Do you write under any other names?
Also as ‘William Webster’ – author of adventure novel ‘Pagan’s Sphinx’
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just finished the first draft of ‘Church of the White Rabbits’ and recently handed it over to my beta readers to see what they think.
The book has been brewing for a long time. I wrote the first notes back in 2002 and the idea has nagged at me (off and on) ever since.
It’s a story about an eccentric group of characters living on a remote British island way out in the Atlantic – featuring an autocratic family, a mad old aunt, drunken fishermen, various feuds… and white rabbits.
How many (if any) books do you have published and what are their titles?
I’ve published four novels and a collection of short stories so far:
‘The Tale Of Findo Gask’ – which won a 2005 UK competition for new authors.
‘Thin Ice’ – a paranormal crime thriller
‘The Vault’ – a mystery published in aid of the charity ShelterBox
‘Fractured Lives’ – a collection of short stories
‘Pagan’s Sphinx’ – written under the William Webster pen name
What inspired you to write your first book?
Hard to say – I wrote my first ‘novel’ while still at primary school! I’ve always loved both reading and writing. The first book I completed was a sci-fi epic that took about eight years and many, many, rewrites to complete.
‘Findo Gask’, which was my first published book, is basically a novel about injustice and inequality. It’s the story of a boy who grows up in an extremely deprived British city, surrounded by criminals and drop-outs.
Findo develops into an extraordinary thief and while his life involves all kinds of adventures, the question behind his story is whether we should expect people to play by our rules if they have no stake in society.
Do you have a specific writing style or one that you prefer?
My style has developed enormously over the years. When I started, my life experience was quite limited, which is probably why my first attempt was sci-fi where I could invent everything!
I also used to write very lengthy descriptions and little dialogue. I do still enjoy coming up with a good turn of phrase and I like to try and conjure up the essence of a location so that readers can be there with me.
However, I also try to keep my writing fairly taut and have learnt that a lot can be conveyed through good dialogue and characterisation.
Most of my stories are written in the third person but while some have just one main protagonist I also enjoy creating novels that involve a number of strands.
How did you come up with the title of your book(s)?
Titles are hard and I’m not really convinced that all of mine are that good.
One of my current projects is a revised version of Thin Ice. The ending has confused a few readers and, while I’m not going to change the end, I’m looking at another way of showing it. I might also change the title as there’s a whole series of books of the same name.
Findo Gask is the name of a small village in Scotland. I saw a road sign with the name on years ago and everything came from the name.
I also like ‘Church of the White Rabbits’ – hopefully it’s intriguing enough that it will attract readers and they’ll be expecting something a bit offbeat.
Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp?
The Vault is a mystery that involves four very different strands. The central part is about a young boy called Adam and his battle with a gang of local yobs. There’s an element to this strand that is about bullying, racism and being an outsider.
I don’t want to preach to readers but I like to show situations from different perspectives.
How much of the book is realistic/true?
The Vault is based around a small British town called Compton Fosse. While the town itself is imaginary, it’s very much drawn on my own experiences of growing up in a small town.
The woods where Adam spends a lot of his time – and has most of his battles – are also very much based on my own experiences. As a young boy, I spent a lot of time exploring the countryside, playing in woods… and exploring places I probably wasn’t supposed to be.
I also did quite a lot of research for parts of the book that were outside my everyday experience – such as the kind of weapons that might be used by ex-Soviet mercenaries.
Are the experiences in your writing based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All my writing probably contains elements of my own experiences and imaginary situations.
I grew up without a TV and have always had a very fertile imagination – probably spending more time in my own head than in the real world.
However, I definitely use places and people I know as background. One of the characters in The Vault is a biker who’s loosely based on a cousin of mine. Others are pure invention.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Hard to say. I’ve always read voraciously and across many genres.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a “mentor”?
Can I have a combination? How about Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and C S Lewis?
What book are you reading now?
I’ve just finished ‘State of Wonder’ by Ann Patchett. I’ve got several books on my Kindle from new indie authors and have started ‘A Death on the Wolf’ by G M Frazier.
Do you see writing as a career or a hobby?
I’d like to see it as a career but unfortunately it’s not yet bringing in enough money for it to be a full-time occupation. Maybe next year.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think books are ever finished. I could always go back and change things. Learning when to stop is one of the hardest parts
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think I was born with it.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Below is an excerpt from the first chapter of ‘Church of the White Rabbits’:
The snapping sounds and almighty crash that come from the back yard instantly silence the gathering of Judds.
Arthur jerks around in astonishment. Sally and one of the girls shriek, while Davey and his young friend Nathan both do impressions of drowning goldfish as their mouths open and shut in silent expressions of wonder.
‘What on earth?’ George is the first to move. He turns to the kitchen door and throws it open. Bursting through, he makes it several feet into the yard and then stops, confused. While he tries to make sense of what he’s seeing, other members of the Judd family pile up against him from behind.
‘Dad! What is it?’
George frowns. The back of the yard is where the rabbit pens should be. There’s no sign of them though. In their place, all he can see is a pile of broken branches. Sticking out of the top of the mess is what looks like a pair of human legs in ragged trousers.
A loud groan comes from the mound of foliage. There’s a twanging sound and the legs slide out of sight.
‘Hold on, Davey.’
‘Where the bleeding hell are my rabbits?’
George and Arthur pull some of the branches out of the way. Beneath them, they find Ned Hawkins lying prostrate.
‘Is he dead?’ Davey jumps around behind them, his friend Nathan peering over more warily.
‘Dunno.’ Arthur looks up. Above them, a hole torn through the overhanging tree shows the origin of the broken branches. What looks like a section of iron railings is hanging from one of the snapped-off limbs.
It’s hard to believe where Ned Hawkins came from. The backyards of Goat Street are dug into the side of a steep hill. The only thing directly above them is the rambling mansion that the Black Family calls home. Tower House stands on a spur of higher ground and looms over the huddled terraces where common folk live. There are no ground floor windows or doors on this side of the building. So, unless Ned jumped from the roof itself, the narrow balcony on the first floor is the only other option that Arthur can see.
Squinting, he tries to calculate the height. The old ash tree that leans above the rabbit pens is probably twenty feet tall. The distance between the top of the tree and the balcony is at least that far and half again. A total of fifty feet.
Arthur breathes the word out with soft reverence. However it was that Ned came to fall, it’s a long way down.
Ned’s eyes open slowly. He hurts in all sorts of places but his head’s in such a whirl that the pain hasn’t really filtered through yet. He’s completely disorientated. All he’s really aware of is the little, fur-covered face beneath him. The one that’s staring up at him with wonder and what looks like love.
The word is soft. Ned isn’t sure where it comes from. The only thing he can see is the little white rabbit.
‘He came from the sky.’
‘Did he fly?’
‘Look up there.’
‘Is he alive?’
‘Has he come from heaven?’
‘Maybe he’s an angel.’
‘Has he come to save us?’
Ned is only vaguely aware of the conversation that’s going on above him between the younger Judds and their friends. Some of the children’s words seep in though and rattle around the inside of his bruised and befuddled brain.
His mind is still trying to make sense of the different messages it’s receiving when the young rabbit beneath him wrinkles its nose.
As if in response to the signal, three other white rabbits appear in his vision. They hop forward from wherever they’ve been hiding. Now, all four are looking up at him and Ned realises who it is that’s talking about him. It’s the rabbits. They’re saying he’s their angel. He can’t quite remember how it happened but he must have been sent from heaven to save the white rabbits.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding enough time to do it. And not being distracted or procrastinating and wasting precious time doing silly things like playing computer games.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
There are so many authors I respect that I wouldn’t want to pick out one. My preferences also change according to the time of day and what kind of mood I’m in.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write, write and write. And read.
Concentrate on getting your ideas down – worry about the plan later.
Don’t worry if inspiration dries up, it will come back so use the time to do something useful like editing older work or reading other people’s work.
Keep learning. Do NOT rely on spellcheckers and automated grammar programs.
Do not publish until your work is really ready. You’ll only be embarrassed later when readers point out the typos, inconsistencies and other plot errors!
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your stories to to life?
Some stories flow easily, some are a struggle. I got about a third of the way into ‘The Vault’ and then got bogged down.
I then rewrote the book as a screenplay and that really helped. Making myself visualize all the scenes made it much easier to work out what was going on and how it all tied together. I then returned to the novel and wrote the rest of it without much trouble.
What character from your writing is your favorite and why?
I’ve been told that I’m particularly good at writing from the perspective of young boys – Adam in ‘The Vault’ and Findo in ‘Findo Gask’. Maybe because my mind’s still stuck in that kind of age.
I also like outsiders, individualists and people who don’t always do what they’re told.
That’s probably why I had enormous fun writing from the perspective of Keziah Black – the ‘mad’ old woman in ‘Church of the White Rabbits’.
Additional Information you’d like to share:
‘The Vault’ is published in aid of the disaster relief charity ShelterBox, which gets 50% of all royalties from the book.
From now until mid-December, I’m also running a competition via my blog to raise extra funds for the charity.
Prizes include Amazon gift tokens, signed copies of ‘The Vault’ and my adventure novel ‘Pagan’s Sphinx’, plus other goodies. Entering the competition costs $1 with all money going to ShelterBox. Just answer three simple questions for a chance to win.
Want to be interviewed by me and featured on my blog?! Click here to find out how!