Many thanks to David and Caroline for a superb interview.
Tell me something about yourself.
I’m 49 going on 35 with the mental age of a teenager. I have the world’s worst memory, Tom, and have to make notes of everything. I was delighted to hear of a colleague’s pregnancy at work only yesterday, but embarrassed to learn I’d been delighted for them two weeks ago when they’d first told me. The good thing about having such a poor memory is that you can marvel again at a good book that you’ve already read.
On average, how many times a week do you hurt yourself trying to dance in the shower?
I don’t dance in the shower. I do however dance with my 18 month-old baby girl, Ellie. She puts an arm around my neck, holds the other one out for me to grasp and we sing, sliding across the kitchen floor (told you I was a teenager!). We also do a fast spin at each chorus. This is fine until the whole song becomes one long chorus. The last time we danced, we spun fast enough to make her sick and me dizzy. We landed in a liquid heap on the floor. The cat will never be same again.
We’re not allowed to dance any more.
What is your inspiration to write?
Not too sure how to answer this one. But I’ll give it a go. I believe that if you spend your life as nothing but a consumer, it is a life wasted. I believe that creativity – irrespective of form (painting, writing, sculpting, making music, cooking, restoring, whatever…) – is central to human existence and fulfilment. Yes, I realise how deep that sounds, but I could not bear to go through life as a pure consumer (I feel guilty just watching a film!). I like to think that I’m creating something when I write, something that will outlast me, and something that I hope sincerely will bring a little bit of pleasure to someone else. Since I can’t sculpt, cook, or paint (quite like drawing though)), I choose to write. And now I’m afraid I cannot stop! Eek.
What’s the most money you’ve ever drunkenly spent at McDonald’s?
You’ve been following me, haven’t you? I’m on first-name terms with Eric – the guy at Macs – and he gives me staff discount now because I’m in there more than he is.
Do you get complaints when singing in the shower?
I am a very good singer. I am also tone deaf. Which helps enormously. On the way back from a Training Day with a bus-load of my colleagues, I chose to listen to some Muse instead of talking shop with ‘the rabble’. Only after the album had ended and I opened my eyes, did I realise I’d been singing. The rabble was staring at me as though I’d strangled a cat. But yes, to answer your question, I do get shouted at for singing in the shower. Some people have no taste.
Who would you let punch you directly in the face, and why?
My other half, Sarah. Because if she punches like she throws a ball, she’ll miss.
How old were you when you realised Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny probably never actually knew one another in real life? Did you feel cheated?
Santa Claus doesn’t only know the Easter Bunny, they are related. Didn’t know that, did you? It all began when Santa’s wife, Mary Christmas (she always used her maiden name), found a hair in her soup. It turned out to be a rabbit (they have shorter ears, like the African elephant) called Mixie-Ma Toastie. Mixie’s wife, Hamanegg, had just had a litter of baby rabbits (they always start off as babies), and were looking for somewhere larger to stay. They used to rent a semi-detached burrow from a badger but he was mean, and was always nagging them for the rent – I suppose that’s why they called him a badger, even though he was actually a mole.
Mary Christmas invited the herd to come and live with them; there was room aplenty with the reindeer in their stable. The Toastie’s moved their pride in with the reindeer the very next day. It so happened that Rudolf was allergic to cats and rabbits but no one had thought to nip to Sainsbury’s and get him some anti-histamines. His nose ran constantly, and despite buying the Kleenex with added balm, his constant mucus trail and incessant blowing had turned his nose red. And it stayed like that too! It also aggravated his piles.
One of the puppies, a rabbit they named Cheezantom on account of his impressive genitalia, grew into a fine adult who had a thing for a local chicken called Cadbury (something to do with the beak and the jerky head, I’m told). Anyway, I digress; one Sunday, Mary Christmas and Santa Claus had Mixie-Ma Toastie and his brood over for supper (Mary had heard they’d be great in a stew – ha, only kidding. She’d actually heard they’d be great in a pie, ahem), and their daughter, a shy young thing called Subordinate, fell in love with Cheezantom. They soon were wed, and Subordinate Toastie was a happy bunny. They moved into a detached warren. Warren didn’t seem to mind. And that is how Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were related.
Oh wait. I haven’t told you how Cheezantom became known as the Easter Bunny.
One good day, it happened to be a Friday, Subordinate came home early from Marks & Spencer to find Cheezantom all a fluster in the bedroom. When he finally stood aside, nose atwitching, there was an egg in the bed. “I laid it,” he said, looking sheepishly (not easy for a rabbit) through the window as a chicken (a chicken that looked remarkably like Cadbury) clucked off as fast as she could, hoisting her breeches up as she went.
Despite the Elf Visitor being in attendance, ten days later on Easter Monday, the egg melted because Subordinate had been incubating it in a low oven. The oven was so low she’d managed to put her back out again. Santa was distraught (he’d grown a beard especially to be a grandfather, and had even tried pipe smoking, but when he asked the tobacconist for a decent shag and was handed a sea bird, he thought it might be a trifle difficult to light and gave up on the idea, deciding patches would be a safer option), and spent the evening drinking eggnog and eating the sickly crème smeared on a Jacob’s cracker. Jacob didn’t seem to mind.
In a stupor, and with itching teeth, Santa declared a promotion for Cheezantom from long-eared layabout to Easter bunny, and further declared the day would be celebrated by everyone eating chocolate eggs. And this leads us nicely on to the how Toothfairy PLC came into being…
What drives you to continue writing?
This will sound like a cliché. But I write because I feel empty, almost useless, if I don’t.
But there are many other reasons why I write – even though I’m not exactly commercially successful; but that has never been a reason for me to write (proven by the fact that I’d written six books before Amazon was even born). I write because I enjoy that total immersion in a story, the utter belief that good will always win over bad, even if good is slightly soiled by the end of the tale. There’s no feeling like it when you’re so far into this other world that your fingers cannot keep up with the thoughts coming out of your mind. It’s always a bit of a shock to realise you’re making all this up, and you have to get ready for work.
I also write because I adore the way people interact with each other (study them), and so the way the characters do too. I write because I enjoy the feeling it gives me to know someone else is reading my humble stories, and hopefully, enjoying them a bit.
How many bottles of wine have you finished without ever actually pouring any of the wine into a glass?
Precisely none. I don’t drink wine. Red wine gives me a headache, and white wine leaves my mouth feeling like a ballet dancer’s jock strap (I imagine!). Now, whisky…
Funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a job?
Under 18s answer. I was to attend a burglary scene at 6 Poplar Street. I was startled to find the door ajar and no answer to my calls of ‘Hello’. I pushed the door open and peered inside, expecting to find the elderly occupant horizontal due to heart failure. But no, the hallway was empty, as were all the downstairs rooms. My concern grew to the extent where I decided it best to go upstairs and check; I listened for noises of distress as I ascended the stairs, but there were none. The first floor rooms too were empty. I looked at the attic stairs, knowing my chances of coming across a corpse were much greater now. I crept up the stairs, heart pummelling, palms sweaty on the bannister rail. I peered into the first room. Nothing. And then, in the second room, there it was. Nothing again.
So I went back downstairs, checking the rooms hastily as I went, until I went back outside, rubbing my chin, staring at the front door. The front door that said number 8.
Over 18s answer. We began using digital cameras about 12 years ago. Prior to this, we used medium format film cameras – the Mamiya RB67. That’s the big clunky camera you see professionals use at weddings, the ones where you look down into the viewfinder, and twiddle a knob to get the bellows moving in and out. It’s true. So, I was photographing a hacking-and-slashing session at the local mortuary and needed height to get this particular shot. The little step ladders just weren’t high enough. So, idiot that I am, ignored the ‘don’t be stupids’ and climbed onto the stainless steel table above the body. You can guess what happened next. Yes, I slipped, and landed smack right into the cadaver. It took a long time for the title of SOCO Necrophilia to go away – not helped by the fact that I’ve stumbled into/onto another half dozen bodies since then. But at least I apologise to them.
At a murder scene, I was using the same camera to quarter the kitchen (taking a shot of each corner of the room from its opposite corner to capture all the room’s details). The knife that the murderer had used came from the cutlery drawer which was fully open, and the scene was deadly silent with CID pondering the murder in the lounge, standing over the body, and speaking in whispers to each other. Of course, I managed to catch the damned drawer and wrench it out, scattering knives, forks, spoons – anything man-made that makes a helluva racket in fact, right across the bloody trail on the kitchen floor. I may have cringed slightly. To say I went a shade of red might be an understatement.
When will we be seeing another book from you?
Well, first of all, are you sure you’ve seen them all already? Ahaha, sorry, that’s a bit unfair. Before crime, I wrote horror (very badly), so there are three books you’ve never seen – and never will see!
But anyway, the next book in the Eddie Collins series is called Ledston Luck. I was about 20k words into it when I decided to rework The Third Rule, and once all that and the other housekeeping things I have to do are out of the way, I’ll begin again. So I’ll say hopefully by the end of the year (which year, I hear you ask). My days of writing books in six months are a long way behind me. That was just exhausting.
I am never sure how many people actually read reviews. What is your view?
I always read a selection of reviews. I think the more expensive an item is the more reviews I read (beds, sofas, cars…). But for books, yes I do read a selection, and I think many other people do too. You want to know that the story is something you’re likely to enjoy, and you want to know what others before you thought about the writer’s ability. After that, if I’m still not sure, I have a peek at the Look Inside feature.
As I say, I think a lot of people do this and that’s why reviews are so very important to writers. I urge readers to leave reviews, even if it’s just a sentence or two. They really don’t need to be an in-depth essay. I had a review for The Lift (a short story) that was almost as long as the book! I wasn’t complaining though, because it was a five star review, but I also wasn’t complaining because it was a detailed analysis of the story, the characters, and their interaction. That review delighted me.
If I’m attracted to an author’s work, I often like to find out a little more about them than the Author Page on Amazon gives away. And interviews area good way of getting to know them. A lot depends on the questions asked of course, and the general tone of the interview: stifled questions get stifled answers. Quirky questions allow an author to open up a little, to have some fun – and that’s what people want to see; they want to see the guy who made them cringe or laugh or cry, the guy who played with their emotions on such a personal level the way only a close family member could. I’m all for interviews.
Thank you very much for having me along for a chat, David. It’s been a blast 😉