His children’s books HERE.
His non-children’s books HERE.
Q: What got you into writing?
A: I’ve written from as far back as I remember. I used to read a lot as a kid, and would go to the local library to ask for books on whatever topic I happened to be fascinated by at that point. So, I’d ask the librarian – Mrs Mcallister – for books on robots or aliens or whatever, and she’d lead me right to it.
One day, I asked her for a book about ninjas. She thought for a moment, before admitting she didn’t have any books about ninjas, but told me to wait right there. A minute later, she came back with an empty notebook and said “Go right a book about ninjas.”
So, I wrote a story, she stuck paper on the notebook for me to draw a cover on, then she put it on the shelf next to all the other books.
I remember looking at the book on the shelf – my book – and a lightbulb switched on above my head. I knew then that was what I wanted to do. I was eight years old, and haven’t looked back.
Q: That’s awesome! I understand you live in the Highlands of Scotland? I can only imagine how amazing that is for your creativity. Has it inspired your fiction?
It’s a stunning place, packed with old castles, beautiful scenery, incredible wildlife… and I’d never considered setting a book here until I wrote The Bug. It’s a post-apocalyptic horror serial which follows different groups of characters in the UK and the US, and the UK characters head north to the Highlands, thinking they’ll be safer up here. Needless to say, they aren’t.
Q: You write both children books and horror books. What a spectrum! What made you choose these two genres?
I think calling children’s books a genre is a mistake that pretty much everyone makes. “Children’s books” is really a category, within which you’ll find every genre under the sun, from romance to psychological horror, and everything in between.
My first book series, Invisible Fiends, was published by HarperCollins, and it’s a horror series for children about a boy whose childhood imaginary friend comes back when he’s a teenager and tries to kill him. It covers pretty much every horror trope you can imagine, from creepy dolls to mutant clowns, people with their mouths sewn shut, doctors performing operations on people against their will – all that stuff.
Making the jump from that to adult horror was pretty easy, but there has always been a vein of comedy running through everything I write, and I’ve been writing more funny books for kids than scary ones over the past few years, and now, with Space Team, I’m writing comedy for adults, too.
Q: You are traditionally and self-published. What about each process do you like?
That’s a tough one, as they’re similar in so many ways, but vastly different in others, and my answer is probably going to be completely contradictory.
OK, so on the one hand, I love collaborating with other people. I love getting feedback from editors, seeing artwork coming in from illustrators, and the feeling that comes as part of being a team that you get with trad-publishing. I’ve also been lucky in that I’ve had great relationships with the publishers I’ve worked with, and the advances are nice, too J
On the other hand, I can be a bit of a control freak, and I like doing a lot of that stuff myself. I designed the cover for Space Team, for example, and am really enjoying thinking up marketing strategies, designing merchandise, and all that stuff. I also love that you have all the data right there in front of you. Want to check today’s sales? It takes two seconds. With trad-publishing, you might have to wait six months to get that information, and it’ll cover all six months rather than a single day. This makes it much harder to tell what’s working and what isn’t with regards your marketing.
Time moves much more slowly with traditional publishing, too. The first book in my Invisible Fiends series was written in 2007, bought in 2008, and published in 2010. With The Bug, I finished each short episode on the Tuesday of each week, and people were buying it by Thursday.
Q: Do you have anything about your fiction you wish your readers knew before they jump in? Is there one book you feel all readers should start with in your library?
It really depends what they’re looking for. If it’s full-on adult horror, and they don’t mind a LOT of bad language, then they should check out The Bug. One of my books, The 13th Horseman – a comedy fantasy for teenagers – got lots of Pratchett comparisons, as well as praise from Neil Gaiman (which ended up crashing my website). So, if that sounds up your street, head there. Beaky Malone is a domestic comedy series about a kid who can’t tell lies, The Shark-Headed Bear-Thing is fantasy adventure for 8 year olds – basically, you can take your pick!
My big push at the moment, though, is Space Team, which is probably the book I’m currently most proud of. Go buy that one!
Q: What books inspired you to become who you are as an author?
I actually think comics played a bigger part than books in shaping my writing style. Not that I write in speech bubbles or anything (despite what the front cover of Space Team might suggest). I was a big fan of Marvel and DC as a kid, and it always amazed me they could tell these epic, sprawling stories in a series of panels over 22 pages.
I think a lot of my stuff takes place in a sort of heightened version of reality, which is a lot like some comic books, and I tend to use short, snappy dialogue over long-winded character monologues. I also write for comics now, and that sense of not being able to hang about and waste time carries over into my novels, which are usually pretty fast-paced.
Q: What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on two books – the third in my Beaky Malone series, and the second Space Team book. I’m also writing some animations scripts for a couple of different companies, along with the comic book stuff I mentioned above. I try not to think too much about what’s next, in case just contemplating it all makes my head explode, but I have at least one more Beaky Malone to write, plus a new kids supernatural comedy series which will be traditionally-published next year.
Oh, and I’m doing a picture book about a magnetic cow, because my workload just wasn’t arduous enough…
So that’s all – go check out his books 🙂