I’m spy thriller novelist, and the author of the award-winning novel A Kill in the Morning. I also run a website where I review spy thrillers and advise aspiring authors about writing and getting published.
Your debut novel, A Kill in the Morning, is due to be published in June by Transworld. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader?
What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
Specifically, I’d had an image in my head for years of hanger doors grinding open to reveal an amazing super-weapon that I could never quite see. Generally, all the classic spy novels I’d read inspired me. When I started writing A Kill in the Morning, all those ideas just seemed to flood out. About halfway through, I suddenly realised how the story had to end and that it was really going to work. I sat back and just thought, “This is the story I was born to write.” It was an amazing moment. I felt like a sculptor, chipping away and finding the sculpture was already there inside the marble.
How were you introduced to reading and genre fiction?
I was brought up reading classic spy thrillers like From Russia With Love, Ice Station Zebra, and The Ipcress File: fast-paced, action-packed and fun. My mum used to take me to the library every Thursday and I worked my way through practically every thriller and sci-fi novel they had, reading two or three a week.
How do you enjoy being a writer? Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
Being a writer gives me the opportunity to write exactly the sort of thing I like to read, and that’s massively enjoyable – almost like a choose-your-own-adventure!
I try to write first thing in the morning. Get up, have a cup of tea and write for a couple of hours. Writing first thing in the morning whilst still half asleep is good for imagining things. I write at home, mostly, although I have done some good work on long train journeys.
My strategy for research is to have ‘research days’ and ‘writing days’. That avoids getting sidetracked. On a ‘writing day’, if I’m unsure of a fact I just make a note to check it later.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I worked in IT for fifteen years. It was very lucrative, but practically everything I ever worked on was cancelled. I realised I wanted to create something lasting. I’d always written a bit, but I resigned in order to write full time. The first page I wrote is still in the novel, but it has been edited a lot.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
I’m aware that “Nazi victory” had been used as a setting for several novels, notably Fatherland and that some people feel it “has been done before”, but I think there’s plenty of room for more stories in what is becoming a sub-genre. After all, every story has been done before, and no one criticises a new crime novel because it’s not the first story with a detective in it!
In A Kill in the Morning, the Nazis haven’t achieved “victory”, anyway. Britain and the Soviet Union are still opposing them, but not in open warfare – instead there’s a three-way Cold War. That gave me a lot of scope to write the kind of classic spy story that was written during the Cold War, but with the Nazis as antagonists, and after all the Nazis are the ultimate bad guys!
What other projects are you working on, and what do you have currently in the pipeline?
I’m editing a novel called Angel in Amber at the moment, and hoping to bring that out next year. Angel in Amber is a thriller set in the near future, with Britain trapped between a feuding USA and Europe. It’s written in the same all-action style as A Kill in the Morning.
After that, there will be sequels to A Kill in the Morning. I’ve worked out how the series will continue and I’ve already written the first chapter of the next book.
Also, every month I write a free short story for my friends and the people who like my writing. You can sign up for it on my website.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
The novel I’m reading is Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene. I’m rereading all his spy-related novels to review them on my website. A non-fiction book I’ve been reading is Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer, as part of my research for the sequel to A Kill in the Morning.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I have never been a spy! People ask me this all the time, which I think has to be a compliment to the amount of research I’ve done.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Seeing A Kill in the Morning on the shelves in bookshops, and talking to people who have read it.
A Kill in the Morning will be published in the UK on June 19th, 2014.