We’ve had two cracking – a very different – episodes of the Bestseller Experiment recently. First up is a report from The Romantic Novelists’ Association conference in Leeds where I spoke to Rhoda Baxter, Nicola Cornick and Sheila Crighton (aka Annie O’Neil) about all sorts of love including instalust, passionate blur and the scale of hotness. And it was great to finally meet Rhoda Baxter (aka Jeevani Charika), who also proved the Lego image above! Listen to the podcast here.
This week’s podcast features John McGhie, an investigative journalist who has worked for the BBC, Channel 4 News and the Observer. John and I met on Whitstable beach at the peak of the football world cup at what felt like a brief moment of optimism in an otherwise politically depressing 2018. We cheer ourselves up by talking about the historical atrocities chronicled in John’s excellent new book White Highlands! No, really, it’s a fascinating episode and we cover writing historical fiction in some detail. Listen here.
And if you want to know more, the documentary that inspired John’s book can be seen here…
Ahead of the publication of The End of Magic(and while I wait for the dreaded edit notes to come back) I’ve been writing a short story set in the same world.
How Drust Krax Lost Two Fingers introduces the novel’s main villain Haldor Frang, and it’s told from the point of view of the hapless Drust Krax. A defeated warlord, awaiting certain death, who really, really needs to use the privvy…
I’m offering it first and exclusively to anyone who subscribes to my newsletter! To download a copy for your Kindle or any other eReader device, just sign-up here.
Please note: I’ve had all my GDPR jabs and I will never sell your information on to any third parties. It’s all safely tucked away by Mailchimp!
Big thanks to Jack Logan and Julian Barr for reading my early drafts the story, taking them down a dark alley and giving them a good kicking. Thanks also to Kit Cox for the map image used on the cover art.
I really enjoyed writing it and can’t wait to hear what you think of it!
In other news, I spoke to the wonderful Gareth L Powell on the podcast this week. We discussed the slow death of Facebook and how to sing a space opera. Listen here.
There’s also a fab Deep Dive on adaptation this week with Julian Barr (second mention in the blog today). One of us has a PhD. It won’t take you long to figure out which one of us doesn’t… You can listen to a teaser here.
And I’m on BBC Radio Kent tonight (or in the past, depending on when you read this). I’ll be talking to Dominic King on his new arts show about the podcast, Robot Overlords, The End of Magic and more. Listen or catch-up here.
It’s been a fun week with a trip to the beach at Whitstable to interview Julie Wassmer. I had hoped to get some lovely audio atmosphere with waves lapping on shingle and gulls screeching overhead, but the tide was out so I had to settle for a gentle breeze buffeting the microphone. Fortunately, Julie is great fun to chat to and she told me all about working on EastEnders, bumping off the locals in her novels, and why all writers should live in fear of a cup of tea and bacon sandwich. Listen here.
I also got to visit Hachette’s new warehouse in Didcot. While this may not sound like everyone’s idea of a fun day out, I did get to ride on one of their pickers, which went some 25 metres in the air and the queues were shorter than Disney…
Also, if anyone’s concerned that print books are on the decline, this vast palace of storage and hi-tech distribution should allay those fears. This place was built to pump books out into the world and they’ve left plenty of room for expansion.
I finished a short story this week. It’s a prequel to The End of Magic in which we meet our antagonist. My agent Ed read it and enjoyed it, though he did have one note: “Maybe the humour could be a little less lavatorial…? But that’s probably my shit to deal with.”
I do seem to have a thing about bodily functions… What do you say? Should I take this crap?
This week’s podcast is a bit different in that we were visited by Catriona Innes, Senior Editor at Cosmopolitan UK. When I was a teen, Cosmo was the mag that you read to learn about sex when you were sure no girls were looking! But it’s evolved into something very different now and it was terrific to hear from Catriona how she’s gone undercover to expose all sorts of shady shenanigans. Cosmo is now doing what 21st century magazines do best with long form articles, thoroughly researched with a sense of perspective and objectivity.
There were also some top tips from Catriona on interview techniques that any writer could use in their work. Check it out here.
Late last year I was invited to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference at Winchester University, and the organisers kindly allowed me to stick my microphone under the nose of anyone passing by. As well enjoying some very instructional and inspirational panels, I got to talk to some amazing authors, including Liz Pichon, author of the bestselling Tom Gates books.
We talk about all sorts, including how she uses flowcharts to outline her stories and how The Sopranos was an influence on the Tom Gates books!
Liz was very generous with her time and I must thank the organisers of the conference for being so accommodating. There will be more interviews like this with the likes of Patrice Lawrence and Alex T. Smith and more. Subscribe to the podcast on your podcatcher of choice to make sure you don’t miss out.
A bit of a legend on this week’s podcast. Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to grab an interview with fantasy titan Brandon Sanderson while he was on his UK tour for the truly mammoth Oathbringer.
I’ve seen Brandon at a few convention panels in the past, and he always gives thoughtful answers, and he has his own podcast – the excellent Writing Excuses – so I knew he would be a terrific guest. And this was one of the reasons we opened the questions to our Patreon supporters, who gave us some cracking queries for Brandon, and some of whom are currently freaking out on social media having heard his replies.