What new books do you have in the pipeline?
My next novel will be published in the UK in the very near future, and in the US market towards the end of this year. Watch this space for early details.
Meanwhile I’ve almost finished the novel that will follow that one . . .
How do you research the background to your novels?
It varies. I might begin by researching specific events, situations and people that interest me. I might already have a basic idea or it might only be a feeling about ‘something to do with such-and-such’. When I think I have enough understanding, I begin to write. I find it’s important to do this rather than wait too long – because the danger with research is that there is no finish line.
The research continues while I write – and even when the first drafts of the story are complete. There might be issues I’ve set aside to deal with at that stage because I know they can wait, or I may have come up with another idea that I want to check out.
Usually the physical settings for my novels are places I already know well. But not always, in which case I have extra work to do. I had to visit what was then the Soviet Union in order to get the locations and settings right for Patriots. That was a bit of a challenge, as there were so many things and places that you were forbidden to take photos of – not just obvious places like military establishments or security headquarters but also transport infrastructure such as roads and rail lines, and even bridges and rivers. Meanwhile you could take all the photos you wanted of Red Square! But I went ahead and took my chances. I also studied Russian (most of it now forgotten), partly to be able to talk to people whose help and input I needed, and partly to give as accurate a flavour as possible to the dialogue in the book
Describe what the writing process is like for you.
It’s the best job in the world. If it’s going well, I’m utterly lost in the world I’m creating. Some parts of writing a novel are straightforward and logical, but some are quite baffling. There are times when an idea arrives out of the blue and I think ‘Where on earth did that come from?’ and I genuinely don’t know. These are the most magical moments of all.
Can you give some background information on your novels?
In Patriots I use the background of the Cold War as the setting in which to portray the way in which the lives of Nikolai Serov and Edmund Knight intersect and come into conflict because of choices each man made many years previously – secret decisions and loyalties that I reveal only gradually.
I called the novel Patriots because I wanted to point to the irony that patriotism is sometimes no more than a cloak for motivations that are far less noble.
How and when did you start writing?
When I was sixteen or seventeen I wrote a full-length novel. Believe me, it’s best forgotten! Many years later I decided it was time to have a serious go. I took time out from my business career and wrote Patriots. It was published and I returned to the world of business. But the bug was there; it was only a matter of time before I felt the need to write again. In due course, along came Villa Normandie and then Charlie’s War.