Frequently Asked Questions
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Questions about WRITING
When did you start writing?
I’ve always written stories, but I didn’t start getting serious about it until 2014. Before then, I’d daydream for a while and maybe get down twenty pages of a story before putting it aside and getting back to real life. It wasn’t until I wrote A Bargain in Silver that I finally managed to finish a book. I think it’s that way for a lot of authors: finishing the first one is always like pulling teeth, but once you have that under your belt, it gets so much easier.
What was the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I remember writing was in primary school. I must have been about six, and I wrote a story about a dinosaur, illustrated by a picture of a T-Rex. A lot of my stories were about dinosaurs! Then I moved on to vampires and zombies, and I’ve never looked back. I love paranormal stories, and I’m a sucker for mythology too.
How many stories did you write before the Solis Invicti series?
None that I finished! The Solis Invicti series grew out of two half-finished vampire projects that I scrapped a few years previously. The first was a vampire romance novel that was laughably self-insert, and the second was a graphic novel set in a dystopian version of London where vampires were running free. Those two concepts combined to make the world of the Silverse, in which Solis Invicti (and most of my other books) is set. It’s somewhere I spend a lot of time!
What authors inspired you to write?
Initially, I just liked writing down the stories that popped into my head, and I wouldn’t say that exercise was inspired by any particular authors. But when it came to writing the Solis Invicti series, I was definitely inspired by the likes of Charlaine Harris and Kerrelyn Sparks, because they validated my interest in vampire romance. I took the success of their novels as an invitation to lean heavily into a genre that I already loved.
Which authors have most influenced your writing?
The big one at the moment is NK Jemisin. I love her writing. I love the brutality and humanity of the worlds she creates, and the way those things are so perfectly balanced against each other. I wish I could write like her. I’m sure I have plenty of subconscious influences too. I listen to Nigel Planer’s narrations of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels every night (I’m a chronic insomniac), so I’m sure Pratchett creeps in there sometimes.
What comes first, the plot or the characters?
Both! I usually start with the beginning of a plot and a character or two, then see where they take me. I never start writing until I have the plot and main characters mapped out, even if it’s all a little sketchy in places, but the details fill themselves in randomly and often in tandem. Everything fleshes out at the same time, and the characters are as dependent on the plot as the plot is on the characters.
Do you do research for your books?
There’s always something that needs checking (How far can a horse run in a day? What’s the highest point in Romania? What naturally-occurring poison kills fastest?), but there are definitely some books that are more research-heavy than others. Fantasy is all about imagination grounded in reality, but I create most of the concrete details myself, so there’s scope to improvise. With my historical novels (of which there will be more in future), the research is punishing. It really matters that you not only entrench yourself in the past, but that you dig into the details so you translate the correct flavour into what you’re writing. I spend far longer researching those novels than I do writing them.
What’s your work schedule like when you write?
This is a hilarious question because it suggests that I am capable of sticking to a schedule.
I now write practically full-time (although I’m a company director as well, which takes up some of my time). In my ideal writing schedule, I would split my year into quarters and dedicate each quarter to a new book. About 8-10 weeks usually goes into producing a draft, and the rest into plotting and research (before writing) and editing (after writing). In practical terms, that means for a 100,000-word novel (which most of mine are) I’d be writing 2,500 words a day, five days a week, for 8 weeks. That would take up most of my working day (about 6-8 hours), so the rest of my time could go into all the other business of self-publishing (formatting, emails with my cover designer and book bloggers, advertising, social media, YouTube videos, research, interviews etc.).
But I almost never follow that schedule. I’ll end up writing nothing at all one day and hitting 5,000 words the next, then taking a fortnight off writing because I’ve got stuck. I am not a creature of habit and I react poorly to the imposition of routine. It’s very inconvenient, because I’m also someone who likes to plan in advance. I can’t count the number of times I’ve missed my own deadlines!
What’s your writing process?
I’m definitely a plotter. I used to dive straight in and just see where the story took me, but I’ve found that the more I write, the less I like flying blind, though I still don’t go into huge amounts of detail. I have a whiteboard on the wall of my office (a big one!) and I use that to break each book up into quarters, then plot what’s going to happen with each character/plot strand throughout the book’s timeline. That way, I can see the shape of the book in a single glance, with the various ups and downs. It’s really important to me that it’s in one big schematic; breaking it down into synopses or multi-page notes doesn’t work for me for plotting purposes. I need to see the rhythm. I sometimes make some separate notes on each character too, but more often than not I keep that information in my head until I need it. Then I get on with the writing, which is mostly a linear process for me. I do a lot of editing as I go, so the first draft takes me some time, then I just need a few full edits to polish before it goes to my betas.
How do you like to write?
This is going to get embarrassing. I write in what I call my ‘work pyjamas’, which are just the same as any other pyjamas but without the guilt. I’m definitely one for silence – if interrupted while writing, and particularly while editing, I have been known to growl – and I do almost all of my work on the laptop, though my research notes are often handwritten.
What makes writing easier for you?
The biggest game-changer in recent years for me has been Scrivener. I LOVE Scrivener. I wrote my first four books in Microsoft Word and switched over to Scrivener for the Sovereign series. It changed my writing life. Suddenly, I can navigate my book, even my whole series (I use one document for each series), with ease. I can write in one screen while I look at my chapter layout in another, and there are so many built-in tools that make managing research and notes files really simple. Not only that, but I can produce books in all the formats I need to self-publish with just one source file and a bit of tinkering. It’s magic.
Does writing energise or exhaust you?
Thinking about writing energises me – the plotting, the characters, the scenes that appear in my head, begging to be written down – but the writing itself drains me completely. It’s one of the most irritating things about writing that I, a chronic insomniac, exhaust myself with writing and go to bed at night ready to crash, only to find my brain refuses to shut down because it’s merrily wandering through the plot I’m going to write the following day.
What’s your writing kryptonite?
Admin. Any kind of admin, whether it’s to do with self-publishing or the general necessities of living, like doing the laundry or watering the plants. I find it practically impossible to settle down into writing until everything else that needs doing has been done, which means I either have to force myself to my laptop regardless (which makes me itchy), or I’m left with scant writing time. It’s very annoying.
Do you prefer writing goodies or baddies?
Baddies, obviously. They have all the best lines and they’re always involved in conflict, which is the lifeblood of any story. But I remain unconvinced that there is such a thing as a ‘goody’. Part of the joy of writing is plumbing the depths of your characters for all the flaws they’re trying to hide from other people. We’re all a bit bad sometimes.
My very favourite characters to write are women who are dickheads. Not aggressively evil, but scoundrelly and chaotic. The main character in my Seekers series is exactly this, whilst also being a bisexual vampire, and she is everything I never knew I was missing in a main character. I don’t know where she came from, but I’m really pleased that she took up residence in my head because she is SO FUN.
How do you come up with your characters?
I usually start with relationships and work backwards from there. That is to say, I rarely come up with one character at a time. Instead, I think of a relationship dynamic I’d really like to include in the novel (whether a friendship, a rivalry or a romance), then work out how I need to form the characters on either side of it in order to make that dynamic as crunchy and satisfying as possible.
What type of scenes do you like/hate writing?
I love writing romance scenes, by which I don’t mean sex scenes (those are sometimes tough), but the dramatic scenes where the love interest does something that unconsciously reveals their feelings for the protagonist, or the protagonist finally kisses the love interest even though they can’t be together, or two people who are pretending not to fancy each other have to share ONE BED. I love all that stuff. It’s so much fun to write. I love romance.
On the flipside, I hate writing action scenes. They’re boring and complicated and you have to remember where everyone’s limbs are, which can be tough when there are a lot of people fighting at once and they’re moving fast. For that reason, I try to keep my action sequences short. I find them boring to read too, so although they’re sometimes necessary, I don’t drag them out longer than I have to.
Do you find it draining when writing different types of scenes? How do you deal with this?
I find action scenes draining because they’re boring and hard to write, so I often end up leaving them until last. I will literally write the entire book, then come back and fill in the action sequences.
I also find sex scenes draining because they’re important. There’s so much that can go wrong with them. You have to get not only the action and emotion of them right, but you have to hit exactly the right tone. Because they’re often the culmination of a long romance thread in the types of multi-book series I write, if you mess up the sex scenes, you’ve lost your reader right there. I deal with that through many multiple redrafts, which is the draining bit!
Do you find it more challenging to write the first book in a series, or the subsequent ones?
They’re very different projects. When you’re writing the first book, you have to establish the world and the characters, and there’s a lot of work in that, but it’s also the most exciting part. That excitement carries me through. Writing sequels has its own challenges, because you have to create consistent characterisation, together with increasing stakes, and you have to make sure you give readers a satisfying pay off for the time they’ve already invested in the series. That can feel like a lot of pressure!
How do you come up with your covers?
With difficulty! For the Solis Invicti series and the Sovereign series, I worked with excellent cover artist Martin Beckett. For my other books, I’ve designed and created the covers myself. Sometimes the story and locations suggest the cover (as with the Seekers series) and sometimes it’s a bit more abstract. For The Wolf and the Water, I started with a drop of water and an image of a flooded temple. That image went through a lot of permutations before eventually turning into the watery wolf design that appears on the cover, which is a direct reference to the title. Sometimes simple is best!
What’s the most surprising thing you discovered when writing your books?
Ideas are endless. Authors are so often asked “where do you get your ideas?”, but that’s the easy bit. The ideas appear on their own; it’s developing them into stories and getting them down on paper that’s the hard bit. I’m inundated with ideas that I want to turn into books, but I’ll never get through them all. They won’t stop coming and there’s no way to press pause. There’s something humbling and terrifying about that.
How many plot ideas are in your head waiting to be written?
More than I will ever have time to write. When an idea comes to me, I scribble it down in the Notes app on my phone, and it joins the queue. It’s very, very long, and some ideas will never leave the list. To give you some scale, I have close to twenty full-length novels that I’ve already taken off that list and developed beyond the first idea. I have so much writing to do!
Looking back on your writing career so far, is there anything you would have done differently?
I’m sure there are things I could have done differently, and that I would do better if I were to do them again now, but I’ve learned from the whole experience, so I don’t regret any of my writing decisions. Each story in the Silverse is a brick in a larger edifice and I’m fond of them all in their own ways, even if some of my earlier writing makes me cringe a little in retrospect.
What advice would you offer a new writer?
Everyone works and creates differently, so there are very few all-purpose writing tips that are helpful. I cringe every time I see an author say ‘write every day’ or ‘write this many words a week’, because those rigid rules aren’t universal. I don’t write every day. I never have done. There are some weeks when I write nothing at all, because I know my brain needs a rest. I often alternate, having four days in a row where I do nothing but read, absorbing lots of inspiration, then spend the next four days writing tens of thousands of words. I’m not consistent, and I never will be. It just doesn’t work for me.
That said, there is one piece of writing advice that really is universal: if you want to be an author, you have to read. Read widely, read thoughtfully, and read a lot. There is nothing more important for developing your craft than reading other authors with a critical eye (How did they manage that POV change? How did they balance the backstory to prevent it becoming an infodump? What is it about the way this novel is paced that makes it so exciting?). Reading is key.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
Honestly, I don’t. For me, it’s often the worst thing I can do. If I don’t want to write, there’s probably a reason for that, and I need to give myself time to work out what that reason is. Maybe a particular plot arc just isn’t working and needs to be changed, or maybe the last section of dialogue I wrote is something that character would simply never say. Or maybe something’s happened in my personal life that has sapped my energy. Either way, if I really don’t want to write, then it’s probably a sign that there’s a problem I need to deal with first.
If I have no choice because a deadline is looming (and I set myself many in order to motivate myself to get things done, despite the fact that I often miss them), then I can usually bribe myself back to the computer with chocolate, but writing like that hurts. It’s a painful process and I don’t like doing it because I think it shows in my writing. So if there’s any wiggle room in my schedule, and even when there isn’t, I’ll step back for a day or two and let the story work itself out in my head for a bit. I’m a firm believer in giving yourself space for creativity. The best ideas are born in idle thought.
Questions about THE BOOKS
I’ve always loved vampires. I was a huge Buffy fan, following every season as they came out, and I eventually ended up reading a lot of vampire paranormal romance stories. However, there was nothing that EXACTLY hit the spot for the kind of vampires I was looking for. I wanted them scary, and I couldn’t understand why all the books I read had worlds in which vampires were present, but not in charge. That made no sense to me. If they were as strong and powerful as all that, I thought that surely they’d take over the world. That was my starting point for the Solis Invicti series, which is where the Silverse began.
How long does it take you to write each book?
It really depends on the book. I took some time off from work and wrote Bound in Silver in a month, but The Wolf and The Water took about a year. That’s probably because there was a lot more research involved – research always slows me down more than I expect it to because I fall down rabbit holes of interesting information and struggle to find my way back – but it also depends what else is going on in my life. Back when I wrote Bound in Silver, my writing wasn’t much more than a hobby, so all I was doing with my spare time was writing. These days, I consider it a business, so there’s a lot of work to be done on the self-publishing side of things that takes me away from writing.
On average, I write about 10,000 words a week. There are about 100,000 words in one of my books, so strictly it takes me ten writing weeks to get a first draft. But I never have the luxury of working start to finish, so in real time it’s at least three or four months.
How do you come up with titles for your books?
I like to have a thread that connects them all together, so they feel like a series. With Solis Invicti that thread was the word ‘Silver’. The first title (A Bargain in Silver) suggested itself, because the book is all about a bargain between vampires and humans. The rest of the titles in that series took a little more thinking, trying to work around the main plot of the book and make a title that worked. I’m really happy with those. I followed more-or-less the same principle when it came to the titles for the rest of my books: it needs to be something long enough to be distinctive, with some relevance to the story, and ideally a bit of wordplay.
Which series was the most enjoyable to write?
Probably Solis Invicti, because I did it just for fun and I wasn’t that anxious about how it would sell! Sovereign was a bit of a forced march: I wrote the whole trilogy in a year, which helped to make it cohesive and tight, but also left little breathing room for me. I wouldn’t have been able to write that quickly if I hadn’t been thinking about the plot for years beforehand. But honestly, I enjoy everything I write in different ways. At the moment, the Deluge series is fun to write because it taps into my classical knowledge and lets me immerse myself in ancient worlds, and the Seekers series is fun to write because I adore the characters and like spending time with them. They make it easy for me.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
Sometimes, rarely, they’re named after people I know. Sometimes they’re suggested by the situation (Solomon was named for the biblical king in order to introduce a bit of ancient intrigue and Killian was named for the brutal implications of his name). If I have a character from a particular geographical or cultural background, I’ll do a bit of research to pick something appropriate for them. For example, most of the characters in the Sovereign series have Latin names, because that’s the tradition in the Blue. But more often than not, I pluck the names from thin air.
Do you relate to any of your characters?
I relate to all of them, at least in part. I think you have to be able to relate to your characters in order to write them convincingly. A part of you always ends up in your characters, because the way we write stories reflects the way we think about the world, but there isn’t any one of my characters that entirely reminds me of myself. I’m sometimes stubborn and obtuse like Jack, irrationally rebellious like Emmy, naïve like Claudia, ruthlessly practical like Solomon, cheerful like Cam and arrogant like Killian. There’s a little of me in each of them, but they are very much themselves.
Do you have a favourite part/feature of the Silverse?
My favourite feature is probably how Silver romance works: the silver in their eyes floods into their irises when they fall in love. I love the mating bond trope in romance and this was my version of it.
My favourite part of the Silverse is impossible to pick! I love the dystopian world of the Blue (the Sovereign series) and the apocalyptic world of Solis Invicti, but I also love the creepy contemporary setting of the Seekers series.
THE SOLIS INVICTI SERIES
Why did you choose London as a setting for the Solis Invicti series?
I lived in London for a year and didn’t like it, so I think part of me really wanted to see it burn! But it also presents so many opportunities for a story like the Solis Invicti series. You’ve got so many buildings packed in tightly together, so many people stacked in these hidden spaces, that the idea of them all becoming infected by a zombie virus is just horrifying. I wanted to experiment with trying to control people in a place like that, with so many levels and access points. I picked Paternoster Square in particular not just because it’s an attractive and iconic location (the fall of the London Stock Exchange felt symbolically interesting), but also because it’s where I used to work and I know it well.
Who's your favourite Solis Invicti character?
I’m tempted to say Cam (everyone loves Cam), but I think it’s Sol. I love his rational detachment. He’s so ruthlessly practical and so unashamed about taking what he wants. It’s a strange contradiction, because everything he does for the Silver is driven by a sense of duty that is entirely selfless, but at the same time he can be so selfish in his personal relationships. There’s something well-meaning and yet slightly psychopathic about him that I find really engaging.
What's your favourite book in the Solis Invicti series?
Definitely The Price of Silver, because of the romance storyline (I love the love triangle and Sol is just amazing in this book), but also because of the main plot. A human uprising in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and a vampire takeover is the stupidest idea in the world, but of course it would happen. Unrest breeds unrest. I really enjoy the crunchy tension between the various different factions in this book.
THE SOVEREIGN SERIES
What was your inspiration for the Sovereign series?
The Solis Invicti series ends with a zombie apocalypse having been contained, but with billions dead. I found myself wondering how society was going to put itself back together and what the world would look like hundreds of years later. Predictably, I imagined a world a little darker and more broken than I first expected it to be. I had a huge amount of fun creating that world.
Who's your favourite Sovereign character?
Definitely Cam. He’s just the best friend anyone could ever wish for. I feel for him so much at this point in his life. He’s broken at the start of this series, no longer the bouncing labrador puppy I have come to love, but the story is all about how he puts himself back together again, with a little help. He gets to be the hero for once, which is what he always deserved.
What's your favourite book in the Sovereign series?
Probably The Silver Queen, because it’s the book where Julia finally escapes from the Blue. The more I write, the more I realise that I’m writing the same story over and over again, and it’s all about escape. To me, that escape feels like a transformation, like a butterfly from a chrysalis. Until Julia removes herself from the oppressive regime under which she’s been living, she has no idea who she is. Going out into the Red allows her to test herself, but it also allows her to understand the reality of the place she’s come from: it has no power over her. That’s the moment when she really breaks free.
THE SEEKERS SERIES
Why a vampire detective?
Why not? Primarily, I thought it would just be fun, but vampire abilities also present interesting possibilities for a detective. If you can smell blood, and perhaps even detect the differences between different people’s blood by scent alone, would that make it easier to investigate murders? Or would vampire criminals find some way to avoid leaving their scent behind? If the detective and the murderer both have vampire strength and speed, how would one subdue or outrun the other? It’s all the different ‘what if’s that make writing the Seekers series so interesting.
These are the first murder mystery books you’ve written – how does this kind of writing compare to the series you’ve written previously?
The process isn’t that different, although it does require more planning. Some mystery authors go into the story with just a murder and work out whodunnit as they go along. I’m definitely not that kind of writer. Before I start writing, I need to know not only whodunnit, but what clues and red herrings the Seekers are going to find along the way, and who will be the main suspect at each stage of the story. That shapes the entire plot for me, because it dictates where they go and who gets interviewed. Inevitably, my brain will throw up things I wasn’t expecting as I write, and I do often have to swerve on the details and subplots, but the basics never change.
Why did you choose Oxford as a setting?
Not only is Oxford a beautiful city that’s rich in history, but it’s also home to hugely varied population from all over the world, with students and tutors from two universities living side-by-side with its long-term residents. That makes for some interesting dynamics that I thought would be made even more interesting with the introduction of a vampire subculture. Having lived in Oxford for the past twenty years, it was about time I wrote about it!
You mention quite a lot of locations in the city in the Seekers books – do you have a favourite place in Oxford?
Is it cheating if I say ‘my sofa’? If I have to pick a public place, then it’s probably Headington Hill Park. I love all the architecture in Oxford (Queen’s College in particular is absolutely beautiful), but I dislike the closed nature of the college properties. They feel secretive and somehow sinister, which is why they make such great settings for murder mysteries. The park is exactly the opposite: it was once the private grounds of Headington Hill Hall (now part of Oxford Brookes University, where I did my legal training), but is now public space. It’s also gorgeous, particularly in the spring when the daffodils and crocuses carpet the grass under its plentiful trees. It holds a special place in my heart because it’s where my husband and I spent a lot of time when we started dating in 2011.
Is the vampire bar on Holywell Street that you mention in the Seekers series a real place?
Sadly no! I wish it was, but Holywell Street is actually pretty quiet in real life. I’ve never been to a vampire bar. If you have any recommendations, then I want to hear them!
Do you have a favourite character in the Seekers series?
It’s 100% Jack Valentine. I love her. I have no idea where she came from, but she is so much fun to hang out with. I love how chaotic she is and how obtuse, particularly with Killian. If he told her the sky was blue, she’d argue that it was green just to piss him off, then threaten him with violence if he didn’t agree. She’s so flawed and comfortingly human, with her messy love life and her bad decisions, her aversion to laundry and her dedication to insobriety.
Jack works as part of an investigative team. Are we going to see them in future books?
Definitely! Not only will they all have their own side-plots in future Seekers books, but they also turn up in the other Silverse books: Naia is in the Sovereign series and Cam is in basically everything because I love him.
How do the Seekers short stories fit into the chronology of the books?
There are three Seekers short stories so far: Killian’s Dead, Blood Brothers and Blood Work. Killian’s Dead is about how Jack turned Silver, Blood Brothers is the story of how Alistair and Adewale met, and Blood Work is about Ed and Cam’s arrival in Oxford. They all take place before the start of May Day and can be read at any point, but I recommend reading Killian’s Dead first and Blood Brothers after Judgement Day. I have a full reading order here.
Can you share something about Judgement Day which isn’t in the blurb?
There’s a cameo from Alistair and Adewale, whom you might remember from the Sovereign series. If you want to read more about how they came to be where they are in Judgement Day, then do pick up Blood Brothers. It’s a short story that explains how they came to join the Solis Invicti. It also drops a few clues for Seekers book three…
Does one of the main characters in Judgement Day hold a special place in your heart?
Jack is obviously my MVP, but I love Killian too. He’s handsome and rich and all that, but he also has a frustrated exhaustion about him that I find very endearing. He has the air of someone who is trying to keep his cool in very difficult circumstances, and circumstances are always difficult whenever Jack’s around. He has the patience of a saint, but he can be just as impish as she is when provoked. They’re such a mess.
If you had to describe Killian Drake in three words, what would they be?
I’ll steal Jack’s description of him: arrogant, entitled bastard. Of course, none of that is accurate. Jack is slightly biased!
What were the challenges of writing Judgement Day?
In a lot of ways, Judgement Day is a middle-series book. Whilst it has its own murder mystery plot, there’s an awful lot going on in the background that needed to be developed and progressed, and that’s in addition the romance threads and subplots. It was a lot to juggle! There were also several climactic moments in the story that needed to be managed carefully, some of which were emotionally challenging. If you’d like to check the content warnings for this book, you can find them at www.josiejaffrey.com/judgement-day
What was the highlight of writing Judgement Day?
The ending. I love the last couple of chapters. I knew exactly what was going to happen from the moment I started plotting the book and finally getting to write them was amazing. I’m not going to say anything else because I don’t want to spoil the story!
Will Jack get a happily ever after?
I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say ‘maybe’! If you’ve read the Solis Invicti series (which takes place after the events of Seekers) then you know the world’s about to explode, so even without her propensity for chaotic romance, it’ll be a tough ride. There are a lot of zombies to wade through before then!
How many books will there be in the Seekers series?
At the moment, I’ve planned for five, but things can always change! There’s a lot of story to fit in, and I love Jack Valentine so much that I might not want to leave her after I’ve finished the planned story arc. I’ll probably drag her along with me into the next Silverse series.
When will the next book in the Seekers series be published?
It should be out in summer 2022 and I can reveal that it will be called: WINTA’S DAY, which gives you some clues about the plot if you’ve been following the series carefully.
THE DELUGE SERIES
What was your inspiration for The Wolf and The Water?
It’s inspired by the myth of Atlantis and Ancient Greek religion, with flourishes. The gods of Kepos are the kings of Plato’s Atlantis. I worked out the meanings of their names and used those to write the extracts from the (fictional) ‘History of Kepos’ that appear at the start of each chapter. I decided to name the author of that book ‘Kleitos’, because in Plato’s myth the god Poseidon had ten children with a woman called Kleito. Those children became the kings of Atlantis. It’s a little tribute to her.
What sparked your interest in Atlantis?
There were loads of versions of Atlantis knocking around when I was a kid. I think I absorbed the story pretty much as soon as I could read (through books like Dinotopia), but only came to the original Plato version when I started studying Ancient Greek. The TV version I remember most clearly is from the Gummi Bears, which I loved. There’s one episode where the Gummis build a boat and sail to an isolated island where they encounter Gusto Gummi, just before the island sinks. It was very influential!
If you could travel to any point in history, where would you go and why?
My first degree was Classics, so I’m tempted to say Ancient Greece or Rome, but my soul says that it would rather see the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Can you imagine? The flowers, the complicated irrigation system of Archimedes screws, the Tower of Babel in the background… I think it would be beautiful and fascinating. So I’ll say Babylon, in about 580BCE, assuming I could dress up as and pass for a man (history is not very female-friendly!). And if I could catch a camel and visit some of the other Wonders of the Ancient World while I was in the area, then that would be ideal.
Questions about OTHER PEOPLE'S WRITING
If you could invite three authors to a dinner party, who would it be?
I’d invite three of my real-life author friends, because then we could all relax and enjoy the evening! I’m weirdly anti-social and anxious for someone who comes across as outgoing.
If you could choose a book character to be for a day, who would it be and why?
If it could be for a night instead of a day, then I’d be Eric Northman from the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris, because being a sexy, rich, amoral vampire for 12 hours would be tons of fun. Also, I’d like to try out being a boy and see what all the fuss is about.
What attracted you to the genres you write in?
I write fantasy, romance and historical novels because they’re what I like reading. As to why I like reading them, that’s a harder question to answer. They all interest me for different reasons. I love romance because it’s escapist, sexy and always has a happy ending. It makes me feel good about humanity and sometimes I need that kind of reassurance. I love fantasy because it’s social commentary; it’s often about overturning the status quo and I find the hopefulness of that comforting. As far as historical novels go, I’d love to be able to spout something intellectual about how important it is for us to learn from the past, but in truth I enjoy them because the distant past feels like magic to me. I’ve loved ancient history since I first started reading. It seems like fantasy made real, like a whole other world you can dig up from the earth.
What are some must-read titles in your genres?
There are so many books I love in my genres! Definitely Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer for fantasy, Kerrelyn Sparks’s Vamps and the City for paranormal romance and Jodi Taylor’s St Mary’s series for historical. In the weird genre mish-mash that is the Silverse (romance and fantasy with vampires and zombies), I would particularly recommend Gail Carriger’s Soulless and Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies.
Are there any genres that just don’t do it for you?
I read most things, though I have marked preferences for some genres over others, but if I had to pick one genre never to read again then it would be erotica. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with sex in books (I love it!), but erotica is distinct from romance in that it’s about the sex rather than the romance, and I am very much a romance novel person.
Are there any books you would read over and over again?
I have a whole stack of them! They’re all romances to lesser or greater degrees and I have them in paperback so I can read them in the bath (the Kindle steams up). My favourites are Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books and anything by Gail Carriger.
What’s your favourite underappreciated book?
Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn. It’s a dystopian novel set in a future where people live in communal houses that are not formed from family units, just couples and singles. Each house is only allowed to have a child if its residents have been productive enough to earn the privilege. In the midst of this weird civilisation, there’s a murder. The book follows the murder investigation, whilst also flashing back to the main character’s teenaged years spent trekking the parts of the country that are outside the protection of the community system. It was fascinating and really well constructed.
I’m a huge fan of that wave of SFF we got in 2017/8 that examined infertility, miscarriage and contraception. It felt like women’s SFF in an aggressively honest way that nothing had ever captured for me before. The other excellent book that springs to mind in this vein is The Last One by Alexandra Oliva. If anyone knows of any others, please tell me!
Who are your favourite pop culture heroines?
In literature, it’s Alexia Tarabotti from Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series and Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. In television, it’s Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. I’m also a huge fan of Brooklyn 99 – I love Amy and Rosa. I wish I was Rosa, but I’m definitely Amy.
Questions about REVIEWING MY BOOKS
Can I get review copies of your books?
I offer digital ARCs (advance review copies) of my upcoming publications to reviewers, book bloggers, bookstagrammers and booktubers etc. If you would like to apply for a copy you can do so here. I do not offer review copies of my backlist books.
Do you offer print ARCs?
Not usually, and when I do it's only for the first book in each series (they're expensive). First refusal goes to my street team, then to reviewers who are already on my reviewer list.
How can I join your reviewer list?
There's a form for that on my contact page here. My reviewer list is open to reviewers, book bloggers, bookstagrammers and booktubers etc. They get an email from me every time a new ARC is available. They then read and review those books for me, ideally by the release date.
What does your street team do and how can I join?
My street team is a select group of excellent bookish people who enjoy my books. They help me to market my books (by participating in cover reveals, promos etc) in return for exclusive goodies and my undying gratitude. Please contact me if you think you would be a good fit.
Can I interview you for my blog/podcast/YouTube channel etc?
I'm always open to requests, though sometimes I'm too busy to accept. Please contact me with the details and I will let you know whether I can help.