How did you hear about SPFBO and have you read any of the other SPFBO6 entrants?
You know, I don’t actually remember where I came across SPFBO, but I encountered the contest during SPFBO4. I had no idea how to find good self-published fantasy at the time, and coming across the contest was a bit of a revelation. Suddenly, there were all these great, original, professional books. I’ve read about a dozen from previous contests, and many of them are now among my favourite books self- or traditionally-published.
I’m planning to read all of this year’s finalists. So far, I’ve read Suzannah Rowntree’s A Wind from the Wilderness, Justin Lee Anderson’s The Lost War, Alexander Darwin’s The Combat Codes. All three are brilliant, and I absolutely recommend them to everyone. A Wind from the Wilderness is an immersive, vivid historical fantasy, The Lost War is a cleverly constructed epic fantasy mystery with a great twist at the end, and The Combat Codes is an utterly unputdownable fantasy thriller.
You studied Theoretical physics at University of Essex and got your PhD. Are you still a physicist for your dayjob?
I’m not. I wasn’t really cut out to be a research scientist. I didn’t really have the patience. I spent a couple of years editing and publishing physics research journals and a few more as a physics teacher, but I haven’t been active in physics in any way for quite a long time, although I still love reading about and following modern physics. For my ‘day job’, which doesn’t always happen in the daytime, I do freelance web and book cover design.
You’re living in Monmouthshire – where would you tell people to stop by if they were visiting the area?
Monmouthshire is a pretty rural area of Wales (which, as a city boy, I still find a little hard to cope with). Wales, outside the cities, has two main things going for it: the countryside and the castles. In Monmouthshire, we’re on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Black Mountains. If you’re the outdoors type, it’s gorgeous: mountains, valleys, rivers, woodland. I also recommend Raglan Castle, which is a pretty good, big castle with plenty of history.
You’ve caught covid not once, but TWICE, very sorry to hear that. What was that experience like?
Right? It’s almost laughably bad luck. Both times, I’m certain my kids brought it home from school. It’s actually been pretty bad. The first time knocked me out for about six months, and I had only been recovered for a little while by the time I got it again, and it’s just as bad this time around. I’m maybe less stressed by it the second time, though, because I know how it progresses and that I will get over it eventually. Hopefully, I’ll get a vaccine before there’s a chance to get it a third time! Still, take my advice and avoid getting it at all!
Outside of physics, which field of science most fascinates you?
Let’s start by acknowledging that physics is the only *true* science. Everything else is just an approximation to physics. 😀
The science that fascinates me most in palaeontology. Everyone grows up loving dinosaurs, but we mostly have an incredibly outdated and inaccurate view of them. Modern palaeontology has made incredible discoveries, and it’s a much more rigorous science. I think if it had been an option when I was considering university, it would have been a better fit for me than physics, but the school I went to didn’t really consider such things. It was a fairly deprived inner city school, and almost no one went to university at all, so when I wanted to, I was kind of directed to a more conventional track. Not that I regret it. I loved my time at university.
Given certain tweets, it seems like you’re a gamer? If so, which three games have you sunk the most time into?
I’ll take gamer to mean both video games and tabletop games. Sadly, I’m not a video gamer any more, since my hands and arms are too screwed up to play (too much computer use for too many years). Over the years, I would say that I spent most time on the various iterations of Civilisation and Age of Empires. In terms of tabletop games, my favourites are D&D, Call of Cthulhu, and Paranoia, although I don’t get to play as much as I would like.
Checked in on your Goodreads author profile and found that you’ve written a decent amount of books. Are they all in the same genre, if they’re all different which genres have you written thus far?
They’re not really the same genre. I’ve written a bunch of short stories, most of which are fantasy of various types, and I have a collection of sixteen of those stories (called At the Gates and Other Stories) which is coming out on January 2, 2021.
I’ve also published two Middle Grade novels, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb and The Emperor of Mars, which are kind of modern pulp science fiction adventures, and I’ve written two novellas, The Dinosaur Hunters and A Spy in the Deep, which are set in the same world as the Middle Grade novels, but which are aimed at adults and which are mysteries.
Then there’s Shadow of a Dead God, which I describe as a snarky fantasy noir and which is set in a secondary fantasy world. So, they are kind of different, but all of the novels and novellas have humour, some mystery, and twisty plots.
This is such a unique and fun cover, who is the cover artist for this?
Isn’t it awesome? The cover artist is Jeremy Holmes, and he also did the cover for The Emperor of Mars, which I think I like even better than this one. He did internal illustrations for both those books, too, which are quirky, character-full, and fun.
Which Dr. Who is your favorite iteration?
Oh, that’s tough. For a long time, I would have said that it was Tom Baker, because he was *my* Doctor when I was growing up, but I actually really love David Tennant and Peter Capaldi. However, if I really had to choose one, I think it would be Matt Smith. There’s something about the way he portrays the Doctor that gives the character a lot of depth and variety.
You’ve been charged by a buffalo? Did you need new pants? How did this happen?
Ha! This happened when I was about seven or eight years old and living in Zambia. We were visiting a zoo, and I was standing right by the buffalo enclosure. The only fence was a fairly bowed and bent chain-link fence, which should have been a clue. I was standing a few feet away, looking the other way, when a buffalo charged right into the fence. It was … surprising, but I suppose it must have been safe. It just didn’t feel like it at the time…
You’ve lived in some interesting places like Zambia and Guyana – what had you globetrotting so much? Where in Zambia and Guyana did you live?
I lived in Zambia from just before I turned five years old until I was nine. We were in what at the time was a fairly small town called Kaoma, although it’s larger now. My parents had both volunteered in different parts of Africa when they were younger, and I guess they both wanted to go back. My dad got a job as a teacher at the local secondary school, and my older brother and I went to school at the primary school. (Our younger brother was born in Zambia.) One of my most persistent memories is that, to get to school, we had to cross the airfield, which was entirely illegal and involved having to avoid the guards.
I guess I got the same bug from my parents, because after I was done with my PhD, I volunteered as a teacher in Guyana. I was living in the capital, Georgetown, teaching physics in Queen’s College, which was the most prestigious school in the country. Most of the kids were incredibly brilliant and dedicated, which is a fantastic thing for a teacher, and I’m still in contact with quite a few of them. Most of them have achieved far more than me!
Thanks for taking the time!
Thanks for having me on the blog!