Year of Indie Debuts: Electric Souk by Rose McGinty

I first met today’s Indie Debut star in real life at the launch of my own debut novel last April and just after her flash fiction, Last Judgement, had won her a place at the 2016 Short Story Retreat, so I knew that I was going to be in for a treat when the time came to read her debut novel, Electric Souk.

That hunch was proved right and it is a gripping read, set in the Middle East in the run up to and during the Arab Spring. The main character Aishling finds herself caught up in all kinds of trouble she hadn’t envisaged when relocating there for a job, hoping to find an escape from a love affair gone wrong and the austerity in Ireland following the global financial crisis.

Congratulations Rose on the launch of your excellent debut and thanks for coming to chat to us about it today. Electric Souk has a creeping sense of dread and paranoia running through it that put me in mind of Patricia Highsmith’s writing. Is she an inspiration for you? What other authors have inspired your work and why?

My influences perhaps seem a little strange for a contemporary novel set in the Middle East, however I think Emily Bronte’s cruel moors and Hardy’s brooding Wessex influenced my desire for the desert to be as much a character in Electric Souk as any of the human characters. I’m drawn to intense, dark settings and novels and wanted to capture this psychological atmosphere, as the desert is the one landscape I have encountered that truly terrifies me. It strips you down to your most foetal fears.

I also see the influence of the Latin American magical realists. In the works of Marques, Borges, Allende, all of which I have devoured, the personal is political and vice versa. In times when it is impossible to know what is true and who to believe, they reveal how we can only really trust in story tellers. Even if they write of interfering family ghosts and other phenomena, this only serves to heighten the unreality of the brutal regimes.

My other great influences are the Irish writers Jennifer Johnston, Edna O’Brien and Kate O’Brien for their exploration of the internal emotional worlds of women in repressive times. Their women fight their families, their societies and themselves for their independence.

Answering this question has been fascinating as I’ve seen patterns and threads right back to my teenage years, when O and A levels meant I read the classics, and because I loved them so much I read them widely. I was drawn, now I see, to understand and know more of fearful landscapes, as a teenager just stepping out from home into the wider world.

In my twenties it was all about the politics of the wider world, these were turbulent times, the first Gulf war, Bosnia, Rwanda. I sought understanding of man’s brutality in the magical realists. My thirties were about my roots, Irish literature and the intimate world of relationships as I tried to understand more about those closest to me, retreating from the horrors of the post 9/11 world, recognising the meaning, joy and pain in our own worlds.

I’m not sure I can quite see the patterns in my forties yet. I’ve become a writer and now I read much more randomly as I read novels of friends, recommendations of writer friends, and novels that haven’t even been published yet. Every decade has been wondrous, but this is proving to be the most adventurous, the most free, the most surprising, so I am curious about what will happen to my writing now!

Your narrator, Aisling, seems consumed with finding love and this leads her into some difficult situations where she puts her trust in some people she probably shouldn’t. Trust and whether you can ever really know other people was a strong theme in the book, so can you tell us what made you want to explore this?

Trust is how we connect to each other, to the world. In our daily lives we have a constellation of points of references that help us to trust – in our friends, colleagues, people we meet, our news, events, the machinery of how government and society function.

We have personal and cultural histories that mean we can make assessments, judgements, be alert to risks and dangers, and open ourselves to others and experiences. On a day to day basis we mostly don’t realise the extent of these reference points and how our past equips us to move forwards. When Aisling goes to the desert all those reference points are torn away.

She knows only one person there, the elusive, poetic Professor, who gives her no obvious pointers and nothing is obvious, as it’s a world where women are fully veiled, the locals live in villas behind high walls, nothing is written down and everything is rumour and paranoia. I wanted to explore what happens when all your anchors are gone. How do you trust and connect? Who do you trust? Do you become more cautious or do you throw caution to the wind, for once, as you are in a place where there is no one from home to judge you, remind you of mistakes?

In such dizzying freedom can you even hear, let alone listen, to your own instincts any more? When I was in the Middle East I was bewildered by these questions and choices. I rocketed between wild abandon, putting myself at far more risk than I ever would at home, where in fact I had more safety nets and friends to catch me when I fell; and, a deeper sense of caution and mistrust, drawn from a very real sharpening of my instincts in such a hidden world. In the Middle East people judge you in the first moments they meet you on whether you have a ‘clear heart.’

Laila in Electric Souk has an unerring ability in this regard, and many of my female friends had this and it fascinated me. Using my new, razor instinct to see if a heart was clear became the only thing I could trust.

Of the time you spent living in the Middle East and mining your experiences for Electric Souk you have said “The parts of the story that are true, I probably wish were not; while the parts that are not, I probably wish were true.” Can you let us in on which you parts you wish were true?

The beauty and brutality of the desert is its mystery, and I learnt that’s how it should be.

The landscape and setting you paint are truly evocative and serve to enhance the sense of dread and paranoia really well. Was life in the desert really this disorientating and scary?

It’s just so opposite to our lives in the West. It’s a nocturnal culture, and like the night so much is hidden, only glimpsed briefly in the moonlight. Unlike here where so much of our lives is about the written words, from evidence based history and science to even the tweets and texts that dominate our communication; everything there was verbal, all rumour, stories and poetry.

And that’s before you get to the heat. I can’t tell you how a year without rain seriously messes with your head. I longed for rain so much, one night when I spied a sprinkler system spraying the grass at a luxury hotel I had to go and dance in it.

My time certainly had its moments. There were constant threats of purges of foreigners so that their jobs might be given back to locals, who I might add were not remotely interested in public sector jobs, which was why foreigners had been brought in anyway. The expat community, somewhat raddled by long afternoons and evenings drinking, pretty much the only entertainment for many, was utterly paranoid about being deported; and there were all sorts of stories about people getting sent home for unknown offences.

Most of this I think was nonsense, but in a world without celebrities, the ex pats and the locals had to create their own scandal. And there was enough of that for a soap opera – affairs, illicit parties, lots of strange men who believed they were secret agents of some sort. Who knows? From One Thousand and One Nights to today, fantasies abound in the desert. And fantasy has to have a dark edge, it has to scare, as its wildest moments reveal the deepest truths.

Can you give us an insight into what you are working on now?

I said I would never write a novel about a hospital, as working for the NHS is my day job and that’s where it should stay. But of course, how could I resist? Where else do you see all of life, usually at its most intense points, from cradle to grave – and believe me, on some shadowy wards, beyond the grave. And nowhere else have I met such extreme characters, mostly too extreme to put in page and be believed.

In part I put this down to twenty plus years of untreated psychosis in the political, managerial and clinical culture of the health service, which is now having a full-on episode, beyond the help of Lithium. I am intrigued by the psychological impact of relentless targets, inspections and cuts on the pressure cooker environment of the hospital and those in it.

I’ve written just over 40,000 words and my two lead characters, inspired by Beatrice and Benedict in Measure for Measure, a quite psychotic play in itself, are behaving true to type, although they seem to be fighting and provoking me rather than each other. My working title is Special Measures and I think I’m going to have to put my novel into special measures to stop my characters squabbling and get it finished.


Thanks again for coming, Rose. A brilliant interview and we look forward to reading more of your work soon.


Book blurb: Humanity blisters in this haunting, lyrical thriller about trust and treachery. Ireland’s gone bust, and with it Aisling Finn’s life. She flees austerity for adventure in the desert. But the Arabia she finds is not that of her dreams. Everyone is chasing a fast buck, a fast woman and another G&T. Expats and locals alike prickle with paranoia.

Debonair fixer, Brian Rothmann, charms Aisling with champagne brunches and nights at Bedouin camps. But is Brian a hero or a desperate expat prepared to go to any lengths to get what he wants? Is this Aisling? Or is he using her as bait? Her only hope is Hisham, a local activist. But where do his loyalties lie?

Aisling faces severe peril when the sleazy expat and blood-lusting desert worlds collide, as the Arab Spring erupts. She has to ask, whom can she trust? Can she even trust herself?

About the author: Rose McGinty is an alumna of Faber Academy 2015/16. By night she is a writer, by day a NHS Director in London and has worked internationally. She studied literature at the University of Kent, Canterbury and her M.Phil at Trinity College, Dublin.

Rose enjoys writing short stories, poetry and flash fiction and has won a number of competitions, including: the inaugural Kent Life magazine short story competition with her story, Dreamland, published in the April 2016 issue and aired on Channel Radio, Kent Life; the Scottish Ghost Story competition 2016 for her story, A Kentish Longtail, which was read out at the Festival of Dreams at the Scottish National Library in October 2016 and can be viewed on YouTube.

Electric Souk is available from Urbane Publications, Amazon and in-store in selected Waterstones and Foyles. It is also in a WHSmith travel promotion and you can get a copy at train station and airport stores across the UK.

Year of Indie Debuts: Glass Houses by Jackie Buxton

Welcome back to Jackie Buxton today, who visited the blog earlier this year on the launch of her memoir, Tea and Chemo, and is now here again to chat about her debut novel, Glass Houses, which came out in June 2016. It’s a modern day morality tale that opens with a car accident that one of the main characters, Tori, has apparently caused by texting while driving on the motorway.

Jackie, I found the exploration of blame and judgement, and what to me felt like a modern day witch hunt, fascinating. Can you tell us what made you want to explore this side of human nature?

I’ve always been interested in the human psyche, particularly when it comes to our foibles and hypocrisies. We jump a red light because we’re late, for example, but conveniently forget about this as we rant at the tale of somebody committing a similar traffic violation which has more serious consequences.

Years before I wrote the first words of Glass Houses, a couple of, ‘wrong place, wrong time’ articles in the news where press and public had demonised the perpetrator of a foolish but not malicious act, had really got my mind buzzing with the contradictions of human behaviour. I found myself asking: if there are no unfortunate repercussions from our ‘crime’, if we escape without incident, are we any less guilty than the person whose ‘crime’ does have consequences and whose life is thrust into a desperately dark place? In a caring, cohesive society, what should the appropriate punishment be for somebody who has done something stupid but not through malice or cold-blooded evil? And I couldn’t help thinking that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones…

The effects of the accident that the book opens with ripple out into many lives for a long time, yet the main character Tori, refuses to let it ruin her life. Where did the inspiration for Tori come from?

I guess the inspiration came from lots of different behaviours and personality traits I admire and from the role I needed Tori to perform in the story. I needed a feisty, strong but flawed character. I wanted the type of person who when they hit rock bottom, manages to find a strength to fight which they might not have known they had. I see this time and time again in my contemporaries, community and beyond: people who appear to ‘have no luck’ but emerge battered and bruised, but smiling and appreciative.

This impresses me much more than riches or rank ever could. Tori needed a big dollop of this. I wanted her to be an ordinary person who when pushed to the brink, could be quite inspiring – a little like any of us, I hope. In trying to forge a new life she has the very best of intentions but – hey – she’s never done this before and so her actions don’t always give her the outcome she anticipates. If people were to read the novel as I hope, thinking, ‘There but for the grace of god go I,’ then there was no place for a superhero. Tori had to be any one of us.

I also needed Tori to be middle-aged. I wanted her to be a positive representation of a woman in her fifties, a concept sometimes over-looked in fiction. It’s a bizarre notion, granted, as she’s committed such a selfish act but I hope that readers find her zeal, joie de vivre and tenacity impressive and her idealism and ethics at the very least, appealing.

Etta, who helps Tori at the scene of the accident, is your second narrator, and I think you handle the impact it has on her life really well and the morality questions it poses in her mind about her previous actions. Was it always going to be told from the two points of view or did one character come first?

Oh, that’s made my day, thank you!

And how funny you should ask about the points of view. Glass Houses was going to be one woman and one stupid mistake and that woman was Tori. It’s unimaginable to me now that Etta didn’t really exist in the early days when over the years, she’s become as real to me as a sister. She had a cameo appearance in the original first chapter but only as a ‘witness’. She was a ‘tool’ to help show Tori slumped over the steering wheel because Tori wasn’t in a position to describe herself and omniscient narration wouldn’t have been evocative enough, I felt.
Early readers were unanimous in asking questions about the witness who finally had a name: Etta. And as I answered them, Etta started to have feelings, opinions, a character and motivations and thus she developed a life, and a secret, of her own.

I don’t want to give anything away but I really didn’t anticipate the ending – did you know right from the start that this was how it would end? If not, when did you realise?

One of the aspects I’ve been most pleased (read: relieved) about has been people’s reaction to the ending. I’d have been so disappointed if people said they’d seen it coming 200 pages earlier. Instead it tends to prove a shock. Excellent!

And yes, it’s very difficult to talk about the ending without giving anything away. Suffice it to say, I had a very good idea of the beginning and the final scene, as well as a good picture of Tori Williams, before I wrote the first word of the story. Everything in between came as a result of working towards that final chapter.

The framework, the essential element of the ending, has therefore been there from the start. However, I can say that in the beginning, there were only two people involved in the final scene – it’s much busier now.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Amanda, and for asking great questions, as ever.


Thanks so much for coming on the blog again, Jackie! See you here again when the next book comes out.

You can get a copy of both Glass Houses and Tea and Chemo on Amazon and on the Urbane Publication website using the following links:

And you can keep up to date with Jackie’s news on her blog and on her website.


Year of Indie Debuts: Lost in Static

Welcome to Christina Philippou today. Her debut novel, Lost in Static, is out now with Urbane Publications and she’s also the founder of BritFic – a collective of contemporary fiction authors. I really enjoyed Lost In Static and it raised many questions in my mind about perceptions, truths and the lies we tell each other and ourselves.

Hello! Firstly, thank you to Amanda Saint and Retreat West for having me on the blog today.

I’m here to talk about my debut novel, Lost in Static, which looks at the same events from four (sometimes very) different students’ conflicting points of view. So what made me write a novel from four perspectives? I’ve always found multi point-of-view narratives fascinating, but the ‘pass the baton’ style always felt like there was so much left unsaid. A few novels have crossover narratives, like Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet, but I wanted to get under the skin of the characters and show how easy it is to misunderstand others’ words and actions when you are not in their head.

Misunderstandings are easy to come by, and the novel keeps coming back to this as the characters struggle with the events that unfold. Add in a large dose of immaturity (they are university first-years) and a whole host of secrets, and the versions of reality are skewed depending on which shade your glasses are (although it must be said that none of them wore rose-tinted ones).

I became rather obsessed with misunderstandings as I was writing Lost in Static. I found myself telling friends snippets of information and then listening intently to how they recanted the story to third parties, or discussing events that we’d both attended and hearing very different interpretations of happenings. It made me appreciate the intricacies of multi-POV narratives, but also the importance of talking things through, both in fiction and in real life.

So many words in, and all I’ve talked about is the structure of the book and the misunderstandings it creates, but that is what drove the narrative – the need to show how differently people from very similar backgrounds and cultures can view things. It’s been fascinating to read reviews coming in, as the characters that readers identify with are as different as the characters themselves.

But there is more than the just the issue of misunderstandings in the novel, even if some of the themes are more lightly dealt with. Given that it’s set in a university, the coming-of-age theme is almost inevitable, though some characters grow more than others. This, too, was intentional, as people grow up at different speeds and certain (usually unsavoury) situations force people to grow up much faster than the norm.

Then there’s all the social issues that arise in a university setting – casual racism, sexuality, substance use (and abuse) and, although not all dealt with directly in the novel, they still influenced the mood of the writing.

But beneath it all is the story itself, a tale of growing up that is coated in mystery. Having grown up on a reading diet of Agatha Christie and Alistair MacLean, Lost in Static was not immune to the need for secrets and (non-gratuitous) violence in the plot…

And that’s the flavour of the book and the themes and influences behind the writing. But if you have any questions, feel free to ask – you can find me on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook.


Thanks for coming, Christina, and best of luck with the book.

If you’d like a copy you can get one here.

Author interview: Dean Lilleyman

Delighted to welcome Dean Lilleyman back to the blog today. He last visited to talk about his debut novel, Billy and the Devil, which is a reading experience not to be missed. He’s back now on the launch of his new book, The Gospel According to Johnny Bender, which I also thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.

Book blurb: ‘Once upon a time there was a village called Edendale, and some people were good and some people were bad and some people were in-between. Do we know who is what yet? I don’t think we do…’

During the celebrated carnival of 1979, the villagers danced beneath a mirror-ball, as a young girl drifted dead in the river. Who knew the truth of things? And would the truth matter? Now it’s 1999 and Edendale is holding another carnival. An anniversary to commemorate the life-changing events of twenty years before, by pretending it’s 1979…again. One day, two decades apart, the mirror-ball turning in the dark to light a truth.

Dean, I loved how the 2 days from 1979 and 1999 were weaved together and showed how the past influences the future, and also how some things never change. Can you tell us where the inspiration for this dual timeline story came from?
This all started from a mishmash of things scribbled on my walls, which is how I tend to put stories together. I like the idea of things forming themselves, no questioning why. The more things that get scribbled the more the glue seems to happen. I definitely write from where I’m at, so I guess there’s a relationship between these things, even if they do feel unconnected at first. I think the truth of the thing starts to show itself this way, maybe because I’m not presuming I know.

The Johnny scribbles started coming at a time where my life was dancing fuck-it on one end, but rattling loose at the other. These two ends definitely started to show a clash in the scribbles. For sure the past was trying to grab the now by the scruff and say hang on fella, the future a shrug, the now grinning a so what? Looking back, I see all this as a massive influence on how Johnny happened. And with the scribbles it’s not just what’s happening to me at the time, it’s the stuff I’m taking in. Books, films, music, whatever. Like jamjarring sparks.

When Johnny was coming together, one of the things was definitely seventies disco. It seemed to be soundtracking my headspace bang on. And the more I listened, the more it made sense. As Dennis says to Debbie in the book, soul music is oh baby I want you so much but I can’t have you, while disco says hey, yesterday’s gone, tomorrow’s not even here, only now now now, so let’s do it. There’s a gamble of moment here. Time. This fed another bunch of scribbles about the end of things. Culture seems rammed with this sense of precise guillotine endings from way back. Religious doom declarations, Nostradamus, Hollywood narrative, the end. But what if when one song ends, another begins? On and on, god, a DJ. History repeating, yet with little changes, but the core truth still hums, much like the best dance tracks. A structure that shaped the rhythms of this novel for sure. And, I knew I had to trap all this into an isolated place. So, Edendale.

Three of my favourite stories do this brilliantly. Under Milk Wood. Winesburg, Ohio. The Wicker Man. This instinct that time was to play a big part in this story, the idea that ends become beginnings, made it clear I needed two timelines dancing together. This seemed to offer up a strong frame for the thing that was shouting out about this story. Obsession. What happens when you try to get back something that is dead, gone. If Billy was about being drunk, no love, then much of Johnny is about being drunk on love, a love that becomes an obsession, that becomes a madness, and how far that madness could take you into the deepest hole, a fucked up Plato’s cavern showing the same shadow play over and over, “It’s the same old song, but with a different meaning since you been gone,” on and on. But. Tangent. William Goyen was once asked in an interview what starts him writing. He replied, “It starts with trouble, you don’t think it starts with peace, do you?”

The headiness of a night dancing and drinking, and how it differs but also kind of remains the same for younger and older people, is really well captured and has been used to great effect in driving the plot forward as well as creating atmosphere. How did you choose which songs to use in each part?
The songs are joined at the hip to what’s happening in the story, by lyric or feel or both. I suppose it became a kind of mixtape, or maybe several mixtapes over the course of a relationship. The first one is probably called I think I like you. The second, I think I love you. The third, I want you forever. The fourth, please don’t go I can’t live without you. I think there’s something very beautiful in trying to tell someone something in a song, or a mixtape, or a poem, story, novel.

Johnny Bender is a wonderful narrator that brings a surreal and sensitive element into the story – is he the character that came to you first?
When the wall scribbles became a loose storyline, got painted over and scribbled as a tighter idea, I felt strongly I needed a narrator. A compass. I liked the idea of this story having a flavour of folk tale to it, a bit like Lars von Trier’s Dogville. It makes a good contrary to the fuck-awful goings-on within. Makes the tone richer. As a character, Johnny is definitely modelled on the Shakespearean fool. Talks in riddles, sounds radged, but, if you listen properly and go with the flow, he’s telling you some big truths. When Johnny arrived, it wasn’t long before Blackbird got there too. That’s when I knew I had my story.

Just like in Billy and the Devil you capture small town, small minded England so well – what is it that drives you to delve into the psyche of these kind of characters?
When I first started writing, the writer that grabbed me by the scruff was Raymond Carver. Ordinary people, ordinary problems, delivered in a way that registered the importance of these problems to the character concerned. Feels real. Sounds a bit grandiose, but we’re all the centre of our own universe aren’t we? Our problems are important, because. But, with Edendale, I wanted to play with stereotypes too, twist them a bit, in the same way Sherwood Anderson does in Winesburg, Ohio. In that book he opens with a surreal prologue where an old man has a dream about the beginning of all things. The dream shows him a long line of people queueing up to collect their own personal truths before they enter life. For some people these truths become everything about them, so much so that they become grotesques, their truths walking ahead of them in all they do.

In Edendale there are most definitely people like that. Ordinary people who have become grotesques because of their truths. Mr King is one. Preaching community, yet we see him for what he is, a self-obsessed dickhead obsessed by power. And yes, some people in Edendale are bigots because of this grotesquery. But. Look outside. Turn the news on. Catch the bus into town. So-called shortfalls of resources being blamed on immigration, spawning violence and irrational knee-jerk reactions sparked by lies from self-obsessed powermongers, gobbled up by a worrying mass of people because they want a better quality of living, or some return to a Britain that never really was, buying the empty canted promises of these terrible manipulators, these liars so ridiculous they should be laughed at, but, they’re not, they’re gaining power and momentum based on these lies. History repeating.

But perhaps I’m naïve. My own personal politics, perhaps near childlike. But. Worldwide we seem to have enough resources. The problem is, and if there is going to be an end of times it’s going to be from this: money is now politics and money is now power, more than it has ever been, and yet in one swipe so many problems could be sorted by the simple act of sharing. But the fat cats won’t will they? They want to keep their voice the loudest, and in the world we live in, the loudest are the richest. And it is always, always, the underbelly that suffers, the ordinary people. Always.

Today I saw a video of Syrian children playing in a bomb crater, a bomb crater that had severed the water supply to a large part of a city, the pipe filling the crater with dirty water, and, the children were swimming, and laughing. I couldn’t tell whether this was the most uplifting thing I had seen, or the saddest. Powermongers either side, and these kids in the middle. I don’t even pretend to understand what the fuck is happening over there, and who is doing what for why, but I know this: these are ordinary people trapped by something they have no say in, and yet, we watch, build walls, close borders, stop these people escaping horrors that we are fortunate enough not to even be able to imagine.

In Billy and the Devil, there’s a scene where a farmhand kills a runt while Billy masturbates in the barn loft above, watching. Runts are not profitable. They cost too much to rear, and don’t put on enough bodyweight for saleable meat. It costs nothing to swing them by the back-legs, smash their head into a wall and be done. This is how the world works. History repeating. Again, again. But. 1930s Germany. A group of young people who wanted nothing to do with the rise of dangerous right-wing politics did something remarkable. They met in cellars, and danced to jazz records. Despite the fact that they could be locked up for doing so. In Syria, the kids swim in bomb craters. Tomorrow, they know, is uncertain.


As alway, thanks for your honesty and passion, Dean, which jumps off the page in both your novels as well as your interviews for Retreat West.

If you’d like to read The Gospel According to Johnny Bender then you can get a copy here. Keep up to date with Dean and his writing on Twitter and his website.

What do you think about the themes of history repeating itself on a personal and political level? Are we always doomed to relive the same mistakes from the past over and over or can we break the cycles? Let’s talk!

Guest author: Daniel Gothard

Delighted to welcome Daniel Gothard back to the blog today. He appeared last year when his novel, Simon Says, was published and he’s back now as his latest, Reunited, comes out. It tells the story of a successful journalist, Ben, who attends a school reunion for a feature and adds a whole other layer of conflict to his already complex and confusing life. Thanks for coming, Dan. Over to you…

So, it’s almost time to launch your second novel with the same publisher – who has already done an incredible job with your first and is putting his heart, soul and faith, not to mention finance, into another book by you. How do you feel – elated at having another opportunity to show your artistic skills? Sure this story will be a much bigger success than the previous one – regardless of how well that previous one actually did? Or can you feel a creeping sense of the ‘What ifs’ beginning?

My next Urbane Publications novel – “Reunited” (out October 6th 2016) is set in 1992 and 2012. The central character, Ben Tallis, tells his story as a 16 year old keeping a journal – in the wake of his father’s death – and as a 36 year old journalist – ordered by his editor to attend a dreaded 20 year school reunion.

I loved writing this book; the thought of those ‘What ifs’ in my own past kept coming to mind – although the book is pure fiction – and I really enjoyed reviewing the sheer weirdness of being a teenager. It is such a strange time for most people: the changes in your mind and body, the social and sexual anxieties and the peer-group pressures. Of course things WERE different in my day and, even in 1992, the internet, mobile phones, email, etc, just didn’t feature. That actually did me a creative favour and let me focus on ‘real’ human contact – talking instead of texting.

My guess is we all have those moments of wondering how we could have done something differently in our pasts, used other words to express ourselves and become someone else perhaps. I wrote a short story in 2001 about the 30 year old me meeting the 15 year old me on a train; trying and failing to impart knowledge and edge myself away from the sad and painful sections of my following 15 years. I’m not sure whether that inspired “Reunited” but I do love the idea of time travel and thinking about alternative timelines.

I’m exactly where I want to be in life and am incredibly lucky to have my wife and three children. My ruminations aren’t embedded with sadness, just a feeling of wonderment.

Remembering doesn’t have to mean regretting.


Wise words, Dan! You can keep up to date with Dan’s writing by following him on Twitter and get a copy of Reunited here.

Author interview: Pete Adams

Today’s author in the spotlight is Pete Adams whose Kind Hearts and Martinets trilogy (which confusingly comes in 8 books!) is focused on Detective Jack ‘Jane’ Austin. I don’t normally read detective fiction series so it was a nice change to dip into something different for this interview…

Pete, I was struck by the originality and quirkiness of your main character, Jack, who wears a tutu in the opening chapter. Can you tell us where you got the inspiration for him from?

The inspiration and drive is in the novels not the characters, although I do believe the books are equally character and narrative driven. For Jack, who knows, although I do have a very large London family, all of whom are wonderfully funny.

The essence of Jack is in the title of the trilogy in eight books, Kind Hearts and Martinets; a classic good against evil, but written as reason against the immovable object. There are people in this life who are inherently good (Kind Hearts), even if their persona and perceived image is of a clumsy, chicken, oaf, but often it takes an individual of this type to see beyond their natural cowardy custard nature, to take on the most immense of enemies; The Establishment – and that is Jack, nicknamed Jane, Austin.

There are seven books that lead up to the ‘showdown’ in book eight. Each book can be read as an individual novel, each having various despicable crimes that need solving, yet there is always an underlying thread; conspiracy, maybe…? And this is what interests Jane Austin. The crimes, well, he has people to sort that for him and they do, having to bail out Austin along the way, many times, but when and if he gets there, what then; change could be just another Establishment; Irony? Oh well.

These books are dedicated to all Kind Hearts who recognise that sometimes their fate is to take on the world for others.

They say that there is always something of the author in the characters they create so what personality traits would you say you share with Jack? 

The ‘central’ character, DCI Jack Jane Austin is a tour de force, a juvenile, elderly, ugly, overweight, severely disfigured, cockney barrow boy spiv, and he cannot help but be centre stage as he barrels through life on a wing and a prayer, but to say he is the main protagonist would be to misinterpret the narrative. The question really should be, how can you write a crime thriller where the apparent central character is a detective who has never solved a crime in his life?

The answer would be that he has surrounded himself with very strong women, oh, and a gay priest, and an autistic lad who lives in a cemetery, and anyone else who can do the solving for him while he sleeps in his deckachairo singing “Just one Cornetto”.

So, yes, on many counts Jane Austin is like me, except I am not ugly of course, I have two eyes, I’m not friends with a gay priest and I am too scared to go into a cemetery; so, that would leave surrounded by strong women, and that would most certainly be the case. It is fair to say that when I get a review or comments back from readers who can perceive this underlying character theme, I am always pleased.  

This is on the whole a very light hearted novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is relatively unusual for the detective fiction genre – what was your motivation to write a series that is so different to what we usually see in this corner of crime writing?

It was not my intention to write something different. However, the story is serious, and if there was a likeness in Jane and me, it would be an overwhelming desire to see social justice, social fairness…okay, and add cowardy custard. So instead of manning the barricades, I write from underneath my stairs at home.

What drives me?

Here I always quote, ad infinitum, forever and ever amen (maybe I do know a gay priest), Peter Ustinov; “Comedy is a funny way of being serious”, and I believe this is also one of the most powerful ways to convey a message, albeit may be subliminal, and some say, so subliminal they missed it; never mind, it’s a good story and a laugh along the way.

This is the third in your Kind Hearts & Martinets trilogy – can you tell us what we can expect from the rest of the books in the series.

There are eight books in the trilogy (all written), and book three, A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza, is the first published by a mainstream publisher. Urbane are now going to bring out books one and two, just before they publish book four on the 1st November 2016.  

  • Book 1, Cause and Effect is in two parts – Cause gets the story going whilst introducing the characters; a very young girl who witnessed the murder of her mother is rescued from a drug and paedophile den, a police detective is brutally murdered and there is the hint of gang warfare (this link returns in book 2). Part two Effect begins to introduce the hint of a malign force generating dystopia and this preoccupies Jane Austin, well that and his love for Det Superintendent Amanda Bruce. I love a love story, but will Amanda reciprocate, after all Austin has got to be the most ugly and irritating person you will ever meet?
  • Book 2, Irony in the Soul, Jane Austin starts to realise that his battle plan, his life even, is ironically as malign as the force itself; ‘For the greater good?’ and who determines this? But in the meantime there is religious unrest on the streets, an Imam crucified, a Priest stoned to death, and that is just the start…
  • Book 3, A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza – is in effect the aftermath of books 1 and 2 and it leads to the perpetrator of the mayhem, least this is what everyone thinks, except Austin knows that this would be too simple, and has he sorted the military?  
  • Book 4, Ghost and Ragman Roll is a rollicking adventure and introduces some additional characters that get taken on in later books as more of the mystery is unveiled – this book will be published 1st November, launched in Glasgow with a signing tour through the UK.
  • Book 5 – Merde and Mandarins – a head on collision with the Establishment; the five books are wrapped up; the end?  Not likely, but a moment to pause and reflect; enter book 6.
  • Book 6 – The Duchess of Friesian Tun – I stepped out of the novel framework and wrote this as a ‘stage-set’ narrative where the story of Kind Hearts and Martinets is dissected by a set of off-the-wall characters, loosely based on The Canterbury Tales but where the Pilgrims go nowhere; the play is contained principally to one set, with aside vignettes – I am really pleased with this.
  • Book 7, Rhubarb in the Mammon, and the story is re-launched with massive energy, seemingly as a new narrative, but as the story slides inexorably into book 8, the themes of all the books meld and the components of the conspiracy are revealed.
  • Book 8, Umble Pie, New scenarios, new characters whom I love to bits, and old favourites who return for the barnstorming finale to Kind Hearts and Martinets, it even left me breathless as the story travels from serious (but makes you laugh) to an edgy though epic, and surreal conclusion. Umble Pie is my hardest task so far – I set myself the challenge of weaving a ‘real’ transference of narrative to a ‘surreal’ pictorial story; this is the helical DNA of Kind Hearts and Martinets and is loosely based on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.


Why surreal? It is because, in my view, sometimes to grasp the reality you need to make your characters and eventually the narrative just a little bit larger than life; the reader feels safe but can relate to what is being said; the moral to the story? Good beats evil, but at what cost and what fills the void?

My intention is that when the reader finishes book 8 they will be able to reflect that although some of the stories in books 1 to 7 appeared a little ‘farfetched’, it actually all makes sense – and this will be the case I make to the judge before committing me to the loony bin.






You can get copies of the first three books in the series here and keep up to date with Pete’s writing on his Facebook book page.
If you are interested in Pete visiting your town on his book signing tour in November this year, then you can message him on his book page – I know he is also arranging, on this tour, to do some workshops, some with other local authors in a panel format; quite different and should prove interesting and a good opportunity.