What have you written? What are you writing now? Traditional, indie, or hybrid? Where are your books?
Science fiction and fantasy. Novels, mostly, with a couple of novellas and some short stories.
This year I’ve started work on a space western series, with a weird murder mystery series next in the queue.
Of seven titles published by various houses, I’ve got the rights back to all except my two novels with Carina Press. During 2016/7 I’m refreshing and re-releasing them, plus two new novels and a collection of shorts.
By the time they’re all out in the world, I aim to have Book 1 in my space western series written, edited, and ready to publish. All indie now.
There’s an up-to-date list of available titles on my Books page.
What’s your process?
It’s developed over the years, and parts of it still change as required for different books, but in general I’m a plotter at heart who’s relaxed the planning as time has passed.
On my first novel, I kept calling what I was doing “a plan” until I realised I’d handwritten a first draft. Never did that again. On my second book I used a skeleton plan, one sentence per chapter which I developed into a paragraph or two per chapter before drafting them, and that’s pretty much how I work still.
The paragraphs-plans came in useful for synopses when I needed such things, but now that I’m indie I don’t, so I’ve reverted to the sentences-plan and my paragraphs are more about characters and themes than plot.
I’ve turned into a panster, haven’t I? Whodathunk that would happen?
Not really, though. I live with a character, or two, or three, and a situation or two, for weeks or months before I commit to their story. I live with each scene in my head for hours or even days before I write it. I might not be planning my stories in long detailed pages, but nor am I plucking words from the air.
And I’m a slow writer. My health condition rules my speed. I write new words in the quiet evenings, and edit and polish as I go. If I can produce one good novel per year, I’m a happy David.
Is there a certain theme that keeps cropping up in your books?
Yes. Abandoned people building families of friends. It was so strong in Storywalker, I used that exact phrase in the novel’s blurb.
Who have been your biggest influences?
Iain Banks for his political honesty, his wry humour, and the outrageous joyous vision of his post-capitalism Culture novels. I miss him.
John le Carré for the depth of characterisation in his people and places, his masterful pacing, and his contempt for dangerous Establishment figures whether they operate above or below the radar.
Ali Smith for her apparently straightforward yet actually magical storytelling, and her characters who sneak up on you like future best friends settling quietly into your life. And because although we’ve never met, we have a beloved deceased friend in common. Anyone who was all right by Sheila Hamilton is all right by me.
What’s the deal with Quakerism? Do you see any conflict between its pacifism and your past in the armed forces?
I’m completely at home with Quakers. The weekly meeting is an oasis of peace and silence that spreads in all directions. I take the quietness with me when I leave. I’m particularly heartened by the mix of faiths and beliefs among Friends I’ve met and read, and the refreshing absence of creeds and leaders.
I first felt drawn to Quakerism in 2005. Can’t say exactly what put the thought into my mind, but suddenly one day I wanted to know what it’s about. I spent a few months reading Quaker bloggers. Most of the ones I found at that time were American, with only one or two here in the UK, but I read enough to know I wanted to look closer.
I also spent that time searching my conscience, regarding the conflict you mention. At the start of that process I noted that my only stumbling block was likely to be the Peace Testimony. Not because I was a violent person, but I’d always been willing to use force to protect people from harm, and as I started to look into Quakerism I couldn’t pretend I felt any different about that.
Over those next few months, without stressing about the thing, I changed. I took up Pranayama (yoga breathing) around then, too, which helped the process along. The next year was a busy one, while I finished my first novel and put the Quaker stuff on hold with everything else, but by the time it cropped up again I recognised myself as a wholehearted pacifist.
Do you miss your old life at sea? In all those years, where was the best place you visited?
I miss only the beautiful peace of dawn on the ocean, with nothing in sight but sea and sky.
My favourite place was the Caribbean. I spent ten months there in my first ship, mostly island hopping in the West Indies.
I was young, with my whole life ahead of me, and this was my first experience of navy life outside of training. Ships have characters, and that one was harsh. I didn’t intend to make a career in the navy, only joined it for a three-year working holiday, and after a couple of months on that ship I was counting the days until my release.
But then we arrived in the West Indies and I fell in love with the world. Everything was blissful: weather; people; landscapes and seascapes; spending an evening on a beach with friends and a crate of beer, or wandering off alone to find a deserted cove and swim there for an hour; the bright clean mornings and heavy rain afternoons; the shimmering air; and billions of stars in the deep blue midnight skies. Everything.
I didn’t change my mind about the navy – that happened later because life on that ship never stopped sucking – but I fell in love with the Caribbean forever.
I saw someone call you Lion Man. What’s that about?
I had a recurring dream about a lion when I was a kid. He was a male lion in his prime, and in my dreams he used to watch me walking to school. I’d glance over my right shoulder and there he would be, always in the same place, watching me. I wasn’t scared of him after the first time. I knew he wouldn’t attack. I thought of him as my lion, even after the dreams stopped when I moved up to senior school.
I dreamed of him again, just once, about ten years ago. I didn’t see him. I had a lucid dream in which I remembered the childhood dreams and realised I am my lion. He’s a symbol of my spirit.
I gave this history almost word-for-word to Joe Walker, the hero of my novel Quarter Square.