Archive for category Books

Reviews, Articles and Interviews

It’s the busiest of busy weeks her at Shevdon Manor with, not one, but two releases.  Firstly, Sixty-One Nails is now out in the United States and Canada and there have been some great comments from across the pond.  Thanks to everyone for the good wishes – initial signs are very promising indeed.

The Road to Bedlam

The sequel, The Road to Bedlam, is out now in the UK and Australasia, with the first reviews coming out this week: ~

It is the Neverwhere for Generation X and as such when backed up with great dialogue, an emotional roller coaster alongside kick ass plot outline, you know that you have something special. ~ Falcata Times

There’s also an interview with Falcata Times where we talk about writing, reading, archery and warm sausage rolls – oh dear, my secret’s out.

Then, over on Dark Fiction Review, I’m talking about the State of the Genre and what Anne McCaffrey has to do with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and what happens when the shelves fill up with vegetarian vampires and tame werewolves – maybe not what you think.

All in all, it’s turning into quite a week.

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Looking Forward, Looking Back

Sixty-One Nails

Early next week, Sixty-One Nails will be released in the USA and Canada and the sequel, The Road to Bedlam will be released in the UK and Australasia, giving us an excuse for a double celebration here at Shevdon Manor.

Due to the global nature of publishing, there are already fans in the US who are spreading the word and looking forward to the release of The Road to Bedlam in the US in late October, but they won’t necessarily have seen some of the earlier articles on the background and history to Sixty-One Nails, and I thought it was worth posting some links to articles that new readers might find interesting.

Red Light District in a Convent Garden is an article on the history of Covent Garden, one of the main locations for Sixty-One Nails, proving that truth can sometimes be more surprising than fiction.  This is a genteel area in the heart of the West End now, but it has a seedy past.

Temple and the Templars looks at the history behind the Inns of Court and the area around the Royal Courts of Justice, showing how the forge in Tweezers Alley came to be there and charting the rise and fall of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon.

Lethal London looks at the underground rivers that flow beneath the streets of London, hidden from view in all but the most obscure of locations, including the river that flows openly through the basement of an antiques shop.  Though the Thames may be London’s famous river, it is by no means the most dangerous.

Quit Rents Ceremony 2009 is an account is the ceremony held annually at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in London, which I attended so that I could watch the testing of the knives and the presentation of the nails and the horse-shoes.  It’s a fascinating event, and highly recommended if you happen to be in London in October.

There are other articles with a historical leaning to be found under the History link in the sidebar; please feel free to explore and browse.  I will be posting some articles on the background to The Road to Bedlam in the near future, so keep an eye out for those.  There is also an RSS feed for those using that service.

Sixty-One Nails will be released in the United States of America and Canada on August 31st 2010, and The Road to Bedlam is released in the UK and Australasia on 1st September.  It’s going to be an exciting week.


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Road to Bedlam First Reviews

The Road to Bedlam

The launch of a new book is always a tense time for a writer. WIll new readers like it? Will fans of earlier books be delighted or disappointed? We writers aim to please, but as always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

So, what’s being said? Well, here’s a small extract from a review in the Falcata Times, which will be published when the book is released….

What makes this series so engrossing is the fact that its just so different from the numerous Urban Fantasy titles out there as whilst most are concentrating on exotic locations (well exotic to the UK) Mike writes it based here in Britain, whilst most write about Vamps and Werekin, Mike writes about the Fey and magic in the modern world. It is the Neverwhere for Generation X and as such when backed up with great dialogue, an emotional roller coaster alongside kick ass plot outline, you know that you have something special.

And here are some comments from SciFi and Fantasy Books

The Road to Bedlam is a rich, detailed and impressive sequel to one of the best novels of 2009 with a gripping plot, superb characterisation and is such an effortless joy to read. If you have read Sixty One Nails you just have to get this, and for those of you who haven’t read Sixty One Nails, what are you waiting for, buy them both!

Thanks, guys!


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Bedlam Cover Exclusive

The Road to Bedlam

I am delighted to be able to give you an advance preview for the cover of THE ROAD TO BEDLAM which is scheduled for release on 2nd September.

There is always a challenge with covers that you want it to identify strongly with its sister titles but also to have a unique feel of its own, and in this case the team at Angry Robot have done a fantastic job.  The central image stands out beautifully against the trademark map just visible in the background, while the design picks up the watery theme from the book.

I love the cover of Sixty-One Nails and I think that The Road to Bedlam can now stand alongside it on the bookshelf with pride.

The Road to Bedlam will be released on 2nd September 2010 in the UK and international, and on November 8th in Canada and the United States – in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Reviews and Reviewers

Reviews and reviewers are both the saviour and damnation of writers.  Without reviews, our work will go unnoticed and our efforts unrewarded, but like a two-edged sword, it cuts both ways.

Last year, Angry Robot Books held a launch party at Forbidden Planet in London, which was great fun,  thanks to the efforts of all concerned.  It was strange for me, though, because I didn’t have anything to promote other than myself. My debut novel was still a couple of months from publication and the best I could offer was an ARC or two and there were no-where near enough of those to go around. In a way, though, it was liberating as it freed me to chat to visitors and authors alike and made for a most engaging and enjoyable afternoon.

So, when someone sidled up to me and asked, “Have you had your first reviews yet?” I was slightly taken aback.  I explained that the book had only just gone to the printers.

“You wait,” he said, in a manner of someone watching storm clouds bank up on the horizon.

He proceeded to quote a review he had received for a piece of his own writing, at length, word-for-word.  The comments were fiercely critical, vindictive and insulting. “You always remember the bad ones,” he whispered to me.

It was a strange comment to make at a launch party and the debut of a writing career and it struck me that he was carrying these comments around in his heart and that periodically, like a penitent monk, he would pick up the review and beat himself with it. Whether this was an incentive to improve his writing, or a way of dealing with his own insecurities I do not know, but I resolved not to carry bad reviews along with me. I would leave them behind me and move on.

Since then I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with some very positive reviews, but I have also learned something about the nature of reviews themselves.

The truth is that when you release a story into the wild, something strange happens. The characters that you invented, the situation that you placed them in, is recreated in someone else’s head and what used to be yours becomes theirs. This is fundamental to the suspension of disbelief and, as an author, you rely on this to support your narrative. What you imagined, though, isn’t what they see, so what they are reviewing is not what you imagined. It is coloured by their experience and tinged with their memories, prejudiced with their loves and hates.

I read yesterday a stunning review for J. Robert King’s, Angel of Death on DaveBrendon’s Fantasy and SciFi.  Shortly afterwards, I saw a tweet from J Robert King saying, “The book *is* brutal, but Dave clearly got what I was after.”

As an author, I don’t think that you can ask more from a reviewer than to ‘get’ what we are after. If the reviewer liked or disliked the book, if it horrified or amused them, caused them to stay up late or throw the book at the wall, that is down to their personal experience of the book. They have made the effort to place themselves in an open state of mind that was receptive to the authors imaginings.

In contrast, as authors, it is down to us to set out those imaginings in such a way that it doesn’t matter whether the reader has comparable experience or even knowledge of the situation. It is our role to create that situation for them so that they may experience it for themselves. If we can achieve that, then the reviews that follow will be as glowing as the one mentioned here.

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SF Site Interview

As the title implies, it was my great pleasure to be interviewed recently for SF Site by the lovely and charming Sandy Auden for her column: News Spotlight. The full text of the interview is here, but since then I’ve had more time to reflect on my answers and, consequently, wanted to share a small extract and expand a little on what I meant.

Sandy asked me the question, “Would you change anything if you could go back?” My answer looked back at Sixty-One Nails and forward to Road to Bedlam and other work.

…Somewhere, then, I will have shot myself in the foot. I don’t know where yet, but I’m going to have written something that means that the story cannot go where I want it to go. That’s the thing I would go back and change, when I find out what it is.

It was a good question, and I hope not too glib an answer. I was reminded of an interview with Ian Rankin who writes the extremely successful Inspector Rebus novels.  When asked what he thought he might have done differently, he said he would have made Rebus younger and a less senior policemen at the beginning, giving him more scope to develop as he grew older. I wondered at the time whether his stories of a more optimistic, healthier, less cynical Rebus would have been anywhere near as successful.  Rankin’s readers love Inspector Rebus for who he is, not who he was.

I was also asked in the interview why I chose to show so little of Niall’s background before the adventure started. If we knew him better at that point, wouldn’t we be more aware of the changes in him as they happened? My answer talks about how Niall’s life has become a cycle of work, eat and sleep, how he is disconnected from life and how dying really doesn’t make that much difference to him. His story starts when he dies.

It’s interesting for me to look back and see that Blackbird does not give him a choice. She doesn’t ask him whether he wants to be revived.  If she had, I wonder what he might have said?  His life had lost all meaning, all hope. Maybe he doesn’t want to go on? But then something truly extraordinary happened, something he couldn’t possibly have predicted.

He is shown another life.

To some extent, I think this is the same as with Rebus – where he was before isn’t as interesting. If we saw Niall when he was at work, when he was watching TV in his flat, when he dried his dishes and turned the lights out to go to bed on his own, would that help us to understand who he could become? Niall’s choice isn’t whether he dies from a heart attack or not, Blackbird doesn’t give him that option. She pulls him back into life and shows him, however briefly, a very different sort of existence to the one he’s used to.

For me, the real story begins when he decides he wants to keep it.


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Publication Day

Sixty-One-Nails_smI hope you will join me in celebrating the publication of Sixty-One Nails, my debut novel, which is available from today.

When Niall Petersen has a heart Attack on the London Underground he thinks it’s the end. It’s only the beginning.

He is revived by an old lady who greets him with the cold solace that a creature from another world was trying to possess his newly dead corpse. By reviving him she has prevented the crossing, but now the creature will know him. It will be able to find him, and when it does it will kill him and his fourteen year-old daughter.

Sixty-One Nails is about Niall’s quest to survive and to find a way to protect his daughter. It builds on the core of English folk-lore and real history like the Quit Rents Ceremony which has been performed annually in the Royal Courts of Justice since 1211 and is the oldest legal ceremony in England apart from the coronation.

Sixty-One Nails is published by the very excellent Angry Robot Books and is available from most good book shops and online retailers.  You can also click on the sidebar image to be taken to an online emporium.