Thursday 30 April 2015

Review - Sleeps with Angels by Dave Hutchison

Sleeps with Angels by Dave Hutchinson

Sleeps With Angels by Dave Hutchinson

Having read and enjoyed Europe in Autumn I jumped at the chance to review this collection of shorts which was sent to me as an ARC. Hutchinson’s prose is absorbing and in each short he demonstrates an intelligent take on alternate worlds. They mostly sit in SF but are quite unobtrusive, even where they rely on hard science. The story, and the characters are the thing here. 

There are six fairly long short stories in here that deal with themes that will be familiar if, like me, you’ve read Hutchinson’s previous book. A fragmented world with fragmented politics on a truly modern stage. In The Fortunate Isle We get a police procedural where a man, shot through the head, is claimed to be a woman’s husband but his provenance is much, much stranger. Dali’s clocks Is a sly story about creativity, as provided by drugs. Sugar Engines is a cosy catastrophe in a nanopocalypse. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi sees an archaeological investigation into the mysteries of a Roman merchant’s far-fetched stories and All of the news, All the time, From Everywhere has a post-collapse world where the news can only be gleaned through animal sacrifice and elves now run the world. The last tale in the book The incredible exploding man is about an accident in a particle collider and is rather excellent – did the editor save the best for last? 

Each story has a note on its genesis from the author, which is always interesting. The stories have all been published before, except for Sic Transit Gloria Mundi and are described as Science fiction, although that title does more to obfuscate than reveal what to expect from these stories. I’m glad to say that Hutchinson is as good with a short as he was with the novel and I eagerly await his next book & will keep an eye out for previous collections.

Overall – Very accomplished writing, it’s well worth visiting the many worlds of Dave Hutchinson

Wednesday 29 April 2015

A couple of year's on I caught up with Nic Bottomley for a follow up interview

Image result for mr b's emporium

A second interview with Nic Bottomley of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights & Fox, Finch & Tepper 

@mrbsemporium @foxfinchtepper

So, a lot seems to have happened in the last two years. Mr B’s seems to go from strength to strength and you are now a bona fide publisher.

When we last spoke I asked“have you been inspired by this success and the example of  Shakespeare & Co/Ulysses story? To create a Mr B's publishing imprint?” and you said – “A Mr B's publishing imprint would be an altogether different proposition -the beauty of what we've done here is that we've worked together with a publisher and borrowed their expertise on the printing side and used an existing title but just created our own special edition to get a bit of artwork experience. I'm not sure we're ready to dedicate the time to producing a book from scratch (and all the other complications that go with it). What changed?

Good question! I suppose the thing is that we’re always looking to do new and different things and we hate standing still. That’s both from me and Juliette as owners but also from every one of our team who thrive on new challenges. To set up a publishing effort of our own needed a big commitment in terms of time dedicated to the project and we spotted a gap in our schedule when that could begin once we knew we would be having a hiatus in our role as official bookseller for the Bath Lit Fest for at least a couple of years (for 2014-2015). That Lit Fest project is a mammoth one in terms of logistics, preparation and stock management time and not being involved gave us an opportunity to dedicate the freed up time to learn something new.

Can you tell us a bit about Fox, Finch and Tepper  - what was the impetus to create a publishing house?

We had thoroughly enjoyed creating our special editions of Rogue Male and The Howling Miller in collaboration with Orion and Canongate respectively and it had definitely given us a taste for having a go at publishing all by ourselves.  There are so many books out there that we love and that have dropped out of print and we’re forever hearing of others from customers. We’re in the business of championing unsung books as booksellers and I think we just fancy the challenge of championing unsung books to other bookshops too via publishing.

From a more pragmatic business perspective too, people often ask about a second Mr B’s shop and my answer is always “no” because it would inevitably put me on the busy South West motorways for a couple of days a week and I don’t need that in my life whilst I’ve got three lovely young children who want their bedtime stories read to them on those days that I can get back home. A publishing venture as an add on is a different matter though, it doesn’t require that constant geographical pull and it can begin at least from our existing premises.

Image result for mr b's emporium
(The one and only Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delight's - 14-15 John Street, Bath, Avon BA1 2JL

Obviously the most important part of the process is choosing the name, why Fox, Finch & Tepper?

Three characters that reflect what we want to do. Fox is Fantastic Mr Fox, the soon tail-less hero who battles adverse conditions in the most creative and pragmatic fashion. Finch is Scout Finch, soon to return to our consciousness as it now turns out given Harper Lee’s forthcoming second book, the brave young girl who confidently marches to the beat of her own drum.  Tepper is Murray Tepper, the hero of an obscure American novel by Calvin Trillin that we love and who, when he finds the ideal parking space, sits in it, luxuriates in it, and reads.

How did you go about choosing the books? Tell us a bit about them.

We have a long list of books we admire and that we think should be in print. These two were high on the list. I don’t want to spoil our introductions to each book which detail exactly how we began our relationship with them.

Shiralee Featured Image

Basically though, with The Shiralee by D’Arcy Niland I had seen the 80’s TV adaptation with Bryan Brown (who gave us a quote for our edition) and loved it as a teenager. Then my Penguin rep showed us an Australian import back in 2009 and my interest was piqued immediately as I remembered that TV show. I read the novel and was blown away. Partly because my eldest daughter was two months old at the time and, if nothing else, this is a novel that gets to the heart of what it is to be a father.
The novel was published in 1955 originally and it sees itinerant worker Macauley take his four-year-old daughter Buster on the road with him as he searches for work in the dusty backroads of New South Wales. It’s not a landscape for a kid but Buster, though vulnerable, is tenacious. Shiralee means burden and that’s how Macauley sees Buster at the outset (he only takes her on the road because her mother isn’t looking after her properly and he wants to spite his estranged wife). The novel is about life in New South Wales at that time, it’s about the many dramatic encounters that the pair have, but most of all perhaps it’s about a father and daughter going through the process of connecting with one another and learning how to relate to one another. It has incredible tension right to the end.

Next Step in the Dance Featured Image

We published The Next Step in the Dance because The Missing, also by Tim Gautreaux, was, and still is, our bestselling book ever here at Mr B’s. It just has that incredible blend of plot, sense of place and characterisation that means it appeals to a great many readers. When we decided to create Fox, Finch& Tepper our first thought was “What about Gautreaux’s debut novel?”. We were managing to sell a handful of the ugly print on demand American editions every year and we knew the novel was as superb as The Missing but had somehow fallen out of print here in the UK.

The Next Step in the Dance is set in an economically troubled town deep in watery Louisiana. Tiger Island has community, friends, family and dance-halls which is all Paul needs to survive. It also helps that he’s married to the most beautiful young woman in town, Colette. The problem is that Colette wants something more. She wants a better life and she wants her Paul to be ambitious. When she asks him about the future he sees himself transforming from machinist to machine-shop owner, but that’s definitely not enough for Colette who is brilliantly described as having a tongue like a skillet-knife. The novel is about Tiger Island and it’s about how Paul and Colette deal with the differences between them and whether either is going to compromise. That makes it sound terribly character-led though and yet the beauty of this novel is the glut of memorable tense and incredibly dramatic scenes that punctuate the story. Colette holds no prisoners, and is perhaps too tough on Paul at times, but she can certainly hold her own in a very blokey shooting contest and you wouldn’t want to be a nutria (Louisiana’s loathed invasive species of giant water-rat) when Colette and her gun are out and about.

Image result for mr b's emporium

What were the challenges and benefits you didn’t forsee?

There is one benefit that I recognised but hadn’t appreciated the extent of. Namely, our trade contacts from the last 9 years. We knew that compared to any other start-up indie publisher we would have some doors that we could knock on, first for advice and then to twist arms in terms of stocking the books at other shops. I don’t think that I’d anticipated quite the level of support from my friends and colleagues in the trade though and the extent to which other shops were willing to give the books a go because we were saying they were books we loved.

The challenges really were all around knowing how long things would take (as with any new project) and, especially, in balancing the demands of doing all this for the first time vs. the demands of our existing and incredibly busy business. That was always going to be the case though and the whole team mucked in to make the project work, whether it was contributing directly on the publishing side or firefighting on the bookshop side at the critical publishing moments.

The books are beautifully designed, was it a team effort? How did you go about commissioning the art?

Thank you! We always wanted them to be beautiful objects that reflected the contents well. They have deep flaps, a detachable perforated bookmark, and each of our illustrators has reimagined our Fox, Finch and Tepper logo for the inner flap too.

With The Next Step in the Dance we wanted a homage to a Hatch Show Print which we thought worked great for the dancehall vibe of the early book particularly. We also knew we wanted many motifs from the book to be in there – steam whistles, shrimp etc. Letter press style was always the way to go and anyone in Bath will tell you that when you think that you need to be thinking of the magnificent Meticulous Ink on Walcot Street. Athena Cauley-Yu read the book and created our beautiful cover for us. It was a fantastic local collaboration.

For The Shiralee we spent a long time looking at graduate design student work hunting for someone who might create for us the perfect image of the evening road-side camp or the two wanderers walking. There have been a lot of covers for this book, many howlers and a couple of gems. We found Mark Boardman’s work and loved what he did with firelight – on his website you can see images he made after having read Murakami novels and they are stunning – and as he was a Bristol man we thought we’d get in touch and see if he fancied working with us. Again, a great local collaboration.

Image result for fox finch and tepper

The books are not just sold in Mr B’s, was distribution difficult?

We were supported from the off by Gardners and Bertrams the two trade wholesalers who deliver next-day to most shops. They understood we’d be talking direct to our bookselling contacts across the trade (both in independent stores and chains) to persuade them to take our books and give them a go and they realised it made sense for them to take a decent stock-holding so that those shops could order quickly. That meant the only distribution we had to worry about was restocking Gardners and Bertrams. I certainly wouldn’t have taken on self-distribution given that we published the books in November at the start of our most hectic season of bookselling.

You are concentrating on reprints, have rights been an issue?

For the first two, actually no. With “The Shiralee” I contacted the Australian publisher first as I had assumed they might hold rights, but the literary estate soon got in touch with us and asked us to approach them formally. With “The Next Step in the Dance“ we dealt with the author’s American agent. We invested a lot of time in explaining and presenting exactly how we envisaged this venture would work and would resurrect interest in these titles and to our relief and, to a degree, surprise, the representatives of both authors quickly expressed a willingness to consider entrusting us with the rights to the books.

With the books we are working on now it has proven trickier to identify rights-holders. But we’re still learning not to be put off the scent by radio silence to a given enquiry, and we’re getting better and better at our detective work now.

Which books with a deep sense of place (that would fit the Fox, Finch & Tepper ideal) that have come out in the past few years would you recommend?

American Rust by Philipp Meyer for its intense characterisation and its sense of a broken wooded Pennsylvania steel-town in the recent recession. It is actually a great companion piece for The Next Step in the Dance.

American Rust by Philipp Meyer

If Kate  (Mr B’s assistant manager and the one who typeset the first two books and steered the creation of Fox, Finch & Tepper)  was answering this I think she’d say “Strange Weather in Tokyo” by Hiromi Kawakami for its Japanese insights.

Image result for kawakami strange weather in tokyo
Also, I just read an incredible novel called “All This Belongs to Me” by Czech novelist Petra Hulova which gives the most incredible insight into, wait for it, Mongolian life – both on the steppe and in gritty Ulan Bator. How a Czech novelist can so brilliantly transports you to Mongolia is a fair question, but she does it.

All This Belongs to Me by Petra…

Any hints of what’s coming next?

I’m afraid not, but there will hopefully be at least 4 this year and we’ll be in a position to announce a couple of them very soon. All have been published previously, all are magnificent and it’s a scandal that they’re not in print in the UK already.

Many thanks to Nic for chatting with us - go check out Fox, Finch & Tepper's books & if you are in the area drop into the shop. Be warned though, you won't leave empty handed and once the staff know what you like you won't be short of recommendations either!

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Bristol Horrorcon Writing Competition

Bristol Horrorcon in association with Bristol Festival of Literature are running a competition via Far Horizons e-magazine:

"Do you think you can scare us? Then get scribbling. We are looking for the best Horror short stories. We want shivers down our spines, we want to be disturbed, we want you to confront us with your, and our, worst nightmares.
Your story must be set in Bristol UK, it must be 4,000 words or less and it must be Horror. Apart from that go wild.
Stories should be sent to BRSBKBLOG (at) with the subject line – “I think this will scare you: story title: your name”.  Stories will be judged anonymously by the editorial team at Far Horizons so please don’t put your name in the file. Please send as .doc, .docx or .rtf in a readable font, 12 point, in English with UK spelling.
The top three stories will be published in Far Horizons November Issue and also win fabulous prizes kindly donated by PS Publishing and Forbidden Planet"
For more details please go to Far Horizons website here

Friday 24 April 2015

And now for some reviews

Cockfighter by Charles Willeford

Cockfighter by Charles Willeford
Frank is the monomaniacal cockfighter of the title. He wishes to win the best cockfighter medal and we first meet him down on his luck, on the verge of losing everything but of course he builds himself back up and enters the cockfighting tournament which will give him back his pride. Along the way though everything else, including his relationships with friends, family and fiancée are secondary to his goal. This is a book that’ll disgust, unnerve and excite you in equal measure. The brutality of cockfighting is dealt with without any gloss but also it is a masterful character study. Following a typical sporting format – can the plucky outsider win against the odds? It’s a gritty, dark and above all gripping narrative. 

Overall - Don’t be put off by the blood sport activity, this is a book well worth reading.

writing for comics by Alan Moore

Alan Moore's Writing For Comics Volume 1 by…

A not so useful guide to writing comics, which is more about how to write a story than it is a comic. Very thin book can be read in an hour or so.

Overall - Interesting but ultimately not very useful.

Stories in the stars: An atlas of constellations by Susanna Hislop

Stories in the Stars
A very mixed bag of stories inspired by the constellations. Some draw heavily, or merely repeat, the Greek myths, some are flights of the writer’s fancy, some are to do with historical events. The book is useful however for having all the constellations illustrated in a way of being able to identify them.

Overall – Some stories are just bad, others are great so on the whole an average experience

Early science fiction tales by David Lear

Early Science Fiction Tales 1: The Earliest…

This collection of tales from early history by a mix of writers including Cicero, Lucian of Samasota, a couple of tales from the 1001 nights and the man in the Moone by Francis Godwin. It’s an interesting collection and the stories, being pre-science proper aren’t really science fiction, but use science fiction tropes such as journeys to the moon and time travel (the first ever time travel tale is included) the stories are interesting rather than absorbing and I wondered why the Godwin tale had not been modernised but the others had, probably due to the fact the others were in translation? It made the Godwin tale very hard to read though.

Overall – Interesting to see some tropes used BC

Neurogastronomy by Gordon Shepherd

Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates…
Have you ever wondered what’s going on in your brain whilst you eat? If so then this book is for you. A fascinating look at food science from a neurological perspective, although there is a good overview of the physiology too. At times a little too esoteric for pop science but otherwise very well written it gives an overview of the relatively new science of neurogastronomy.

Overall – We eat therefore we think

making comics by Scott McCloud

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of…
If Understanding comics is the theory then this is the practise. Written for the comic creator it includes tips on storytelling and art. A little less interesting than the first but very useful if you ever wondered about the nuts and bolts of how to make a comic.

Overall – A good how to guide

Sequential art and graphic storytelling by Will Eisner

Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and…Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative…
Theory & practise of making comics. Obviously McCloud has read these books and thought he could do better. And has. Coming to these after McCloud’s seems like a retrograde step. Although Eisner does cover topics in a different way, and some topics McCloud doesn’t and the books are useful, just a little less accessible than McCloud’s. If you were going to only read one I’d recommend McCloud’s, if you were going to read both I’d go for Eisner first then McCloud.

Overall – Good overview on the theory and practise of making comics.

the skeleton cupboard by Tanya Byron

The Skeleton Cupboard: Stories of Crisis,…
This is an account of Byron’s years training to be a clinical psychologist with the toughest placements of her career. There are amalgamate stories carefully constructed around her experiences with each of the topics she deals with – grief and loss, child psychology, eating disorders, drug dependency, coping with dementia. Each story is compelling but there are a couple that will grab you by the heartstrings and give a great tug. The dementia chapter is simply heartbreaking. Byron is unflinching in self-regard, laying out many of the mistakes she made as she learned her job. There is a deep honesty here that is refreshing and it is good to see the people treated as humans not victims. 

Overall – Beautifully written, often harrowing, bring a hankie

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennet

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett
When ex-cop Mona Bright’s father dies she finds that she has just inherited her mother’s house in Wink, New Mexico. The only problem is, the town of Wink doesn’t exist on any map. She has a limited time to claim it and must perform some detective work to find it. She discovers that her mother, a basket case and suicide in Mona’s troubled childhood, used to work for a physics laboratory. When she arrives in Wink she finds that it is almost too good to be true, a perfect little town. But what is the secret at the heart of the town, why is the laboratory abandoned, what’s the significance of the lightning storm in the town’s history and why are so many of the townsfolk odd? This is a large book but doesn’t read like one. The central ‘mystery’ may have been drawn out a little too long but it isn’t a drag to get there. Bright is a fantastic protagonist and the book is chock full of great characters, scenes and ideas. A fascinating premise, a heavy dollop of weird, some truly disturbing imagery, this is truly memorable and I’ll be getting to Bennet’s other books directly.

Overall - Scientific and spooky, this is a fantastic book.

How to write everything by David Quantick

How to Write Everything by David Quantick
Listened to this on audio book which I think was the best decision. It’s a whirlwind tour of all and every possible writing job from poetry to writing sketches for TV comedy, writing novels to writing for newspapers. As a whirlwind tour it’s obviously not very detailed but Quantick’s soft West Country burr, gentle humour and pub storytelling style is always engaging. I’m just not sure if it’s useful. As an insider’s view of the writing industry it may be worth a look if you’ve never really thought about how all these different writing jobs really work. There’s also interviews with Quantick’s writing chums from the worlds of literature such as Ben Aaronovitch which are mildly interesting.

Overall – Light overview of the writing industry, If I’d read this rather than listened to it I reckon it would only have been an Average read.

The art of subtext by Charles Baxter

The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot by Charles…
This is a collection of academic essays on subtext in literature, not a how to guide, which is slightly misleading in the way it’s packaged. However Baxter has some clever insights into various aspects of subtext and it’s worth a visit if literary criticism is your thing.

Overall – A deep pondering of the intricacies of what happens between the lines in good writing.

The consolations of the forest by Sylvain Tesson

The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a…
Silence falls from the sky in little white shavings. To be alone is to hear silence. A blast of wind; sleet muddles the view. I let out a scream. I open my arms, raise my face to the icy emptiness, and go back inside where it's warm.

Tesson, after a visit to Baikal, determines that he will lock himself away in a small wooden hut, on the shores of the lake, for six months, February to July. This is his edited journal, that he kept during those six months of mostly isolation, with crates of vodka, good cigars and lots of books as his main form of company. Along the way he makes friends with his nearest neighbours, who live many miles away, is given two dogs for companions and is visited by a variety of folk travelling across the lake. He endures extreme weather and reads, a lot. 

His journal is, as you’d expect, by turns joyful, despairing, ecstatic, thoughtful and mindful. He ranges across the various topics suggested by the books he reads, the sights he sees, the natural world, fishing, the Russian way of life and its people and much more. The journal goes from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again, sometimes on the same page. Hunting is a way of life for his neighbours, but he never takes it up but there are some descriptions that may upset animal lovers. He makes friends with small birds and is fearful of the bears despite his Grizzly Adams existence.

Overall - This is deeply contemplative, poetic and wonderful book

Ricky Rouse has a gun by Jorg Tittel

Ricky Rouse Has a Gun by Jörg Tittel

A graphic novel satire on East West relations, remakes, IPR and the modern world. Richard Rose is a deserter from the US army who travels across Asia and ends up in China working for an amusement park as Ricky Rouse, there is also Ronald Ruck, Rambi and Bumbo… A group of Western terrorists take the park hostage and Rouse, with help from a buddy security guard must save the day because the security forces make a hash of it. The format is Die Hard in an amusement park (a not so subtle dig at Hollywood remakes and endless sequels) and all that’s really missing is the Yippee Ki-Yay. It’s entertaining enough but a few sequences are a bit too hectic, a bit confusing on the eye and don’t quite work sequentially. The satire is not so subtle either.

Overall – Entertaining read. Treat it like an action blockbuster, be carried along but don’t think too deeply about it, and you’ll enjoy it.

Book Giveaway - NBSW signed!

North by Southwest: An Anthology by North…

I have a copy, signed by all of the authors, the editor and the artist that I'll be giving away.

All you need to do is tell us what you think one of Cary Grant's movies would be titled if it was set in Bristol. So for example - North by Southwest. To help you along take a look at this IMDB link

The best one, judged entirely subjectively, wins the book. You have until the 28th May when we may all need cheering up once the election results roll in...

As ever all entries to BRSBKBLOG (at)

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Guest Post from Andrea Phillips

Andrea Phillips is an award-winning transmedia writer, game designer and author. She has worked on projects such as iOS fitness games Zombies, Run! and The Walk, The Maester's Path for HBO's Game of Thrones, human rights game America 2049, and the independent commercial ARG Perplex City. Her projects have variously won the Prix Jeunesse Interactivity Prize, a Broadband Digital award, a Canadian Screen Award, a BIMA, the Origins Vanguard Innovation Award, and others. Her book A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling is used to teach digital storytelling at universities around the world.

Her independent work includes the Kickstarted serial The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart and The McKinnon Account, a short story that unfolds in your email inbox. Her debut novel Revision is out on May 5from Fireside Fiction Co. and her short fiction has been published in Escape Pod and the Jews vs. Aliens anthology.

You can find Andrea on Twitter at @andrhia

Andrea dropped in to talk about her new novel - Revision

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Interview with Peter Newman and review of The Vagrant


Peter Newman is a writer, runner and role-player who lives in somerset with his wife (Emma, ruler of Emtopia) and son (otherwise known as the Bean). When not writing, he works as a trainer and firewalking instructor. He co-writes the Hugo nominated Tea and Jeopardy Podcast and voices the butler, Latimer.

Bristol Book Blog were lucky to nab an early copy of Peter's debut - The Vagrant and also managed to catch up with him to ask him a few questions:

This is the first in a duology I believe can you give us an overview of what theyre about?

The Vagrant is a story about a silent man carrying humanity’s last hope through a war-torn landscape. It’s set in a world in the far future after a demonic apocalypse. It features: demon knights, singing swords, a baby and a badass goat.

I can’t think of a way to talk about the second book in detail without spoilering. Suffice to say it picks up a little while after the first and deals with the legacy of The Vagrant. Sorry if that’s vague. I can tell you that a completed draft already exists and is with my editor.

If you could be a character in the book who would it be and why?

Hmm. That’s a tricky one. Most of the characters in my book have a really hard time, so I’m not sure I’d want to be any of them! But I suppose if I had to be one of them, I’d be the goat. She’s not phased by anything for long and has a clear idea of what she wants and isn’t afraid to get it.

What did you learn about writing by writing this book?

Having a silent protagonist made me think a lot about storytelling without being able to fall back on dialogue. We also don’t get access to the Vagrant’s inner thoughts which means everything focuses on what he does or doesn’t do. It also makes it harder to provide context. Often a character’s inner thoughts will justify why they are acting in a particular way and I didn’t have that here.

The other thing I learned was that some projects have to be written slowly. I think there is often a pressure to write ludicrous amounts of words per day but with The Vagrant if I tried to write it fast the quality of work would go down dramatically.

Why did you choose to have a goat as one of your characters?

Goats are very useful in an apocalypse. They provide milk, can give spiderman a run for his money when climbing and are generally pretty sturdy animals. I also wanted an animal companion that wasn’t too glamorous. Fantasy is full of wolves, ravens, eagles and tigers but they seemed too… nice for The Vagrant. The goat is anything but nice.

Do you write a lot of short stories? Do you prefer the long or short form? How do you feel about Flash fiction?

I spent a year or two writing stories for the Friday Flash community where people submit work of a thousand words or less every Friday. I learned a hell of lot there and it has just the right balance of people cheerleading each other while also providing critique (well worth checking out if you're looking for a group, theyre at: I like the discipline of short form fiction, how it forces you to be economical with language. Having said that, in my heart of hearts I prefer long form fiction. The Vagrant actually started life as a serial. It took me nearly twenty five episodes to realise I was actually writing a novel by stealth.

What’s the one question you never get asked in interviews that you really want to answer?

Funnily enough I’ve been asked that question before and I couldn’t think of a good answer then either. Sorry.

Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it?

I often start writing after the school run so one challenge is getting my head back into the story. I achieve this with coffee and music. I like to pick a new soundtrack for each project so that after a while, when the first few notes of a tune come on, it kind of lulls me back to that world. For The Vagrant I used the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack.

How much planning do you do before you start writing?

It varies from one project to another. With The Vagrant it was like the whole thing was sitting there, fully formed, in the deepest recesses of my brain and I had to find a way down there to excavate it all. So lots of work but only minimal planning. It’s not usually like that!

Which bit of your writing are you most proud of?

That’s a lovely question… That’s also a tough question. It’s hard to pin down a particular sentence or scene but there are things I’m fond of. Moments between the Vagrant and the baby, between the Vagrant and the goat, and the general atmosphere. I’m most pleased with the feel of the book, if that makes sense.

In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?

Do the work but take your time.*

*Although ‘don’t listen to writing advice’** is a close second.

**Apart from the advice on Chuck Wendig’s site  which is both useful and funny***.

***Providing you don’t mind swearing.


You can read an extract of the book here to whet your appetite...

Bristol Book Blog Review:

One man's journey across the rabid wasteland of a post Demonic apocalypse fantasy world. Full of mystique and unknown purpose we learn by small increments about the world, the disaster that's befallen it and who the Vagrant (That's his only name, he needs no other) is and why he is walking across the world with a baby and a sword. Along the way he picks up some companions including an irascible goat (the best character in the book imho).

The world is very interesting as it is filled with demons who are inimical to the very substance of the land, and its people, so much so that if they are not put in a shell they corrupt everything around them and are in turn somewhat, hurt? by the land. There is a history that is revealed by degrees and a large cast of interesting characters. Everyone has been affected by the apocalypse of course, in one way or another.

The book shines on the worldbuilding but it's a tough sell on characters when three you travel with are non-speaking. Although Newman does wonders with this handicap. Did I mention I loved the goat character? I did think some of the action felt a little undercooked, I wanted more staging to ground me in the moment and some of it seemed a little sketchy, although perhaps I just failed to follow the cues?

I think this book would work well as a Graphic Novel and wonder if Newman could be persuaded to adapt it. The darkly evocative gritty world, the highly imaginative demons, the knights, the fallen cities full of corrupted humanity all cry out for luscious art.

I think you'll love it if dark fantasy is your thing, Newman is an interesting new voice in the genre with his own already developed style.

Overall - John Woo's Hard Boiled in a post-apocalyptic demon infested world. With added Goat

Phot Credit - Lou Abercrombie 
Cover credit Jamie Jones for the art .

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