Tell us a bit about who you are?
Male human, father, husband, runner, musician, coder, writer. North of 40, south of 50, born in Australia, raised in England, settled in Scotland. I basically travel north.
If you could co-author a book with another author, alive or dead? Who would it be and what would it be about?
I’m not much of a fan boy, I’m afraid. However, right now I’m co-writing some screenplays with someone I’ve been close friends with for years, and I don’t think I could do it without having that chemistry. We’re basically just pissing about and making each other laugh. So it would have to be someone I was already friends with, or with whom I had a strong connection. Unfortunately, I’m not that close with many other authors!
Dan: I don’t blame you: they have shifty eyes… 😉
Tell us about your biggest achievement or proudest writing moment to date?
Stephen King tweeting about my book stands out, but being on Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 Book Club really felt like an ‘arrival’ moment.
Dan: those are two big ones. It must have felt like a validation.
Now tell us about you lowest moment and how you overcame it? Go on, be a hero…
Unfortunately, that’s right now! The last couple of years have been a little challenging in terms of sales, contracts, etc, and I feel like I’m constantly climbing the same hill. How am I overcoming it? Well, I think about packing it in everyday, and I worry I don’t enjoy writing enough on its own to keep doing it with little reward, because there really are other things I would rather do for free than write books. That said, the ideas keep coming and I have just finished a book which I’ve just sent to my agent, so we shall see. (You did ask :-))
Dan: I read your blog post on dealing with failure in publishing. It was a fascinating read and a real insight into an all too common side of traditional publishing. Readers of this blog can link to it here.
You’ve written four apocalypse/post-apocalypse books now: The End of the World Running Club, The End of the World Survivor’s Club, The Last Dog on Earth, and A Human Son. What attracts you to these types of stories?
Well, I honestly only set out to write one (Running Club). The Last Dog on Earth was originally going to be an alien invasion, Survivors Club was the sequel to Running Club (which my publishers wanted) and The Human Son isn’t technically apocalyptic, but I see what you’re saying! I’ve always enjoyed PA books, the main reason being that I enjoy the spectacle of a changed planet, but also because I like to think about what happens when you remove all the dust of our existence.
In The Last Dog on Earth half the book is from Lineker, the foul mouthed dog’s point of view. Where did the idea for Lineker come from? We lived in London and I was spending a lot of time with dogs and their owners at our local park. Dogs have been portrayed quite favourably in literature, TV, film, etc, and I wanted to write one that showed a little more of how filthy (in a good way) they can be. My dog ate a human poo once. You never saw Lassie doing that.
For me you are brilliant at writing slightly unlikeable lead protagonists. In the end we end up rooting for them – well, maybe less so with Elliot in The Other Lives. He’s a prick until the very end, but that is why the ending works. Anyway, what goes into designing or exploring these kind of characters and how do they affect the development of the story? Firstly, thank you! I wrote twelve drafts of The Other Lives and Elliot Childs (fittingly) had a different personality in each. SPOILER ALERT… That book plays with the idea that we’re all the same, deep down, and given Elliot’s gift and subsequent misanthrope, he seemed like the ideal character to discover this for himself…END SPOILER ALERT. I don’t know why I’m attracted to unlikeable characters, but I know I like reading them too. John Niven does them well. I get annoyed by characters who are too perfect.
Has the Covid-19 pandemic had any particular effect on your writing? Not in terms of what I write because I’ve been moving away from post-apoc for a while anyway. It’s certainly kept me focused, though.
If you could gift one book to someone, what would it be?
I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan.
What impression did it make on you? I think it was Carrie by Stephen King. It changed the way I thought about writing. I knew words could make you think and laugh prior to this, but I didn’t know they could make the hairs stand up on your neck, or change your mood for such a long time afterwards. The horror of Carrie’s mother, and the way she spoke to her, did that.
Dan: Carrie is one of my top King books. So much of it lays the groundwork for modern horror, both in print and cinematically. And unusually for King, it is such a short and tight novel. Not that I don’t like his longer books.
What’s the best book you read in 2020, and why?
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. The high concept didn’t overshadow the brilliant characters, imagery and language.
What are you currently reading? Dadland by Keggie Carew, and Saul Black’s Valerie Hart books.
Which monster/villain from fiction – books, TV or film – would you most like to be and why?
Dan: Good choice. Cool weapons, cloaking technology and a life’s purpose. Possibly the most contented of all monsters.
Which one of your books would be best adapted into a movie/TV series? And who would you cast in the lead roles?
The Last Dog on Earth, hand-drawn animation with Nick Frost (Reg) and Simon Pegg (Lineker).
Dan: Love it. I could see Michael Sheen as Reg and David Tennant as Lineker.
Do you write to a playlists? If so, what’s slicing up your eardrums right now?
I do write to playlists, and since I’ve been writing a haunted house story for the past few months I’ve been listening to a lot of Aphex Twin.
Where did the idea for The End of the World Running Club?
I wrote it in 2014 when my kids were very young. I was really getting into running and had become a little obsessed with the end of the world…hey presto!
First line throw down. I give you the first line; you finish the first paragraph of an as yet unwritten story. Here we go:
‘Kim wished she hadn’t rolled over, because Tom stunk, but then waking up next to a corpse does tend to have its downsides.’‘It’s your turn,’ she said. Tom made no response. She grabbed the baby monitor and shoved it in his face. ‘Hey, I said…’ With a groan that had nothing to do with being undead and everything to do with the mournful cries crackling from the plastic white speaker and the fact that it was Saturday, Tom heaved his tattered body up and rolled out of bed. ‘All right, all right,’ he moaned—he always moaned—and lumbered for the door. ‘Love you,’ said Kim, pulling up the covers and watching her husband disappeared down the corridor. Undead or not, she had to admit he still had a good arse.
Dan: Love it. I didn’t see you going for the ‘sexy bum zombie’ trope. Well played, sir.
What question would you ask of the gods of writing?
Why are there not more words for ‘suddenly’?
Dan: I feel the same about ‘nod.’
You are a hybrid author, publishing both through traditional publishing houses and as an independent author. Which bit of each are the challenging and/or rewarding?
Self-publishing requires a commitment of time and energy in order to keep up to date with marketing strategies, developing channels, etc, which can be difficult if you’re already spending most of your spare time writing. It also requires financial outlay. But when it works, it’s a great feeling to be in control. Traditional offers amazing opportunities and, if it’s done well, the coverage you get is incredible. Not only that but you get to work with very talented people. Downside? Lack of control and fluctuations in how much attention people can afford to give you can bring great anxiety.
What does the next year of writing and publishing look like for you?
Absolutely no idea! As I’ve said, I’m out of contract so I’m taking a few months to do something else and hopefully reconnect with writing. If nothing comes of the book I’ve just finished in the traditional world, then I’ll almost certainly look to self-publish it.
What book of yours should people start with? I think it has to be The End of the World Running Club or The Human Son. Those are the two I’m most proud of to date.
Have you got a newsletter?
I do have a newsletter which you can sign up to on my website.
Where can people stalk you online like a serial killer?
You can find me on Twitter and Facebook and, er, Insta…although I honestly don’t know how that thing works.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for having me, Dan!
Dan: Seriously, the pleasure was all mine. You are one of my favourite authors working today. I make a point of picking up a paperback of everything you put out, and I encourage others to do the same.
Read Adrian’s fabulous books here: