve never not read.

Which book shop is your favourite?

I suppose I should say Goldsboro Books in Covent Garden as my agent owns it. And truth be told, it is a beautiful shop with some fantastic titles in there. A lot of signed first editions. The Puppet Show is officially being launched there. I love independent bookshops and there’s a great one in Carlisle. I also like Waterstones. The buildings are usually really interesting and the staff all seem to know their stuff. I have to say though that my favourite bookshop is normally the one I’m in at the time.

What can you not resist buying?

Stephen King books turn me into a bit of a hoarder. I have about ten of his I’ve not got round to reading yet and my TBR pile isn’t getting any smaller. And if there’s a hardback edition of any of my favourite authors that I only have in PB, then that gets bought.

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

Not really. I tend to take the dog out, have breakfast then start aroundten. I’ll work through to lunch then again through until tea or the words start to get jumbled. I have to have music on though and the playlist or band I listen to can take some thought . . .

How many books in your own to be read pile?

I kid you not, about 300.

What is your current read?

I’ve been doing a lot of reading to prepare for CrimeFest so my last two crime books were A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward and The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths. At the minute I’m reading an advance copy of Perfect Dead by Jackie Baldwin, Reconstruction by Mick Herron, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and, because my news years resolution was to always be reading a classic, Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. Having 4 books on the go at the same time isn’t unusual for me . . .

Leave a Reply