Who are you?
An author by night. In my day job, I masquerade as a Strategy Partner for an advertising and marketing firm in the UK. I was born in South Africa but I live now between London and Paris, though my French is limited to the essential: ‘Un verre de vin blanc!’
How did it all start?
In 2013, I graduated from Bath Spa University with an MA in Writing for Young People. That was the kick-start. My first book, Stone Rider, was published in 2015.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. A book. A film. Something I’ve seen. A conversation. A dream. Anything. An author has to be sponge.
The idea for Stone Rider was born in a workshop with the world’s greatest writing coach, Steve Voake. I submitted a piece that turned out to be the opening scene. Crossing an alien desert came a group of riders, like horsemen of the apocalypse. Only here, instead of horses, they were riding other-worldly bykes. I knew I wanted fear and adrenalin, dust and blood and vengeance. A primal story. I suppose it sprang from the Westerns I loved as a kid. The Dollars Trilogy. Pale Rider. Once Upon a Time in the West. But also something futuristic. Alien. Mad Max. Blade Runner. Star Wars.
The Between was different. It emerged from two things. Observing how divorce affects the lives of children. How it makes them feel. Displaced sometimes, I suppose. In the middle. Two homes. Two sets of clothes. That sort of thing. My own life echoes this idea of living between worlds. I’m a South African in London. And my wife and kids are French. I move between London and Paris. So, who am I in all that? I guess I wanted a story that delved into this feeling, but also something that evoked a fascination with other worlds. Something surreal, inspired by films like The Matrix, Inception and, more recently, Stranger Things.
What was your favourite book as a teenager, and which YA writers do you admire today?
Stephen King was a favourite in my early teens. In particular, The Bachman Books. I loved the darkness and the cool originality of his worlds. The short story, The Long Walk, has definite parallels with Stone Rider. I remember the feeling of the story. It stayed with me. I admire so many YA authors today. Patrick Ness is a genius. Matt Haig writes with such humanity and wit and warmth. Nobody gets teenage angst better than John Green. My friend, Clare Furniss, knows how to move you from tears to laughter in a heartbeat. Tim Winton’s book, Breath, is exquisite. Everything he writes is beautiful.
Where and when do you do your writing?
I’d like to be one of those writers who wake up at six every morning, write for a fluid four-hour stretch, break for casual meandering and bullfighting, then another two hours in the afternoon and a further two editing in the evening. I read somewhere this is the optimal way to write. Clearly I am suboptimal. I work five days a week in Advertising, so I tend to write when I can. In the evenings and late at night. But I dream about my stories all the time and jot down scenes on the Tube, the train or even at work during mindless conference calls. Don’t tell my boss. But you can tell me, or ask me, anything at all.
Have you won any awards?
The Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire (GPI) is the oldest French SFF award still active – since 1974 – as well as the most prestigious devoted to “Literature of the Imagination”. The term 'imaginaire' (imaginary) covers all 'pulp fictional types' such as science fiction, fantasy, horror as well as various mergers or 'transfictions'.
This prize is linked to the Salon du Livre de Jeunesse de Montreuil – the annual children’s book event in France. Normally literary Prizes in France exclude non-native authors but this year the Pépites (Gems) have introduced the ‘European Novel Prize’ category, which allows translated fiction to have a chance. Stone Rider is translated from English by Alice Marchand (Gallimard Jeunesse).
Winning the The Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire
St. Malo, France 2016