Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to start writing.
I’m a sf and fantasy writer based in Northern Ireland. The summer I turned 40 I was faced with a family growing out of the dependent baby days and a bit of time on my hands. I decided I could either tidy the house or write the book I’d always planned to.
Anyhow, I don’t like tidying. So I wrote the book and we’ve lived in cheerful chaos ever since.
Tell us about your books.
I write a variety of books, all under speculative fiction.
My main body of work is The Inheritance Trilogy, a dark Space Opera based in my fictional world of Abendau. Book one and two are out, with book three due in the Autumn from Tickety Boo Press. Abendau has the feel of classic space opera – deliberately so – but is very, very close to the characters.
What I wanted to do was challenge the trope of the ‘chosen one’. So often, our sff heroes get a lot thrown at them and, as far as I could tell, no one explores what that would do to a person. I did. I looked at what happened to that person – and it’s dark and uncomfortable reading in parts – to their family and their loved ones. Over the course of the trilogy I explore different generations, different perspectives, but all from the same close point of view.
My second book is Inish Carraig, which is a science fiction novel set in a post-alien invasion Belfast. In it we follow a small family of survivors who are struggling to survive and are beset on every side. When John, the eldest of the siblings, is forced to take a fall for the local hard man, he’s sent to Inish Carraig, an alien prison. There, he discovers a conspiracy that threatens Earth, and he knows he has to reveal it.
To do that, he has to get out – and that’s where Henry Carter, the policeman who arrested him, comes in. He leads a joint narrative to the thrilling end game.
How did you go about getting published?
I’m one of these trendy hybrid authors – The Inheritance Trilogy is with a small press, but I self published Inish Carraig, despite offers on it.
I was all set for the trad career and got an agent for Inish Carraig, but things didn’t work out (my work straddles generations and is often hard to conveniently label for a market) and I didn’t want to lose a book I’d worked so hard on. So I brought it out myself, and have had a lot of fun doing so.
What is your writing process? Do you have a time, day or place you like to write?
I usually write in the afternoon, when the kids are home from school. I clear my work-work in the morning, and then get stuck in for about 2 or 3 hours later on. I write on a very old laptop on my kitchen table, with a dog snoring in her bed behind me.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Full-time job, pets, hobbies?
I run my own consultancy, so that keeps me busy. I have two kids, a dog, a cat who comes and goes and some fish. So I’m not bored. As well as that, I garden a lot – I grow my own veg – and cook. I still don’t like cleaning much.
Any advice for authors about book covers?
Remember that modern covers need to work as a thumbnail on Amazon as well as in someone’s hand. So fonts need to stand out well and small, fussy detail will be lost.
Any marketing tips you’d like to share with other authors?
Network, network, network. Don’t turn up and try to sell your stuff – chat to people, get to know them. Be interested in others. Cold selling is a real turn off.
What’s your favorite book?
Ah, a toss up between Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and The Time Traveller’s Wife. I adore both and periodically curl up with them.
What are you reading now?
I’ve just finished The Martian by Andy Weir, which I really enjoyed.
What’s your next book project?
After book 3 of the trilogy, I’m working with my new publisher on my first fantasy book, The Waters and the Wild. It’s set in the Glens of Antrim and features a girl who either hears fairies, or she’s mad. So far, so conventional – except the truth about her condition doesn’t lie with her but an unreliable narrator who has a very hidden agenda.
It’s a dark fantasy with true Irish fairies – in other words, not sweet and cute – and complicated humans, all set against a part of the world that has the essence of magic through it.