Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I'm the author of two books of travel memoirs, three fiction books, and a scientific book on climate change. I've been a journalist, editor, traveler, development worker and climate-change researcher.
Born in England in 1957, I graduated in 1979 and worked in rock-music publishing, financial journalism, as a traffic broadcaster and as a reporter on the fishing industry. In 1987 I went to work as a volunteer in Sudan, an experience I described in his book Even the Dead are Coming (2009). I later also worked as a volunteer in Bhutan and went on to live in Aleppo, Brussels and Rome. These travels led eventually to a collection of long travel pieces, The Nine Horizons (2014), and a novel, The Lost Baggage of Silvia Guzmán (2014). A collection of three novellas, Three Seasons: Three Stories of England in the Eighties, was published at the end of 2014. The novella Dog! followed in 2015.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
It's called Dog!
Its inspiration goes right back to a TV program in the 1970s, in which a Welsh hypnotist, Arnall Bloxham, regressed a number of subjects to past lives that included a Balkan hunter-gatherer and a sailor in Nelson's navy. I thought: If you come back, why would it be as a human? So I chose a dog.
The dog’s owner is a cheerful slob called Bazza (the English often abbreviate names into Baz, Caz, etc.), a university lecturer in a provincial English city. When not teaching logical positivism or medieval ontology, Bazza chills with a spliff and a beer or browses porn sites. He’s also adopted an old dog, but finds it dour and unaffectionate. Still, the two of them live together happily enough, despite the dog’s contempt for humans and its habit of licking itself in front of guests. Then a Himalayan monk comes to stay for a few weeks while teaching courses in the city. He senses at once that there is something strange about the dog. He is right.
But perhaps that’s all I should give away. Except that, as the book’s blurb says: “Dog! is a powerful story of love and loss, sin, redemption and dog mess. You’ll never see your pet the same way again.”
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I write in short bursts; I'll do nothing for months, then spend hours every evening.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Graham Greene, J.B. Priestley, Ernest Hemingway – and many more. The book that's most influenced the way I think is Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. The book that's most influenced the way I write is J.B. Priestley's Bright Day.
What are you working on now?
A novel set in the winter of 1947, and a collection of non-fiction essays.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Goodreads, my Amazon author page and my blog; the latter isn;t mostly about my books, but about whatever interests me (including other people's books).
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Write what feels right; what you want to write. If you try too hard to aim for a market, your work will lack any real passion – and that'll show.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
From my father, who was a scientist; he made me understand the difference between a statement, supported by facts, and a mere assertion.
What are you reading now?
I'm re-reading Peter Quennell's Shakespeare, and Constance Babington Smith's book about early test pilots, Testing Times.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I have two books part-completed and I need to get them done. I may need a long retreat!
What is your favorite book of all time?
J.B. Priestley, Bright Day (1946).