Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Author Interview - Paul Holbrook

What is your name?

Paul Holbrook. I am a writer from North Yorkshire.

What's the title of your most recent/forthcoming book?

Domini Mortum, which is being crowdfunded by those lovely people at Unbound at the moment. 

Describe the book in under 100 words: 

Domini Mortum is a murderous tale set in London and York towards the end of the nineteenth century. It concerns an artist and journalist for the Illustrated Police News, the most sensationalist tabloid of the day, and his investigations into a series of murders of servant girls in the Paddington area. His journey brings him into contact with a haunted village, an asylum, a secret society, a brothel, a vicious crime lord oh and maybe the odd ghost. It's everything you want really from a Hammer Films style Victorian murder mystery, all wrapped up in a beautifully written novel.

Describe the book in under 10 words: 

Bad people do bad things in Victorian times. Cue thrills.

What is your favourite book and why? 

I think it would have to be Legend by David Gemmell. It's a heroic fantasy novel which was first bought for me by my Dad when I was about fourteen. I’ve read it a lot of times, probably too many to be cool, but, because of the time that I have invested in it over the years, it holds a great many personal memories for me as I can remember reading it at lots of different and important times in my life. As a novel. I still love it, the storytelling can be a bit clunky and the character development a little flawed but overall to me it’s a precious thing.

Who is your favourite author and why? 

Tough one that, because I go through phases and obsessions with writers, be it Stephen King, David Gemmell, Clive Barker or JRR Tolkein. My current favourite though is Neil Gaiman. I used to read the Sandman comics when I was a lot younger and when he moved into novel writing, initially I was very worried. I don’t love all his work, there are a few misses amongst the hits for me, but I love The Graveyard Book and I was totally entranced by ‘The ocean at the end of the lane’, which is just a beautiful piece of work.

Name a book you wish you'd written and why: 

Probably Swan Song by Robert R MacCammon. It's a lovely book made up of well written characters, short punchy chapters and overall an epic story. It's a post nuclear apocalypse tale, which I know has been done by a lot of writers before. For me though it’s the best of the breed I couldn’t recommend it highly enough and I just wish I could one day create something so expansive, engrossing and well written.

Describe a typical writing day for you:

When I have a day that I can put aside for writing I like to be up and at it early. I find that often the best stuff I write is first thing in the morning. There have been days when I have got straight out of bed and got on the computer and suddenly find that four hours have gone. I also like to have a good dog walk before I write anything of any substance. I live on the edge of the North York Moors, it’s a stunningly beautiful and inspiring place and often a dog walk in the fresh air, sometimes with stirring music playing in my earphones is enough to get the ideas flowing. In terms of musical styles, for Domini Mortum and its predecessor Memento Mori, I solely listened to Finlandia by Jean Sibelius. The music is based on the Finnish folk tales which feature heavily in the novels. I don’t tend to use any aids apart form my own addled mind. When I’m novel writing my brain is a box full of hummingbirds, ideas, narratives, dialogue and twisty turny bits flying in from all angles. The result is always highly pleasing though.

What's your biggest frustration as a writer? 

Time. If I could freeze time for about two hours a day I would be knocking out novels left, right and centre. I have so many fully formed ideas in my head that I thin I would need about three lifetimes just to get it all out there. I often work seven days a week also as I do two jobs, one in a school supporting children with learning needs and a second providing days out and respite for young people with disabilities and long term medical conditions. Sometimes I will only get one full day off a month, and when I do get a day off its nice to actually spend it with my wife and kids rather than shackling myself to a laptop. And so I snatch and steal time where I can, twenty minutes here an hour there. I get there in the end but its often a slow process.

How do people find out more about you? 

My most important contact point is my Unbound page www.unbound.co.uk/books/domini-mortum There you can find out more about Domini Mortum, read a synopsis, and extract and most importantly pledge your support for my lovely creation.

I am often on Twitter @cpholbrook
 I have a blog at http://doloriantales.blogspot.co.uk/ which I try to add to when time permits.
 I am on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/paul.holbrook1

Friday, 17 February 2017

Cover Story

I thought I might spend a short blogpost talking about how a book cover gets designed. It's particularly of interest to me at the moment as I'm just going through the design and discussion stage for the cover of my next book A Murder To Die For.

Perhaps the best way to look at the process - or at least how I engage with it - is to look at one of my previous books. In 2013 Constable Colgan's Connectoscope was published by Unbound in hardback and paperback editions.The book is a collection of fascinating facts all interconnected and gathered into 'Rounds'. Each Round (or chapter) starts with a fact which links to the next and to the next and to the next and so on until the last fact comes full circle and joins up with the first. It means that each chapter is a single circular journey. The fact that I used to be a police officer was latched upon by the publisher who suggested the book title (it had been called Connect-O-Rama) and that I write a new foreword describing how my mind works - finding facts, checking them, collating them, connecting them - and how that had been useful in both my career as a cop and as a writer for the TV show QI.

When discussions began about cover design, I had the idea of depicting the Connectoscope as some kind of machine. By coincidence, the art director also liked the idea. I brought sketches I'd done. And, just for the crack, I knocked up a painting too.

 None of them were quite right for the book of course - just me doodling ideas. But once we had a concept and the talk turned to artists, one name jumped out at us: Tom Gauld. I'd been a big fan of his work for years. I love his cartoons in The Guardian and I had his books Goliath and The Gigantic Robot. Here's some of his work.

There's a delicious business to his work that we loved (you can see more of his book covers here). Plus, he's really good at robots and steampunkish machines. So, off went the brief from the art director:

And what came back was just glorious. 

And, barring a few small tweaks - the green light was given. The final cover was as good as anything I'd dared hope for.

So there you go! It may well be a very different process for some authors but, for me, as someone who has a strong sense for the visual, it was a case of discussion, concession and ideas sharing. And what I got from it was a beautiful, fantastic cover. And I got to thank Tom personally when we went up at Gosh! Comics in London for the launch of his (then) new book You're All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack.

Now I'm looking forward to the next book and a whole new cover to love.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Author Interview - David Roche

What's your name? 

David Roche

What's the title of your most recent/forthcoming book?

Just Where You Left It – Family Rhymes for Modern Times 

Describe the book in under 100 words. 

A book of humorous poems written about things that are relevant to families now. I wrote the first one in response to my eldest child’s request for something different to perform at a school poetry competition. It took the p*ss while being full of relevant references and from then on we were on a roll: exams, school meals, bullying, sports days, holidays, wi-fi, embarrassing Dads and nagging, know-all Mums were fair game. If you grew up on poems by the likes of Ogden Nash – ones which are more Pam Ayres than Alexander Pope - then this could be for you.

Describe the book in under 10 words.

Family Rhymes for Modern Times – relevant, amusing poems for all

What is your favourite book and why? 

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. Hilarious, true and made me realize that others were making it up as they go along.

Who is your favourite author and why?

Kazuo Ishiguro – makes it look so simple.

Name a book that you wish you'd written and why?

One Day by David Nichols or Q&A by Vikas Swarup. I would love to land on the clever premise that provides the perfect structure for the story.

Describe a typical writing day for you.

Hopefully a miserable day, preferably raining. No-one else around and ideally in a cabin in the woods. I listen to classical or soundtrack music – anything without lyrics, at least not in any language that I can understand! I am a huge John Barry fan and his non-score albums Beyondness of Things and Eternal Echoes are perfect.

What's your biggest frustration as a writer?

There is never enough time.

How do we find out more about you and your work?

To date I have been concentrating on successfully raising the required financing for Unbound to publish my book, so while I have been using Facebook and Twitter, email has been the most effective method. Now that this phase is complete (though you can still see sample poems and pledge at https://unbound.com/books/just-where-you-left-it) I hope to extend the net through word of mouth, recommendations, advocacy and events as the final book starts to come together with its illustrations etc.

You can find out more about the book here: https://unbound.com/books/just-where-you-left-it and here: https://www.facebook.com/DavidRochebook/.

You can find out more about me (personal stuff) here: @davidlrroche (Twitter) and https://www.facebook.com/david.roche.90, and (work stuff) here: http://davidroche.co.uk/about and here: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/davidroche

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Author Interview - Lou Allison

What's your name? 

Lou or Lulu Allison

What's the title of your forthcoming book? 

Twice the Speed of Dark. 

Describe the book in under 100 words: 

A mother and daughter circle each other, bonded by love, separated by fatal violence. Dismayed by indifference in the news to people who die in distant war and terror, Anna writes portraits of the victims, to try and understand the real impact of their deaths. Her own life is suppressed, restrained by grief. It is only in this vigil, this act of love for strangers, that she allows herself an emotional connection to the world. Her daughter, killed by a violent boyfriend, tells her own story from the perplexing realms of death, reclaiming herself from the evisceration of coercive violence.

Describe the book in under 10 words: 

The traits that unite us and the violence that separates.

What is your favourite book and why? 

Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman, because it perfectly captures the wondrous beauty and the diabolical failure of the human creature.

Who is your favourite author and why? 

Arghhh….lots of books by lots of authors and lots of reasons to love them make this more or less impossible. The distilled answer, by finding an author who rarely disappoints, doesn’t necessarily include those books that have caused real rapture or life-changing reads. But though his books have not driven me wild with reader-zeal like Life and Fate did, or The Emperor’s Babe, (Bernadine Evaristo) I’d never not read an Ian McEwan book.

Name a book that you wish you'd written and why? 

I am an atheist, but I wish I had written the bible because I would’ve made it a lot more sensible. I don’t mean the narratives - some of them really are quite splendidly bonkers (that one about Noah getting drunk, with no trousers on… I kid you not) I’d leave them untouched. But the judgements and demands, the narrowing and exclusions, the misogyny and homophobia. We collectively could’ve done without a whole load of that stuff.

Describe a typical writing day for you - where you do it, when you do it, what aids you use, what music you listen to etc. 

I write in our living room, as I live in a small house with my family. I sigh with gratitude when everyone else trots off to college or work, make a coffee, play a game of patience to absorb the silence, then start. I take breaks to dance to the Melvins when I’m getting stale, or stare at the sky or the corner of the ceiling. Sometimes I am troubled by the feeling that I can’t see the whole thing at once and that can be a barrier. At those times I move to the dining table and write notes and scribbles and arrows and random thoughts on big pieces of paper. If possible I have no music on unless the boys next door are practising their instruments. I tend not to write for long periods of time as work and lack of dedicated space pretty much break up the day. I believe in walking and not thinking too. The parts of my mind that I can’t overhear need a bit of peace and quiet sometimes, without me constantly prodding for an update. I see it this way: the part of my mind where I can talk to myself is only the front office. The back office, or workshop, is where the useful stuff happens, but you can’t hear or see it. Sometimes, the speaking mind can get in the way like an over-zealous office manager. If the work is not appearing, it won’t necessarily appear faster because the office manager keeps checking on progress. The workshop is happy to do overtime, the manager should just read a book or go home and go to bed even. Let them get on with it.

What's your biggest frustration as a writer? 

The boys next door sometimes, though they are perfectly lovely and as entitled to their passions as me… Plus I was a drummer once. Having to work as a cleaner. I deliberately never chose greedy work that would take my time. The demands on me that came from doing art and more recently writing, are big enough to take all my headspace. But it is a bore to have my time fragmented.

How do people find out more about you? 


Saturday, 4 February 2017

Author Interview - Dave Dawson

What's your name? 

Dave Dawson (pen name Dave Philpott)

What's the title of your most recent/forthcoming book? 

Dear Mr. Pop Star

Describe the book in under 100 words. 

For 10 years, working alongside my dad Derek, I have sent popular and iconic music artists internet letters about the lyrics, deliberately misunderstanding them or pointing out genuine ambiguities. What this is really about is how, when a record is recorded, it is ''theirs'' but when it's out they have NO CONTROL as to how it is interpreted.. We are representing overblown and demented versions of the listening public. The artist then writes back ''in character'', so to speak. We get most of our leads either from artists involved or well connected fans and facebook friends....

Describe the book in under 10 words.

Funny letters to pop stars with genuine witty replies.

What is your favourite book and why? 

The Outsider by Albert Camus. It unfolds in the most deceptively simple manner with exquisite imagery, the most glaring faults of the human condition.

Who is your favourite author and why? 

Ernest Hemingway, His attention to detail and seemingly conversational style combine to form near-perfection.

Name a book that you wish you'd written and why? 

That would mean being privy to all the thought processes of the writer so, nah.

Describe a typical writing day for you - where you do it, when you do it, what aids you use, what music you listen to etc.

We only do a letter if a pop star gives us the green light that they are going to reply so some days there is no writing at all and others, if say three give us a yes, it could be up to 8-10 hours. It's done on the sofa in between household and other leisure activities.

What's your biggest frustration as a writer?

Failing to reach an audience and, related to this, sending our work to mainstream outlets whom we think can give us exposure or help, only to find our messages seemingly ignored and then awful imitations of our idea appearing without credit in their publications a week later!

How do people find out more about you? 


Get the book Dear Mr Pop Star here

Friday, 3 February 2017

When Heroes Go Bad

I've been sorting through my ridiculously large book collection recently. And a few days ago I came across several art books by Rolf Harris.

And I found myself in a quandary; do they stay or do they go?

Rolf Harris was one of my heroes. It's thanks to him, probably more than anyone else, that I engaged with art in the first place. From The Rolf Harris Show to Rolf's Cartoon Time and Rolf on Art to Star Portraits he made art accessible and inspired me to pick up almost anything and make art with it. So, of course, I bought his books on art and I bought the DVDs of his TV series and I learned from them.

But then Operation Yewtree revealed him to be a groper and child molester, I was devastated. Admiration quickly turned to loathing; there are few crimes more abhorrent that the ones he committed. Quite naturally, we are unlikely to ever see his TV shows again. Nor will we hear Two Little Boys or Tie Me Kangaroo Down or Jake the Peg on the radio. But do I ditch the books? And if I do, do I also have to excise all other evidence of Rolf Harris from my life? If I do, that's going to mean a clear-out of not only books and DVDs but also other references to him and other appearances. For example, he appears on two of Kate Bush's albums. So do I throw away my copies of The Dreaming and Aerial too? And do I chuck out my well-preserved 1970s Rolf Harris Stylophone and stop listening to Bowie's Space Oddity because the instrument features on it?

Of course, I ended up discussing this subject at the pub with my mates and I asked what they would do in my circumstances. About 25% said to throw the books out. 50% said keep them as they won't earn Harris any more money and at least it shows that there was something good about him. The other 25% were undecided, which led on to a further discussion about 'cut-off points'. As one of them said: 'If they now found out that Bowie was a kiddie fiddler, would people throw away his albums? Of course they wouldn't. They'd just listen in secret because they love him too much and the music outweighs the crimes.' Am I doing the same thing because I find joy in work like this (below), even though the painter is a monster?

A couple of years ago, we saw a worldwide outpouring of grief and celebration to mark what would have been John Lennon's 75th birthday. There is no doubt that Lennon was a great talent, beloved by millions. But, away from the microphones and guitars, the real Lennon was no saint. He was a pathological liar and a monstrous hypocrite who mocked disabled people, emotionally abused his son Julian and who had a long history of violence against women, As he himself admitted in one of his final interviews (with Playboy) in 1980:

'I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved. That was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically - any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn't express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. I am not violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.'

Domestic violence is surely no less vile than groping or sexually assaulting women - all are forms of violence. But The Beatles still get played on the radio and no one is putting their copies of Sergeant Pepper in the bin. And even some journalists who suggest that we shouldn't be idolising Lennon seem to pull their punches. Here's Paul Tamburro writing in Crave:

'The 'point' is that it is important, at least in my mind, to not encourage generation after generation to kneel at the altar of a celebrity who was guilty of some horrible crimes and offences. Yes, I still consider myself a fan of Lennon’s creative output. I do own plenty of Beatles records on vinyl. But there is a lot of evidence, along with quotes from Lennon himself, to suggest to me that to continue to remember this man in such an exclusively positive light smacks of insincerity in the information age, where we can all quite easily look this shit up and, unless we’re choosing to keep our blinkers firmly fixed onto the sides of our heads, conclude that he may have co-written ‘A Day in the Life’ but in other aspects of his life, he was a bit of a dick.' 

I'd suggest that someone who regularly beats women and treats his son like a non-entity is more than just a 'bit of a dick'. But people don't want to give up their Beatles albums. Either the blinkers, as Tamburro says, are firmly fixed. Or they don't see violence against women and children as serious enough to boycott Lennon's work. Or, perhaps, they argue that they bought the records in good faith without knowing about what he did?

And, of course, it's not just Lennon. In recent years we've heard allegations of domestic violence against many other celebrities ... but their films and their music are still being played and bought. And how many people ditched their Judas Priest albums when drummer Dave Holland was convicted of child sex abuse? Do Lostprophets fans still listen to music featuring Ian Watkins, now serving 35 years for paedophile offences including the attempted rape of an 11 month old boy? How about msic by Jerry Lee Lewis who married his 13 year old cousin? And what about the output of producer Phil Spector, now a convicted murderer? Or Roman Polanski?

You can, perhaps, see my dilemma.

I'm not trying to find excuses to keep my Rolf Harris art books. But I am trying to resolve a moral dilemma. When does it become unacceptable to keep such things? Should there be a cut-off point at all? Should we get rid of everything produced by someone convicted of crimes of violence? Do I ditch the books but keep the Kate Bush albums? Is the fact that these things happened and can't be undone justification to keep things ... or is everything now tainted? Do I accept that, even though Harris is a shit of the first water and deserves to see out his days in a cell, some small bit of good has come from his life?

It's tricky isn't it? With utter monsters like Jimmy Savile, there's no argument that we should expunge him from the history books. But when your heroes turn to demons, where do you draw the line between 'He was a bastard but he produced some good stuff that we should keep' and 'He was a bastard and we should destroy everything that he produced'?

I'll admit that I don't know.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Author Interview - Shona Kinsella

Over the next few weeks I'm going to ask a bunch of authors the same set of questions. It'll be interesting to see, as the number builds up, how different writers work. We'll see their inspirations and aspirations. And, quite rightly, they'll get a chance to plug their books too.

We start today with ...

What is your name? 

Shona Kinsella

What’s the title of your most recent/forthcoming book?

Ashael Rising, The Vessel of KalaDene: Book One. 

Describe the book in under 100 words 

Ashael is an apprentice medicine woman in a hunter-gatherer society. Her people are threatened by the return of the Zanthar, invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force from others. When the Zanthar kidnap her friends and demand that Ashael exchanges herself for them, she must discover who and what she really is to save her people and all of KalaDene.

Describe the book in under 10 words 

Woman fights to protect her world from soul-sucking invaders.

What is your favourite book and why? 

I have to cheat with this one – my favourite books are The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I know you said book, but it’s one story so it counts! I’m not sure if I can articulate why. I love the story, the sweeping scale of it and the human smallness of it in one. I love Roland, the flawed hero. I love the fact that it’s an epic fantasy in a western setting and there are so many things that are hinted at but never quite spoken.

Who is your favourite author and why?

Stephen King. His stories are great but what it really comes down to for me is character. He is superb at rendering real, rounded, believable characters. Someday I hope to be able to write character half as well as he does.

Name a book that you wish you’d written and why

Hmm that’s a tough one. There are so many excellent books out there. I’ll go with Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. The man’s world-building is spectacular and his grasp of story is great. This is a 400,000-word novel and I couldn’t out it down. It takes real skill to be able to carry someone along with you that far, I think.

Describe a typical writing day for you - where you do it, when you do it, what aids you use, what music you listen to etc.

Although I don’t go out to a day job, I have three young children that I am the primary carer for. So there’s really no such thing as a typical day for me! I write on a laptop, usually at the dining table or on my lap on the couch. I write in any little gaps in the day when the kids are otherwise occupied and for an hour or two in the evenings after they go to bed. I think about writing all the time, filing things away for later so that when I sit down at the computer I’m ready to go. I work out plot in my head while I’m feeding the baby in the middle of the night. I don’t often listen to music while I’m writing but when I do it’s often instrumental and my favourite for that just now is 2cellos, a duo of Croatian cellists, playing a mix of classical and rock music. They’re wonderful.

What’s your biggest frustration as a writer?

That there aren’t more hours in the day. I have so many ideas and new ones occur to me all the time. It drives me crazy that I don’t have time to work on them all. I’m really envious of people who get to write all day – but then if I had more time I’d probably waste half of it on Twitter!

How do people find out more about you? 

You can catch up with me in all of the following places:
My blog: http://www.shonakinsella.com
Twitter: @shona_kinsella
Instagram: shona.kinsella
Email: shona.kinsella@outlook.com
Patreon: www.patreon.com/shonakinsella
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011729167110

I love hearing from new people so please do get in touch!

Thank you Shona!


Ashael Rising is now available to pre-order from Unbound. Just click here and buy!