Interview: Chill with a Book


So, your novel has been awarded with a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award. What inspired you to write this book?

I don’t think there was a single starting point. I wanted to create a narrator who does some dreadful things and yet with whom the reader has some sympathy. I wanted to pull off the difficult trick of inventing a character who is a sociopath but whose past helps us to understand how he is what he is. So the first part of the book is about a gradual loss of innocence. Later because he is very clever and very funny we forget from time to time what a monster he has become.

What does the award mean to you?

Martin was read and evaluated by Chill’s readers against the following criteria: Were the characters strong and engaging? Was the book well-written? Did the plot have you turning the page to find out what happened next? Was the ending satisfying? Would you recommend this novel? The readers gave it a five star review so they must have been happy with these criteria. Every author craves recognition so naturally I am delighted, especially since the five readers worked independently.

What other titles have you published? Tell us a little about them.

I have written three volumes of short stories. The Mouse Triptych is a trilogy of of stories where mice, in one way or another, tangle with humans. The stories are held together by the low esteem in which mice hold men and there is a comic vein which runs through them at the darkest moments. Each can be read separately, but in fact they are subtly hinged by the idea that humans have less control of their destiny than they suppose.

The Swan Diptych is really a medieval animal fable in which Lincoln Cathedral is destroyed by angry swans. It is followed by a novella set in a fictional Cambridge college during the religious strife of Renaissance England. The two stories are also hinged, sometimes obviously, sometimes more subtly. Both depict the consequences of the follow and overweening pride of those clothed in ‘a little brief authority’.

Come Away, O Human Child is a quartet of tales whose different movements have different moods. My favourite is perhaps Hibernation where a little boy thinks a kiwi fruit is a hibernating animal. The title story describes the disappearance from the face of the earth of every child, but one. It was runner-up in the Writing East Midlands Short Story Competition in 2013 and was published in the Lincolnshire Echo.

Are you working on a new book?

Yes, I am in the latter stages of the first draft of a second novel, Humphrey and Jack. Humphrey considers himself to be a failure, personally, socially and sexually. He forms an unlikely friendship with a young delinquent called Jack. Their relationship gives meaning to both their lives until, when Humphrey is accused of a crime he did not commit, Jack is nowhere to be found. It is, like Martin, a tragicomedy of manners.

When not writing, what can you be found doing?

I enjoy travel. I am recently returned from a first trip to Venice which left me speechless. I particularly love Provence for its climate, its landscape, its people and, of course, its food. I also enjoy cooking which is often inspired by my travels. There is a poulet provençal in the oven now. I also like to hire a cottage elsewhere for a week where I can just get on with my writing. A recent sojourn in Holmfirth in Yorkshire was very productive.

Which three authors have most influenced your journey to becoming an author?

Vladimir Nabokov is the master. I also admire the timing and sense of menace in McEwan’s work. Kingsley Amis’s ear for dialogue is something I try to emulate. I am also influenced by Morse, Lewis and Endeavour!

Why did you choose the genre you write in?

I see myself as something of a genre-buster.

Quick fire questions

Twitter or Facebook?  Both

Tea or coffee? Tea with breakfast, coffee later, tea in the afternoon.

Marmite – yes or no? Yes!

Early riser or sleep in? It varies. Sometimes insomnia pushes me into a kind of 36 hour cycle which is annoying as mornings are usually my most productive time.

Planner or pantster? Macro-planner; Micro-pantster.

Book or kindle? Book, but Kindle is great when travelling.

Pineapple on pizza – yes or no? Ugh!

And finally, … What is your favourite book of all time?

Easy. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: clever, funny, beautiful, heart-breaking, dangerous. Every re-reading yields much that is new. The greatest novel of the Twentieth Century.

Chill with a Book Readers Award: Martin

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