Updated: Jul 5, 2021
Neil and I met on twitter when I put a call out for ARC reviewers. He kindly offered to feature me on his Podcast ‘Myth and Magic’. We talked about the writing process, and my dystopian trilogy so it seems only fair that I find out a little bit more about Neil in return.
You’ve been a music journalist and author for several years publishing at least one novel a year since 2015, is that correct? Where do you find inspiration?
Hi, thanks for inviting me as your guest. I think a lot about well-being, wholeness and happiness while doing various household chores, or engaging in alternative hobbies such as cooking and gardening. I think that’s when visions & daydreams develop into bigger, multifaceted stories. Inspiration means to “breathe life into” something so in my (audacious) opinion, it’s simply not “good enough” to think-up stories — as artists we also have a duty to record our ideas and package them into published products if we want to make a distinction in this world. I guess what I’m saying here is that I attempt to collect all the ideas that float around in the neverland of imagination and try to harness and solidify them — I suppose cement them into place — by placing them into a book, at least once a year. I am a big fan of NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month of November) and I’ve been competing in the 50k challenge since I wrote “The Last Music Bearer” in 30 days, back in 2014. The strictness and discipline of a month-long write-in with other like-minded authors supercharges my sense of perseverance to get the job done. I don’t cheat: I start (and finish) a 50k plus word manuscript within the month. Of course, the outcome is only a rough draft and it will take at least three edits before its ready for public consumption. But at least it’s done. I also competed in the 85k in 90 Days annual writing challenge a few times (a higher word count but longer time to accomplish it) and it helped focus my mind and got me to apply myself with some level of sincerity. Otherwise, without these sort of annual challenges, I fear I’d be tilting along at my own speed, forever toppling, tipping and lurching from one flight-of-fancy to another.
In your novels you focus on strong women, you also place great emphasis on duty and loyalty. Why do you think this is?
Great question! I think this is a two-in-one question, so I’d like to tackle powerful women first: I come from an “all female” family and an all-female world. Let me explain: I was raised with three sisters (I’m the oldest) and my mother was superhuman — almost herculean — in her potency and authority. That’s because my father was a London policeman and all children of police officers will tell you their police-parents are rarely “around” as they grow-up. Even when a police-parent is physically present, he or she is very often not emotionally present. So my Mum was the controller and supervisor of our family, rather than the nurturing presence you might expect a mother to be. My Dad was always doing early-turn, late-turn and night duty shifts so we kids needed to be “kept quiet” while he slept. We’d work on silent projects while Dad recovered from the various ordeals of being a busy shift-working, beat copper... we’d rarely see him from one week to the next. My sisters and I made “our own entertainment” and we had to be silent. We would spend time drawing, painting, writing, and sewing. We weren’t really allowed to talk (because talk turned into bickering) and weren’t allowed to play in the street in case it made a noise. It was an upbringing that, of course, cultivated a love for creative-play and recreation through silent mental imagery. I ought to point-out that this was during the late 1950s and early Sixties, when most families had no television, and of course no computer games or any other electronic distractions. We had a valve radio but weren’t permitted to turn it on unless my Dad was around. Fortunately, my Mum was an artist, painter, crafter and brilliant dressmaker, so she helped my sisters and I learn handicrafts and she was really encouraging. I was also a dancer, singer and “show person” from a tender young age (my parents signed me up to a theatre school when I was five.) Looking back on those days now, I realize I was the Billy Elliot type character of our local community. So, naturally, all the sporty boys in our neighborhood scorned and ridiculed me... not that it mattered much to me because I had plenty of female friends and lots to be getting on with... plus the boys didn’t dare physically attack me because of what my Dad did for a living! As a “show person” I had dance workshops three evenings a week and all day on Saturday if there was a show to perform. I’m sure you can imagine that my world, both in-and-out of the family home, was filled with strong female role-models... for example, I was the only boy in a ballet class of twenty! All my friends from the age of six to sixteen were female! As far as duty and loyalty go: being raised in a super-strict family by the wife of a police officer meant being ever-judicious, ever-trustworthy and acting super-responsibly all the time. My sisters and I were routinely told our behavior would be examined, assessed and analysed by “neighbors in the street” who’d be secretly hoping to see inconsistency or shortcomings. Therefore, my sisters and I were never complacent: we had to be seen to be “better than good” at all times. It’s also worth acknowledging that these perspectives and other standards of good behavior were literally clouted into us in a way that wouldn’t be acceptable these days: my Mum and Dad were both quite physical, and at school the teachers brandished canes (I had a loathsome teacher named Miss Manning-Legg who routinely caned me for the tiniest infractions) while my dance teacher carried (and used) a big stick to “help me” understand things better. So, loyalty and duty got beaten-into me from a tender young age.
The pandemic has changed so many things. How do you think it has changed the publishing industry and on a personal level have you found it harder or easier to promote your work?
In most ways, writing is a lonesome activity. Authors enjoy peace-and-quiet and prefer their own company. When I went to author events (prior to 2020) other authors often flabbergasted me by how scowling and beetle-browed they could be. Often they were downright unwelcoming! And this was when they were attending a networking event! Goodness knows what they must have been like, at home, during lock-down. I put this lack of gregariousness down to habitual reclusive isolationism during long periods of writing. So, yeah, I think authors are insular animals, happy in their self-made confinement and pleased to distance themselves from others. Therefore, the act of writing is not troubled by things like global lock-down. And figures seem to suggest that book sales have reached an 8-year high (not just e-books but print books too) with more 200m paperbacks sold during the pandemic, these are the best physical-book sales since 2012, according to the Publishers Association. I don’t like to think of the pandemic as a boon because this terrible disease is a calamity that has impacted upon and battered many lives, yet I don’t think it’s hindered the publishing industry. On a personal level, I’m now a full-time writer so, yeah, I’m happy in confinement. Though I would have liked to have seen my kids and grand-kids a bit more over the last 18 months. And I missed going to church services. But I coped moderately well.
I see on your website you have a new trilogy on the way. Can you tell us anything about it yet?
Ha ha! My trilogy is (almost) finished. Book One in the “Moondog” trilogy “Moondog and the Reed Leopard” came out in 2019 and it’s a crime fiction novel with a twist. Moondog is a member of the Roma (itinerant) community and because of a background in paranormal research, he becomes engaged by a television program to be a preternatural detective. There are multiple plot twists and elements of detective fiction in the novel, but at its core, it’s a 21st century urban fantasy with magic, cryptids, and mysterious events. The plot revolves around a female teenage protagonist who begins the story as an intermediary between officials, but soon becomes Moondog’s assistant in a fight against evil. Moondog’s cultural upbringing is more than just a gimmick: his gypsy ethnicity is intrinsically linked with a wild temperament and nomadic lifestyle and he has a natural affinity for pantheism, spirituality, and transcendentalism. But don’t let those bewildering notions put-you-off, “Reed Leopard” is just a fun mystery-scamper with a cute teenage participant who has her own issues to deal with (for example, she has an annoying ex-boyf who won’t let her go) — it’s a story filled with surprise and wonder!
I’m currently narrating Book Two of the series, titled “Moondog and the Dark Arches”. It sees Moondog team-up with a teenage librarian who lives in a peculiar feudal village. This new teen side-kick possesses a remarkable ability: she can fly from her own body and hook into another person. Moondog utilises these magical skills to investigate why another young woman jumped from an ancient bridge in the village, having ostensibly escaped a pagan ritual.
I wrote Book Three “Moondog and the Scarce Vapour” last year for NaNoWriMo and it’s due out this autumn. This story sees Moondog team-up with a post-grad science student who studies at a state-of-the-art university near Wales. She tells Moondog that a primeval phantasm visited her to tell her it had been “murdered”. So Moondog needs to investigate the “murder” of an immortal entity while, at the same time, he’s hunted by an undercover police unit.
You are always busy, if not with the novels, then with your podcast, how do you unwind?
I have at least four books on my “currently reading” list and I generally read four books at once! Though, if I’m editing, I read little chunks rather than undertake any long binge-sessions. I like to watch TV shows too (I collect DVD’s so I watch box-sets the old-fashioned way.) Currently, I’m enjoying the Breaking Bad spin-off “Better Call Saul” and I’m re-watching the HBO series “Treme.” I do all the cooking at home (my wife of forty years is happy to leave the kitchen to me, and has done so, since we were first got married) and I do all my recipes “from scratch.” At the moment I love preparing North African meals (tagines, couscous) but I also love Southeast Asian cuisine (my youngest daughter lives part-time in Malaysia and inspired me to get better at Asian cooking). When I’m not physically cooking, I can be found sourcing ingredients or planning recipes! I enjoy a bit of cosplay (I’m not very good at it, if I’m honest) so if you find me using Google images you’ll probably see photos of me dressed in a bunch of silly, colourful, and unlikely outfits at various fantasy events. If all that sounds rather tame and perhaps even metrosexual, please understand that I’m a silver-haired old gent now and probably approaching my second childhood — though my adult life has been bumper-packed with thrills, spills and commotion. I’ve done just about every exciting pursuit you can imagine from mountain leadership to body-guarding, from professional motorbiking to marathon running, and from sword-fighting to driving tanks! And everything in between. I’ve lived a very manly-man’s life! I tell you this in case you think I’m a bit effeminate... not that I mind (I’ve never cared about the sniping) though I always take a stand against prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance.
If you’d like to know more about Neil’s work please find him on: