Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m an English author who grew up in the West Country, a region in which reality and fantasy are frequently confused, and where what elsewhere would be taken as peculiar, regarded as nothing more than an everyday occurrence. Until relatively recently, I wrote only in an academic context, but around three years ago I turned my hand to fiction, and I must say that I find it a relief to be free of the need for footnotes and references.
I have published nine novellas and novelettes to date, as well as two anthologies, all of which could be characterised as weird or uncanny fiction, encompassing a range of genres from the ghost story, to the occult, folk horror, historical fiction, and satire. Many of my tales possess a pronounced streak of wry and dark humour. My first full-length novel will be coming out later this year.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is entitled ‘Uncanny Tales’, and is a collection of three novelettes and a novella, all with a supernatural theme, and one with a heavy dash of satire. A range of different influences fed into them, including a real life occurrence that took place whilst my wife and I were visiting an old church in Cumbria; we still can’t find a rational explanation for it. We are both pronounced sceptics, and neither of us had experienced anything like this previously. That, together with an unusual piece of sculpture on a 15th-century tomb in Hexham Abbey, fed into the writing of ‘The Ghost of Scarside Beck’. ‘At Fall of Night’ was inspired by a captivating painting, ‘Epona’ by a fitting from a Roman cavalry standard, and ‘The Rude Woman of Cerne’ by a particularly overbearing bed and breakfast hostess who insisted on foisting her political views on her guests over breakfast.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I have been known to scribble down notes in the middle of the night in pitch darkness so as to avoid waking my wife. Unsurprisingly, they have not been that easy to decipher.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
There are too many to list, but I would single out the following in particular: Roald Dahl, with his dark-humoured tales with a twist for adults in ‘Tales of the Unexpected’; M.R. James, with his wonderfully evocative and understated ghost stories; Nikolai Gogol, for his satire and dark humour; Anton Chekhov, with his masterful short stories; Iain Pears’s ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’ for its convincing portrayal of 17th-century Oxford and the social milieu and attitudes of the time; Robert Harris for his energetic and imaginative recasting of histories actual and imagined.
What are you working on now?
My first full-length novel which opens in 17th-century Cornwall: a story of the supernatural, slave-raiding, and religious fanaticism.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’ve yet to discover it.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
As many others have said and written elsewhere: ‘Don’t give up the day job,’ unless like me you happen to have been made redundant and have a very encouraging and supportive spouse or partner.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.
What are you reading now?
Night Terrors: The Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson.
What’s next for you as a writer?
This year my goal is to complete and publish my first novel, as well as a novella linking events and characters in three years – 1949, 1906, and 1537 – and a further novella set in early 1920s Devon.
What is your favorite book of all time?
It’s impossible to choose, but some that really stand out for me are ‘1984’, ‘I Claudius’, and ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’. Ghost stories don’t feature amongst this selection as they’re best suited to a shorter format.