1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook?
Paperback most of the time, audiobook for driving and planes.
2. Pick a genre, any genre!
Impossible. I’m a voracious reader; I lean towards historical and literary fiction, but I will read almost anything under the right circumstances.
3. What is the first book you remember reading?
One of the Janet and John books (these are the UK equivalent of Dick & Jane books, for the uninitiated.) I’m not sure which one.
4. What book shaped your childhood most?
Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome. The freedom those kids had … (but to be fair, so did I, minus the boats.)
5. When did you first start writing?
Seven? Eight? Somewhere about there.
6. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?
Story has been part of my life for as long as I can remember; I learned to read at three, thanks to a bored, retired-teacher grandmother. At first I suppose I just wanted to tell stories. I still just want to tell stories, they just have a bit more depth to them.
7. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?
The book I am most proud of is Empire’s Daughter, the first in the series, because it is the one that took me from someone who wrote for myself to someone who wrote for others, the one I was brave enough to send out into the world.
8. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?
There are three novels that no one will ever see but me. I call them apprentice novels.
9.How many books/collections have you published so far?
Five novels, one novella, one illustrated short story chapbook. And some short stories floating around on various webzines. Plus two omnibus collections, one of my first trilogy and one of a duology.
10. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?
The novels are somewhere between alternative history and historical fantasy: no magic, but not quite our world. I call them ‘historical fiction of another world’, but that’s not a category Amazon recognizes. All the short stories are urban fantasy, so far.
11. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?
I write about a world modelled on Rome, Byzantium, and early medieval Europe. I own enough research books to sink the Titanic, and am very glad I live across the road from a university library. I even went to Rome to research the latest novel. But at the same time, because my world isn’t any of these places, it’s all in my head.
12. To plan, or not to plan your plot?
That’s changed over time. The first two novels were completely ‘pantsed’ – except that I write the ending very early, and have never changed one, so I know what I’m writing towards. The third book was planned, loosely, and reading my notes on the planned arc is highly amusing when compared to the final story. The same is pretty much true of the fourth and fifth – but the sixth, and the work-in-progress, are much more planned. But that doesn’t mean my characters don’t take control and do things I wasn’t expecting, or introduce plot lines I didn’t see coming.
13. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?
My first book was accepted by a small start-up, benefited from very good three-pass editing by people who knew what they were doing – and then they went out of business. I decided to self-publish at that point, and wouldn’t do anything else now. My books aren’t commercial; they’re hard to define in terms of genre; they are thoughtful and low on action, described by some reviewers as literary and cerebral. I suspect IF a traditional publisher accepted any of my books, they’d want changes I’m not willing to make.
14. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)
Mary Stewart’s Arthurian England, as she wrote about it in The Hollow Hills and The Crystal Cave.
15. Do you currently have a WIP?
Yes; Empress & Soldier, which is backstory (more than that, too) of two characters (Druisius and Eudekia) we first meet in my third book, Empire’s Exile, both of whom become very important in later books. So it’s a second entrance point into the series, I suppose, setting up both character arcs and political plots.
16. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.
Also impossible: my four first-generation MCs all have different, but equal, holds on my heart. I can’t choose between Lena, Cillian, Sorley and Druisius. It’s like trying to decide among children.
17. What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?
Empire’s Reckoning is the least-loved of my books in terms of readership and reviews, but my personal favourite. Readers prefer Empire’s Exile.
18. Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!
It’s a very tough call, but I’ll choose Lena and Cillian, a love that develops slowly and through hardship and sacrifice.
19. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.
I listen to music to set mood, so the songs vary from book to book. For my latest book, Empire’s Heir, it was Leonard Cohen/Sharon Robinson’s haunting Alexandra Leaving.
20. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)
No. I’m not a huge fan of character art; I am sparing with description, and I like to let readers imagine the characters as they want.
21. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Read. Read. Read. Outside your genre, inside it, in other traditions, old books, new books, classics, airport books—and think about what you like, what works for you, what doesn’t; absorb the flow and cadence of language, the pacing and structure. It’s how I learned to write.
22. Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!
Many … with, as usual, mixed results. The one I’m most proud of placing in is the Eric Hoffer Awards for Small, Academic and Independent Presses, where I’ve reached category finalist status with both my first book, Empire’s Daughter, and my latest, Empire’s Heir.
23. Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?
Guy Gavriel Kay, JRR Tolkien, Ursula K. Leguin, Susan Cooper, Rosemary Sutcliffe, Elizabeth A Lynn, Mary Stewart, Rosamund Pilcher.
24. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!