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I’ve read that you have a day job as an architect, but have you always had the writing bug?

No, although I have always been an inveterate daydreamer, my early history being one of obsession with design and architecture, until I hit a brick wall in my first recession – my practice floundered, I couldn’t sleep - “Get a hobby,” a Good Samaritan said. Now I definitely floundered, and stood in front of the Library Hobbies section with no inspiration until rescued by a Library assistant (pre-Big Society).

“Have you tried reading, instead of canal widening?”  Well, I was coming up to forty and realised only then that I didn’t read books.

“Interests?” and all I could think was medieval history; where did that come from? 'Name of the Rose' was my first book and I was hooked; Ellis Peters, and then I was off, Paul Docherty... many more and as my enthusiasm grew, I took out more books than anyone could feasibly read in the lending term, and thus began my exchanges with the head librarian; why my books are late, which turned into what I thought about certain books, her recommendations and then her suggestion, write yourself, and over a very long period I mused on the subject, especially the fear of starting – I had built characters in my head, plot scenarios and then the fearful advice from people, “Mind maps”, “Key stages”, “Set out the chapters”.

I could do none of that.

I then heard a radio interview with Michael Connelly, an author I like, and the question he was asked, “Do you have a mind map of where the book is going when you start?”  He replied, “No, I have an idea for the first chapter and then I start and it is as much fun for me as to the reader to find out what is going to happen next."

I came home that evening and started my first book... 'Cause and Effect'

...and now I also review books – something I love when I can find the time – you can see my reviews on my books Facebook page:

‘A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza’ (great title) is the third of your ‘Kind Hearts and Martinets’ series, involving DCI Jack Austin.  Is each novel a complete story in itself?

Yes, each book can be read independently, but there are threads of an underlying narrative that extend in each book progressively. In 'A barrow Boy', the threads from books one and two are interwoven into the story so never is the reader left unknowing, and each book concludes tying up the mysteries pertaining to that particular novel, and leaves hooks that get followed up in the subsequent books.

In the series there are six books, all written.

Book 4, 'Ghost and Ragman Roll' is an adventure and introduces some additional characters that get taken on in later books – more of the mystery is unveiled.

Book 5, 'Merde and Mandarins' is where the whole of the five books are wrapped up – so what is book 6?

Book 6, 'The Duchess of Friesian Tun' - I stepped out of the novel framework and wrote this as a ‘stage-set’ narrative – certainly a challenge that I loved. In this the story of 'Kind Hearts and Martinets' is mulled over by a set of ‘off-the-wall’ characters (loosely based on 'The Canterbury Tales' but where the characters go nowhere) and the ‘play’ is contained principally in one set, with aside vignettes – funnily enough I have just read this through again in one of my interminable editing trips, and I am really pleased with it.

Is this your first book with Urbane Publications?

Yes, although Urbane are aware of my self-published first two, 'Cause and Effect' and 'Irony in the Soul', and the sequel to 'A Barrow Boy', 'Ghost and Ragman Roll', is tantalisingly trailed at the end... I am hoping that Urbane will take this on very soon as it takes some time to get a book out there. Certainly working with Urbane is a fantastic experience. Writing is a solitary experience and so it is with relief that Urbane embraces the collaboration of revealing what we create to the wide world...

...My dream - to have a box set published by Urbane of the first three books initially, as it was in the first instance, written as a trilogy – and then the full 'Kind Hearts and Martinets' series of six books, also in a box set – ambitious? I think you have to be... and, most importantly, I’m never going to stop writing, and long for the day when I can let the day job go and just write – bliss...

Your work is described as crime fiction with dark humour.  What draws you to this genre/style?

This is an interesting question and is at the nub of ‘marketing’ the book. Not my words but those of Urbane. I marketed my first two books as comedies (mistake) – Urbane, when we first met, said my books were Crime/mysteries that make you laugh – and who said publishers know nothing? (answers on a postcard).

My books have been likened to Tom Sharpe (I am very flattered) and my books are especially character driven, and although there is a main protagonist, reviewers have quite correctly identified a series of strong ‘support’ roles especially played by women; each character for me is solid and key and I take time over them all and then knit them into the narrative so they each play a serious part.

What draws me to this genre/style? Who knows? But it is important to me that there is a very serious underlying thread of social justice and fairness – the good and the bad, the 'Kind Heart' and the 'Martinet'; some readers pick this up and some just like the story and having a laugh.

Would you consider writing in different genres?

Yes I would and frequently start; I have book 9 on the starting blocks, a couple of chapters penned. It started as an observation on bullying, but already I know that it is drifting into crime/thriller that will make you laugh – bullying isn’t funny, but I often quote Peter Ustinov at this stage, 'Comedy is a funny way of being serious' and it is for me, it is how I can make my serious observations – and that is the very essence of 'Kind Hearts and Martinets'.

Who are your favourite authors or influences?

My word that is hard, and in my case almost impossible as I am an eclectic reader by default, I am that sort of person who will pick up a book and not even look at the cover and start reading, and have a truly poor memory, extending back only as far as maybe one or two books.

I love Ian McEwen and then I also love Wodehouse, Michael Connelly... Nordic Noir, Mankell whose characters are written warts and all, and here the memory lapses, except I read and reviewed a Gothic novel recently, published by Urbane, 'The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb', not my preferred genre but thoroughly enjoyed it and now my mind is flirting with reading Terry Pratchett... who knows where this will lead?

My biggest nightmare is walking into a library and knowing I will never be able to read that lot before I shuffle off my mortal coil... the thing is, I don’t think any of these authors influence my writing, other than, I often study sentence structure and paragraphing, only don’t tell anyone – they already know I’m a dipstick – but I write for me, in my own way... if people see similarities it is because a log of books are processed through my brain – and you don’t want to go there.

What are you currently working on?

Book 7, 'Rhubarb in the Mammon', is finished but I can’t leave it alone because I love it, but also because it has a partner sequel in Book 8, 'Umble Pie'. New scenarios, new characters whom I love to bits, and the story travels from serious (but makes you laugh) to an edgy surreal conclusion. 'Umble Pie' is my hardest task so far – I have set myself the challenge of weaving the ‘real’ sequel/and a ‘surreal’ narrative, like a DNA spiral and I have this 80% done – I have the ending in my mind and now it is that most important part – making sense of it all... the link – I know what it is but how to phrase it - what a joyful pain it is, this writing lark.

And of course I have book 9, 'Larkin’s Barkin’' off from the starting blocks and currently passing from synapse to synapse as I walk my dog along the seafront.

Praise-be for the CDO amongst us as I have readers contact me feeling obliged to read from book one, which is good for sales but not absolutely necessary, but of course your enjoyment of 'A Barrow Boy' might be enhanced by creeping up on it via books 1 and 2... so what can I tell yer...

     Book 1 – 'Cause and Effect' – Kindle                                    Book 2 – 'Irony in the Soul' – Kindle

Thank you, Pete.  It's been wonderful to hear about you and your work.  I'm very much looking forward to reading Jack Austin's stories.


December 2015

It's my pleasure to welcome, prolific writer and fellow Urbaneite, Pete Adams, to my guest page.  His latest novel, 'A Barrow Boy's Cadenza', published by Urbane Publications, sounds like a lot of criminal fun.  He tells us about his novels, interests and influences.  Over to Pete...

‘A Carpet of Purple Flowers’ is your wonderfully imaginative debut novel; have you written other fiction prior to this publication?

Only as a child, and then my stories would never be finished.

Up until around a year and a half ago, I lost myself in art projects, but found myself researching folklore more and more. Then one day, I decided to put all of the information gathered over the years into a story, and here we are. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, especially as I’ve never attempted writing of this magnitude in my life. Even formatting a manuscript had me in a spin! However, I fell in love with the fairy tale and its characters so much I had no choice but to listen to my muse and write. I became hooked. It still amazes me today that we can create an elaborate world simply from a collection of ideas. I must add, I have a new admiration for authors, having been through the process.  It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

Have you always been attracted to the fantasy genre?

Yes, it’s where magic exists, and we all love a bit of the magical don’t we? A little escapism from reality is a splendid thing. A brief respite from normal life.

Apart from fantasy, I also enjoy crime and psychological thrillers. Usually gangster related. I love Martina Cole’s characters, rough, gritty and raw. I think this explains why Brandon was created. A South London lad, a petty criminal, who becomes lost in drink and drugs. He brings a sense of reality to the magical elements. Each character has been created for a reason, even Fez, the Fennec fox. Though it might not appear obvious at this point in the story. None are wholly good, and none wholly bad. Each feel as if they’re doing what is right for them, selfish perhaps, but karma has a way of setting the balance right. *Winks*

I love that you have beings that are from two sects of a different world.  What inspires you to create fantasy?

Childhood daydreams that refused to leave my heart. :o) We never had a television or a phone, so I would sit in my room and create fantastical worlds. I have a fascination for folklore and cross- referencing mythical information. Yup, crazy I know, but it lights up something within, and my imagination fires up!  If I’m not writing, I’m researching.

In the book, I include elements of fantasy, but in a way that seems believable. So perhaps, it’s more magical realism than fantasy. I write as I see the story play out in my mind, blending genres, creating a story that refuses to slot into a specific box. This is why Urbane Publications felt like the right choice for me as a writer. A publisher that sees beyond genre labelling.

I’ve always thought of magic as a ‘feeling’. A spark that lifts the spirit, and to me, it is the strongest magic of all. I guess that’s why I’m a romantic, a romantic realist, if there can be such a thing. I believe in love, in all its forms, but remain very much aware that it can be an electrifying ride of both positives and negatives. This is where I write from.

As for fantasy inspiration, the beings in the book are inspired by many supernatural elements, but mainly the Tuatha Dé Danann, translated as people(s)/tribe(s) of the goddess Danu, who are thought to represent the main deities of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland. Also, the folklore of the Aos Si, a supernatural race in Irish and Scottish mythology, which I blend with other cultures myths and philosophies. I believe that many stories from all over the world stem from one original source, and this is where I draw my inspiration, from those similarities.

Bea is caught in a love triangle and a war.  I felt sympathy for the two Otherworldly beings in her life: Karian and Chance.  I realise you've touched on this above, but did you intend to create an ambiguous feel, or did you see it as a straight-forward good versus evil approach?

Oh, I most definitely wanted to create an ambiguous feel. You could read the book as a ‘normal’ love story, but there are layers if you care to look deeper. It is not an evil vs. good in any way, more a light vs. dark. Yin and Yang. We all have positive and negative personality traits, it’s what makes us interesting individuals with depth. Love is a perfect example of yin and yang. Where rational thinking goes out-of-the-window in matters of the heart. I suppose it depends greatly on the level of love/relationship.

Mistakes make us who we are, and I write my characters embracing these imbalances/flaws. I want them to grow, learn from each other through emotional hurt and joy, as we all do. People’s values/lifestyles differ on such a tremendous scale, and I wanted to portray this via my characters. Much in the same way that readers will relate to different aspects of the story, dependant on their perspective. Such as, Bea’s relationship with two men. How can she really be in love with two people? Why can’t she just choose between them? Hmm, but what if you have another person’s soul inside you? Can she truly be criticized for not being able to make rational choices, especially when everything around her is irrational? How would you stop ‘feeling’ the other soul? It would drive you crazy. Add to that, both men that she loves are not human and are on opposing sides of an old war, not of their creating, poor young Bea has a lot to contend with.

How can you be gentle, yet strong? How do you remain true to yourself when different people require different things from you? Bea has to find answers to some of these questions and more. Through the choices she makes, major changes are on the horizon.

I’ve also tried to create a story that subtly connects love in a more spiritual way, via Calageata (the elemental realm) visualization, fingertips, and Otherworldly meetings, of which none are accidental. It is all a part of a divine plan and in book two, the characters realise how deeply karma (Vororbla) has played a role in their lives, and the truth of how these characters relate is finally revealed. The question is… Do they have the power to change destiny, and would they want to?

I have mentioned my favourite moment in my review.  Your idea of a fabricated reality disintegrating is steeped in gothic imagery.  Have you been influenced by gothic literature?

Hmm, good question. Yes, I love gothic visuals/themes. Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop is a favourite. Dorian Gray. Bram Stoker's Dracula. Poe. Older fairy tales could also be classified as having a rather gothic feel, which I enjoy. Blending dark, melancholic tones with light. I guess that’s why I wrote that particular scene in this manner. I wanted to create a strong, dark transition, a peeling away of unquestioned reality. How a lie feels outside of itself.  

A favourite quote used in the book by the famous English travel writer, H.V. Morton, who visited Menteith Lake in the 1930s wrote:

"Far in the middle of the lake was a low greyness that rose and fell in queer shadows, as though the once holy isle of Inchmahome was built up out of lake water like a mirage.”

Although he is not a gothic writer, this section describing the lake really grabbed me. Contrast is important in writing and I wanted to capture that essence.

Your novel has a sense of completeness to it but there is clearly scope for more.  I was delighted to see you are working on a sequel.  When is it due out?

Thank you, Shirley. Yes, ‘A Carpet of Purple Flowers’ is a part of a much bigger story. One which spans over different eras. A karmic cycle that, until resolved, will continue to cause mayhem in people’s lives.

This epic tale will be explained over three books, a trilogy, but Bea’s part is told within the first two, which I’m in the process of writing - ‘Awake in Purple Dreams’. Fingers crossed, it will hopefully be released this autumn 2016.

Rest assured, unresolved questions will be answered in book two. ‘A Carpet of Purple Flowers’ is really an introduction to a different world and its people. ‘Awake in Purple Dreams’ is the middle, and ‘The Purple Book of Menteith’, the end of that particular tale.

I also intend to write a fourth novel, a stand-alone, pre-history of this other world - ‘The Butterfly Bridge’. This was actually the original story that introduced itself, long before ‘A Carpet of Purple Flowers’.

You can read a little more here

I am in the process of writing ‘Claíomh Solais’ (Shining Sword), possibly a novella, to accompany ‘Awake in Purple Dreams’, which happened quite by accident the other day. A character just decided they wanted their story heard and I listened. :o)  

A big thank you, Shirley, for your kindness in giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts here. It’s been a wonderful, reflective experience.

Thank you, Trace!  It has been fascinating insight into your novel, the cross-referencing mythical background to it, and the folklore inspirations that helped to create it.


February 2016

It is my pleasure to welcome the talented Urbaneite, Tracey-anne McCartney over to my website.      Her debut novel, 'A Carpet of Purple Flowers', is a sumptuous read, and can be purchased  through Urbane Publications here.