For people who may not have read any of your books yet, could you give a brief rundown of the series or your latest book?
The Incendiary’s Trail is a Victorian detective thriller based in London. This is the very beginnings of detection – before Sherlock Holmes – and pits the keen minds of policemen against criminals who lurk in a city caught between bright modernity and impenetrable darkness.
What started you writing?
I suppose I discovered at a young age that I could express myself better and more naturally in writing than in personal interaction. For years, I wrote letters and journals, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I attempted to write books. Then I found there was a world inside me waiting to get out.
How do you write? Typewriter, hand, or Laptop?
Laptop. It’s simply the fastest way to do it, and it helps that I spend my days as a copywriter tapping out text to order.
When and where do you write?
Between 8.00 and 10.00 p.m. five nights a week in an attic room. I’d do more if my wife would let me and if I didn’t have a day job. I drink either cognac or malt whiskey as I write, and listen to rock music on my iPod.
Do you read your reviews, good and bad, and do they make a difference to you?
I think that a writer knows their own strengths and weaknesses. Everything else is opinion.
If you weren't a writer what would you do?
I’d say ‘professional mountaineer’ if I wasn’t afraid of heights. So I’ll go for the life of a carpenter. I like the idea of having something solid to show for my work.
What advice would you, as you are now, give yourself as a 16-year-old?
Relax! You will get a girlfriend and your complexion will clear up. Keep reading – it’ll be of great benefit later.
What was the first book you remember falling in love with?
Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. It was the first book I read after finishing my degree and suddenly I’d found a writer who, like me, was earnestly, desperately, wildly trying to find himself as a writer. There’s no story in his book, but a lifetime of passion.
What is your worst vice?
Over-eating. My stomach drives my daily routine and I’ll eat until I’m almost in pain. I’m ashamed of my lack of restraint, but it’s an animal pleasure I can’t forego.
What book are you reading right now?
Moby Dick, for the third time. Simply put, it’s the American Shakespeare. When I lived in China, I owned two books: this one and Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. I think they both had a lasting impact.
What did you study at University?
English and American Literature. I preferred the American at the time – it had a more distinctive voice because for so long it was seeking an identity.
How to you spend your time when you’re not writing?
Eating! I so seldom get the chance to read, but I enjoy that, too.