Before we focus on your own writing, Colin, would you tell us about the authors and books which have had the greatest influence upon you?
It started with Jules Verne’s Michael Strogoff. To get my hands on it, I had to endure a slobbery kiss from my Aunty Ivy. But it was worth it. By the end of the afternoon, I was hooked on classic literature.
I was seven years old.
Every week Aunty Ivy took the train down from London to visit us in (what was then) rural Essex, and used to bring me second-hand copies of Classics Illustrated comics. Once I read most of France’s great literature in an afternoon. I am ashamed to admit it; I thought Jules Verne was a comic book writer.
For an eight year old I was extraordinarily well read. Okay maybe I thought Faust was written in competition to Roy of the Rovers, but by the time I was nine I knew the plots of Moby Dick, Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, The Moonstone, Ivanhoe, most of the major works of Alexandre Dumas (Père), and had even read most of Homer’s Odyssey (although I never found out how it ended because the last page had been ripped out.)
I think that’s what formed me. Big canvas stories with huge themes, but I always had a commercial bent.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Was there a specific event that made you decide?
No, I actually wanted to play football for Manchester United. Writing was my second choice.
How do you research your novels?
Diligently. I try to make the background as realistic as possible. I hate the library work, though that’s essential. I love the travel. But I never lose sight of the fact that I’m a novelist, not a historian. I think Hilary Mantel is brilliant at this: she never describes anything except through the eyes and experience of her main character.
You often write about strong women in historical situations. What is the impetus for this?
It’s not deliberate. But I guess I’ve known strong women all my life.
I write more, but that’s because of the lifestyle. I don’t get as stir crazy as I did before.
What would be a typical writing day for you? Do you have set times, spaces, routines or rituals?
I can write anywhere and usually do. I have no habits anymore, I used to when my kids were growing because I wanted to spend as much time as possible with them. But now they’ve left home and I’m single again, I don’t have any routine. I set my own deadlines and keep them. I’m working incredible hours at the moment because I’m moving from traditional to indie publishing and the work to do that is unbelievable.
Could you say a little more Cool Gus Publishing and your involvement with it?
I was reading Bob Mayer’s blogs and articles for about a year before I contacted him. I just thought he was one of the smartest guys I ever read. Other people look down, he looks up and can see what’s going to happen long before most other people. He was looking for established authors to join CoolGus and I got in touch with him. His partner Jen Talty makes things happen. She’s an author, too, she also designs web pages, designs the most brilliant covers and generally saves the world. I don’t know how she does it.
What’s been your favourite moment in your writing career?
It’s every time someone comes up to me at a festival or writes to me to say they’ve read and enjoyed one of my books. The buzz never fades.
Who would be most surprised at your success as a writer and what would they say to you?
My grade three teacher. When I was nine years old she told my mother that I was a dreamer and I would never amount to anything. Her name was Mrs Boyne. My mother only told me that when I was in my thirties. My dear old mum got a real blast out of seeing my name on a book – I think she was probably imagining what she would like to say to Mrs Boyne.
If you were to give advice to someone thinking of writing a novel what would it be?
Learn the craft. Forget Twitter, Facebook, KDP, learn the craft. Anyone can write, they teach you how to write a sentence in school. Story-telling is a craft and you have to learn it, just like Shakespeare did. Unless, of course, you think you’re better than Shakespeare.
What is your next writing project?
I have an indie series, historical romance like ANASTASIA, that I’m just finishing. Then I start on two more indie series and the sequel to my published novel, but I’m waiting to see what the sales figure are first. I’m busier than I’ve ever been because the times, as they say, are a-changing.
Thanks very much for talking with me, Colin.
If you’d like to find out more about Colin and his books please follow: these links:
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