First of all, thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to answer my questions.
Thank you for hosting me on the Readaraptor blog! The Blackhope Enigma came about when I wondered what would happen if, by walking around a labyrinth and ending up in its centre, one could be transported into a Renaissance painting and, subsequently, into all the under-paintings below it. The question that spawned The Crimson Shard was: what if you could walk through a super-realistic painting of a door and enter the past? I looked at a lot of trompe l’oeil (‘fool the eye’ in French) murals, which have always fascinated me, and knew they could inspire a great new adventure for Sunni and Blaise. Even though The Crimson Shard also has a magical painting at its core, I didn’t want to repeat the story I’d told in the first book, so I made sure this one is quite different, but that there are definite connections between the two.
I understand that you have a love for art as well as writing. Does your work as an artist influence your work as a writer?
Most definitely! I tend to see my stories as films and write what is playing in my head. My training as an illustrator was all about interpreting stories with pictures and now I am doing the opposite: using words to tell a story that I see in pictures. I am really pleased to have done the art side first because I think it has given me a lot of rich material to play with in my novels.
When planning the books you have written do you use drawings and pictures as a method?
I make mind maps, or flow charts, to plot out the story and to do revisions to draft manuscripts. I’ve found that mapping everything out graphically works really well for me. But I don’t make storyboards because that would take too much time. People have asked whether I might illustrate graphic novel versions of my books in the future. I’d love to, but I’d have to choose between doing that and writing new stories. For the moment, I’m really caught up with writing, and that’s where my energy lies.
Do you have any aids or lucky charms that you like to have near when you are writing?
My studio is full of objects I’ve collected: sea glass, stones, post cards and so on. Probably the most important lucky charm is a keychain with a painted wooden Indian elephant on it. The reason it’s so vital to me is because it has my memory stick on the keychain and I’m obsessed with backing up all my work on the computer!
I loved the illustrations that appeared throughout The Blackhope Enigma, did you draw them yourself?
Thank you! Yes, I drew all the pen and ink illustrations for both books. I love illustrated maps in other authors’ books and made sure there’s at least one in each of mine. It was really important for me to draw some pictures for each story, to keep my illustrator side going. And I am happy that Templar Publishing has also used my imagery on the covers (the labyrinth on The Blackhope Enigma and the shard silhouette on The Crimson Shard).
Does your writing follow a particular pattern? Do you stick to a set time period or do you just go with the flow?
When I wrote The Crimson Shard, I aimed to write a set number of words per day and worked at that until I had achieved what I wanted. Some days went well and others didn’t, but when you are trying to keep momentum on a project and get it done to a deadline, you just have to keep focussed and keep typing.
I’ve noticed you are on Twitter and keep an eye on the blogging world (thank you for my comment on the review for The Blackhope Enigma by the way!). How does it feel to be able to interact with your readers like that?
It’s amazing! Most of the time, authors and illustrators work in isolation and social networking has opened up a way of connecting with all sorts of people who share the same interests. It’s very gratifying to find my books mentioned or reviewed by someone who lives miles away, or even a continent away. What I also like about Twitter is that I can share links about art, animation, writing, history and even weird and wacky things I come across in the form of short videos or photos.
How do you deal with negative, and even positive, criticism?
I take it in my stride. I love it when readers connect with my books and are excited about them, and I’ve been lucky so far in that the books have had a lot of positive feedback (as well as nominations for a number of book awards in The Blackhope Enigma’s case). But I cannot expect everyone to like what I write, so I acknowledge the fact that my books just won’t appeal to some. If someone flags up a weakness in my writing, I do listen because I am always working on becoming a better writer.
Have you got any more writing projects underway at the minute and if so can you tell us anything about them?
Yes, I am working on Book 3 but I’m afraid I have to be a bit vague about it right now. It’s got a cool working title, I think, and I’m excited about its potential. Stay tuned!
A few more personal quick-fire questions:
Favourite painter? Impossible to answer! But my top five might be: Bosch, Holbein, Goya, Vermeer and Klimt.
Favourite author? Equally impossible to answer, but two top choices would be Jane Austen and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Favourite band? Depends which day it is! Today it’s The National but yesterday it was Fleet Foxes and tomorrow it might be something else.
Favourite animal? Lion.
Favourite dinosaur? Diplodocus! I like saying the name and I like its long neck and tail.
For your chance to win The Crimson Shard please fill out the form below. I’m afraid this is only open to UK readers and the prize will be sent direct from the publisher but it is open to everyone, you do not have to be a follower of my blog, but I ain’t gunna stop you! The giveaway will run until Friday 14th October and the winner notified that weekend.