Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m an English author, born in London and brought up under the sound of Jumbo jets near Heathrow. I now live on the Surrey/Hampshire border on the edge of Jane Austen country where I spend any free time indulging in my passion for photography. I enjoy photographing wildlife and the local landscape, and share my images on social media so that readers can get a feel for the locations around Farnham that I use in my novels.
I’ve had numerous non-fiction articles published, and won awards for short fiction and poetry, including a first prize awarded in a competition judged by noted mystery writer P D James. She was a total inspiration and personally encouraged me never to give up with my dream of becoming a published writer.
To date I’ve written many, many books, some published and some tucked away in secret files never to be seen again. My published work includes the Jake Talbot Investigates mystery series, which began with Visiting Lilly (2014) and continues with Saving Anna (2015). I’m currently working on the third book, Finding Louisa, due out in 2016. I’m also the author of two non-fiction books on how to read tarot, The System of Symbols: a New Way to Look at Tarot, which is now also published in Italian by Spazio Interiore; and Sex & Tarot.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest novel is Saving Anna, book 2 in my Jake Talbot investigates mystery series, which is a stand-alone story but continues with my two main characters Detective Inspector Jake Talbot and his unusual, geeky friend Frankie Hayward.
There were two main inspirations behind my storyline. Firstly, the Anna of the title is Jake’s mentally ill sister, who’s been in a catatonic state since the death of their parents. When she’s directly threatened by an occult organisation, Jake has to find the strength to come to terms with her mental state of nothingness. Is she still his sister, and can he believe in protecting someone who doesn’t appear to exist? It’s a very human dilemma that many people face when their loved one is unable to respond due to mental illness; and throughout Saving Anna Jake’s inner conflict sways many of his decisions. The second inspiration stems from when I studied photography at college and we were shown how subliminal programming is used in advertising. Ever since I have maintained an interest and awareness of how this type of subtle manipulation is used in modern society. I drew on this as one of my main themes and explored how people could use it with malevolent intent.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Yes. I need total silence and copious amounts of tea. Friends are now aware of this and have a tendency to continue speaking while we have afternoon tea together, for fear of me grabbing a notebook during any natural lull in the conversation. Tea + silence = writing.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Winston Graham, especially his observation of human character in books such as Marnie and The Walking Stick. I think The Walking Stick is one of my all-time favourites, even though on the surface it only appears to be the story of how a disabled woman is cruelly used by a smooth-talking man. It goes deeper than that and refers to her family’s inability to accept her infirmity, their rejection of her as an individual and her deep desire to be loved.
I’ve also been influenced by reading a variety of superhero comics, noir detective novels and the classics such as Dickens and Dumas.
What are you working on now?
Finding Louisa, book 3 in the Jake Talbot investigates mystery series, in which a little girl goes missing from the ponds and wooded acres of Puttenham Common, a local area of outstanding beauty. As they work on finding Louisa, Jake Talbot and Frankie unearth shocking evidence that leads back to an old case. There’s also a hint of romance in the air for Jake.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Twitter and my blog, but I am currently building a new website to promote my books, which will become my main hub. I have a web presence on most social media platforms, and once in a while it surprises me as to the contacts I make and what comes about from general networking. A Facebook author page is a must, and even if someone isn’t following my page, they will often stop by to say how much they’ve enjoyed reading my books. Your Facebook author page is an open door for communication which people will happily enter. It won’t sell books, but it will make you available for conversation with interested parties.
Strange as it may sound, numbers of followers isn’t the important issue. Socialising and networking with people who relate to your work is what it’s all about. Fifty potential fans you take the time to talk to are worth their weight in gold.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Never stop writing. Keep a notebook to jot down ideas of storylines when they spring to mind, because even if you are working on something else right now you can draw on those ideas in the future. No idea is ever wasted. Also, writing can be a solitary pastime, so join a writers’ group for critique, feedback and friendship. Online friends are great, but there’s nothing better than sitting in a coffee shop running your plot past a fellow writer and ironing out potential pitfalls over a cappuccino. By the way, don’t forget to give back and help your friend out, it’s a two way exchange, and helping them with their plot-line can strengthen your ability as a writer just as much as working on your own material. Spend the day, have several coffees, and lunch, and afternoon tea.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Recently, when I said to my editor that I thought my storyline was going to be too complex and that I shouldn’t include all of the characters I had in mind, she told me not to worry and to get it down on paper. She said, “We’ll sort it out in editing.” Her best advice was to “Just write your story.” This has given me the inner freedom to sit down and write what I had in mind, without any concern as to whether it’s too wordy or too confusing. The story is what is important. It’s the life-blood that pumps through a writer’s veins. Hacking it into shape for public consumption can come later. Editing is fun too!
What are you reading now?
I’m currently dipping back into an old favourite and reading Bonecrack by Dick Francis, in which a racing horse trainer is held to ransom by a villain who wants his son to become a top jockey. When the hero doesn’t comply, one of his horses meets with an accident – which genuinely looks like an accident, until a model horse with the same injury arrives in the post. Nasty stuff.
Once I’ve finished I shall go and find something hot off the press and see what’s new out there. I tend to do this, alternate between reading a favourite author and exploring someone new.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Finishing Finding Louisa is my priority, but I’ve also been invited to participate in an anthology of mystery suspense novellas alongside some highly respected authors. I’m very excited to be a part of this project, but now I have to think of a storyline!
What is your favorite book of all time?
It has to be The Walking Stick by Winston Graham