Where do you find inspiration for your books?

Everywhere. I read a lot – books, newspapers, magazines. I watch lots of things – TV series, documentaries, movies. I listen to music, I talk to people, I ask lots of questions and listen to the asnwers, I travel and I sit in different places and watch the world go by. All books, all stories, are about people so it’s people and all the things they get up to that’s my main inspiration.


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

I don’t avoid them but I don’t especially seek them out either. When my first book, Sanctus, came out I do remember obsessively checking the reviews and the very first ones were very tepid and I was devastated by them because, up to that point, everyone who had read the book – agents, publishers etc. – had all responded so well: then the first Amazon Vine reviews started popping up (the early, pre-publication reviews) and there were some really sneery ones in there, mostly reviewing the genre and expressing hatred of Dan Brown rather than commenting constructively about my book. I thought my career was over before it had really started but then the five star reviews began to swamp the one stars and I realised I had no control over it either way, so it was a waste of time to obsess about it. Some people will like what you’ve done and some won’t. All I can do is make sure the book is as good as I can make it and, by the time the reviews come out, it’s too late for me to do anything about it anyway.

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

No. If I think the subject is worth exploring then I’ll write about anything.

What did you do before becoming a writer?

I worked in television for almost twenty years. It was actually a pretty good apprenticeship for becoming a writer, the same techniques I learned for hooking viewers grab readers too.

Which author inspires you?

Stephen King is pretty much the poster boy for my generation. He’s so imaginative and talented and, at his best, pretty much peerless. I think if I ever met him I’d probably go a bit weird.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I think there are only two real genres: good books and bad books. I try and read the former as much as possible.

What is your biggest motivator?

Probably my readers. When I started I was trying to figure out if I could write a novel but, four books later, I now feel a sense of responsibility to everyone who has read the previous books. I know people are waiting patiently for what I write next and I really don’t want to let them down.

What will always distract you?

A small child wandering into my office and looking up at me with big puppy eyes.

How much say do you have in your book covers?

I offer suggestions at the initial stage, detailing imagery or themes that are present in the book. Often the art and marketing department start thinking about the cover based on the outline so they don’t know the detail of what’s in the book because I haven’t finished writing it. I’ll give them steers and then they’ll come up with something based on the finished draft. They then show it to me and I generally say ‘wow, that’s awesome’ and that’s the finished cover. With Solomon Creed I wasn’t sure initially because it was so different. I took a mock up of it, went into a bookshop and put it on the shelf next to all the crime and thriller hardbacks. Then I got it. It just jumped out at me. I totally love it now.

As a child were you a great reader?

Yes. I read everything, it was like an addiction. It’s a good habit to get into. I’m trying to pass it on to my own kids. If you read books then you are freed from having to live just one life.

Which book shop is your favourite?

I like all bookshops, as they’re purveyors of magic and escape, though I have an arrangement with City Books in Brighton, a small indie store, where anyone who wants a signed copy of one of my books can contact them and I’ll swing round and dedicate it and sign it. That’s a great book shop.

What can you not resist buying?

I can actually resist buying pretty much everything. I don’t really have the shopping gene. All I need is a few quid in my pocket to buy coffee, tea and a sandwich and my laptop and I’m happy. I’m pretty self-contained.

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

Most days I use my kids as a kind of timing device. I’ll drop them off at school then go and sit in a cafe and work until it’s time to pick them up again.

How many books in your own to be read pile?

I’ve lost count. My ‘to be read’ pile is like the Hydra – I read one book and two more pop up in its place.

What is your current read?

‘Dead Man’s Dust’ by Matt Hilton, because I’m doing an event with him soon. An advance copy of a book called ‘The Night Charter’ by Sam Hawken, and ‘The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die’, by Marnie Riches.

Have you ever considered writing for the young adult or teen market?

I have, but the Solomon Creed series is currently keeping me pretty busy. I’d love to write more and in different areas but there aren’t enough hours in the day. I need to stop time so I can catch up with myself, or clone myself, or kidnap some other writers and lock them in a shed.

Sanctus TheTower key

One Response so far.

  1. Ellie says:

    Great interview. His arrangement with City Books in Brighton is pretty unusual.

Leave a Reply