Jess has subjected herself to my nosy questions today! Morning, Jess! Why have you put yourself at my mercy?
I’m promoting the wide release of my short story collection, Shadow of Justice on March 10. Shadow of Justice is the eight collected Simon Pearce stories, which had previously been available on KU only. Now they’re available in all formats and paperback, from all of your favorite e-tailers.
What started you writing?
My family has a philosophy that nothing is one hundred percent terrible if you can get a good story out of it. I remember so many evenings after dinner with my parents, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents, where we took turns telling stories about funny things that had happened to us, getting up and acting out the stories with different voices and exaggerated movements, laughing until our sides hurt. It was only a matter of time before someone started writing things down. The science fiction author Julian May is a distant cousin, so she got there first. But I guess it’s my job, too.
My first story was a graphic novel about a lonely vampire who liked to pop through the bedroom windows of unsuspecting naked ladies. He was always sad because he would fall in love with them, but was a vampire, so, you know. I was about nine, and I think the naked part kind of startled my parents, but in my mind it was a tragic story of forbidden love more than anything else.
Where do you write?
I usually write at home, either at the standing desk in my office or at the kitchen counter. Sometimes, if it’s cold and dark and nasty in the morning, I will be very naughty and work in my jammies in bed well into midmorning. Sometimes I like to go to the National Museum to write. I was surprised once, last year, when the new Egyptian exhibit featured the mummies upon which I’d based one of the subplots in The Star-Crossed Lovers, Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, who were interred together and believed to be one of the oldest gay couples in recorded history.
What do you like to read?
That really depends. Under normal circumstances, I love to read historical mysteries. I’m having a bit of a thing with some of the newer gothic romances right now, too. I’ve just burned through Amanda de Wees’s delightful Sybil Ingraham mysteries, and wish there were about 20 more. And I love monster mash-ups that are done half tongue in cheek. I’m currently reading Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula by Loren D. Estleman, and it’s very well done and quite entertaining. If I’m having a stressful time I enjoy a good, schlocky cozy mystery or a well-written romance — any sort of pairing. Love is love and all.
What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?
I HAVE TO CHOOSE?????
Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?
I belong to the Edinburgh Genre Writers, which meets fortnightly to crit members’ work. It’s quite a bit different from the American writing groups I’ve belonged to, where feedback was generally like “This is really, really great, but you might want to think about this little thing right here, but only if you want to, this is only my opinion, just saying.” My current group’s feedback is more like “Right. Here’s an itemized list of everything that’s wrong with this piece, your work in general, and that hideous tie you’re wearing. But don’t give up. We’ve seen worse, now let’s go to the pub.” It was a shock at first, but once I realized it was cultural, I learned to take up the valuable feedback and brush off the sting. We have a few more American members, now, and it’s always interesting to see the difference in how we present feedback, as opposed to our UK colleagues.
I’m also a member of the Crime Writers Association and International Thriller Writers, though I’m not particularly active with them. And I look forward, of course to UK Meet every two years.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? (What’s your favourite food? Do you have any pets? Do you like to exercise? Netflix? Juggling? Are you learning anything new?)
I run and do taekwondo. I’ve been doing both for a long time, but I started running seriously about a year and a half ago, when I decided to train for a half marathon. I really enjoy those long distances, now, and I try to get out five days a week, weather permitting, which is Scotland, it often is not. I also like to knit and crochet for charity.
Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?
A few years ago, I wrote a novella for Blind Eye Books, The Kissing Gate, which appears in the anthology Blades of Justice. The publisher asked if I wanted to write a short story to give away as a promotional teaser. The Kissing Gate was f/f, but since many of my other books are m/m, the publisher floated the idea of writing a story about Constable Simon Pearce, who appears briefly in The Kissing Gate, with the very briefest of hints about his own personal life. Somehow, during the discussion of the story, it spun itself into eight novelettes with a personal arc that runs throughout them.
What did I like and hate about writing it? Interestingly, the same things. The editor/publisher, Nicole Kimberling, is very hands-on, and would often suggest structural or thematic changes to the stories that sent me back to the drawing board, sometimes more than once per story. I hated that, but at the same time, her suggestions were often really interesting, and took the stories to some really cool places.I can imagine it would be a frustrating way to work for someone who is very precious about their words and their art, but I’m not. I live and work on both sides of the red pen, and I’m most interested in putting out a kick-ass story, so if someone has a suggestion that’s objectively better than what I’ve done, I don’t have any ego about taking that suggestion.
It took literally three times longer to complete the cycle than I’d planned for, but ultimately, I’m really proud of how it all turned out.
Book blurb and buy links!
Constable Simon Pearce doesn’t believe in love. It’s a dangerous proposition for many people in 19th century London, but for an ambitious copper climbing Scotland Yard’s greasy career ladder, it’s out of the question.
He doesn’t believe in monsters, either, though there seem to be a lot of them about. Whether it’s a ghost haunting a London churchyard where men seek men’s companionship, a phantom hound in Edinburgh that’s hell-bent on revenge, or a murdered businessman on a cross-country train who just won’t stay dead — the mysterious has a way of finding Pearce, whether he wants it to or not.
But are these happenings truly supernatural? Or is something worse — something thoroughly human — to blame?
Pearce has his theories — about crime, about monsters, and about love. But life has a way of testing even the most carefully considered ideas. And as he chases mysteries from one end of Britain to the other, he may just have to reconsider his ideas about all three.