Tag: Interview

From the Black Library: Sarah Cawkwell

Sarah is a freelance author hailing originally from the South of England, but who, after not taking a left turn at Albuquerque, now finds herself in the North East. Her first sci-fi novel, ‘The Gildar Rift’ was published by the Black Library in December 2011 and her first fantasy novel ‘Valkia the Bloody’ in July 2012. She appeared in the first Fox Spirit anthology ‘Tales of the Nun & Dragon’ with a story about a hero so inept that he makes the British Government look competent.

Her first independent historical-fantasy novel, ‘Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising‘ was published by Abaddon Books and since then, she has written another novel for the Black Library (‘Silver Skulls: Portents‘) along with a number of other short stories.

Sarah finds talking about herself in the third person incredibly hard to manage and so generally prefers to spend her ‘free’ time reading, watching films, playing computer games, running round in fields with swords and hitting people… and playing her music ear-bleedingly in the car.

When did you start writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing stories. Even as a small child I remember making up tales that would get a smile out of my teacher. And reading… I read for England. I would read anything and everything. Things are still the same. There are a billion stories in my head – although some are much slower to get out.

Why Warhammer?

I love the Warhammer universes. There’s something so tempting about 40K, a universe where there’s no such thing as a happy ending. I started reading them some years ago and when the opportunity arise to turn my hand to writing from the perspective of a Space Marine, I didn’t so much jump as leap enthusiastically.

How did you get the opportunity to write for the Black Library?

I submitted a piece during an open submissions window and Lady Luck was on my side. My first short story was published in the first issue of ‘Hammer & Bolter’ and I was invited to submit further idea.

How do you write for a universe someone else has built? Does it lead to changing of ideas/plot as things wouldn’t fit into original lore? Has it changed the way you write?

When you are writing within an established universe, there are very definite guidelines. At times, these can be quite restrictive as you can’t just charge ‘off piste’ as it were and clash with the lore. There’s a respect that needs to exist between writer and lore. On the other hand, the guidelines could be incredibly useful to rein characters back in again. Has it changed the way I write? Yes, in a way. It requires tight planning and chapter breakdowns and that’s something I now apply to anything I write.

What is/was your process in learning all the necessary lore for the books?

Reading them! (Such a hardship). Also, reading the codices, slouching about in the local GW and listening to people talking about the lore – and asking my husband (who is a veritable encyclopaedia of knowledge on the subject).

Did you choose to write about the Space Marines or were they chosen for you?

I chose. I had read a short (literally – two paragraphs) piece in the Space Marine codex about the Silver Skulls and said ‘oh, hey, this sounds like it’s a story in the making’. My then-editor said ‘well, submit a proposal and we’ll take it from there.’ And thus, the Gildar Rift was born.

What other races would you like to write about?

Any of them. I love the 40K world. I particularly like Tau, though.

Do you play the game?

I haven’t played in a while, but I do have a Silver Skulls army upstairs waiting to be brushed off and used again.

Other then no happy endings, what excites you about the 40k universe?

The sheer size and scope. The richness of the back story (the whole Heresy situation) and the sheer, grim darkness of it all. In a world where there isn’t really any hope, what does the average citizen even exist for? Fantastic stuff.

Is there another Black Library author you really admire?

I’m a huge, huge fan of both Graham McNeill and James Swallow – their particular styles appeal to me the most.

How/where do you write? (Do you have to be in a specific place/mindset etc.)

I do have to be in the mood. Writing when you’re not in the right mood means you start to resent it and it stops being fun. Whilst writing my Warhammer stuff, I was under pretty tight deadlines and I set myself the target of a minimum 2,000 words a day. I didn’t once miss that target. I’d come home from work, make a cup of tea and just get on with it. I always like to have music on in the background (music rather than songs: song lyrics have a habit of working their way into a manuscript!)

What inspires your stories? 

Everything. The world is an amazing place and there are some crazy, crazy things out there.

What do you like to read? 

As said before, everything and anything. I largely read (surprise, surprise) fantasy and sci-fi, but I also enjoy breaking out. I love historical fiction – Conn Iggledon’s stuff is outstanding, as is Bernard Cornwell’s. I grew up with Alexander Kent books in the house and that gave me a lifelong love of seafaring fiction. It heavily influenced some of my big space battle scenes, now I come to think of it!

What advice would you give to new writers?

* Write! Sounds facetious, but it’s true. Write at least 1,000 words a day, whether it be whilst working on a story, or writing a blog.

* Plan your story carefully: freeform has its place, but when your characters get out of hand, it can be hard going to get them back on track.

* If you have a story, write it. Don’t edit as you go along. Get the words down on paper and jiggle them about afterwards.

* Enjoy it. If it becomes a chore, it’s not fun. And it should always be fun.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

I’m writing a lot less at the moment. It’s a tough job to juggle a full time job and writing to deadlines at the same time, so something had to give in order for me not to have a complete meltdown! Having said that, I have a couple of short stories in the pipeline, one to be released shortly as part of an anthology from Fox Spirit, one which has been submitted to a new anthology and a few that are sitting on my hard drive. In fact, last night I had a faint idea for a story that wants to be written and I might just make a start on that later.



Speaking with Pete Sutton

Pete Sutton lives in the wilds of Fishponds, Bristol, UK and dreams up stories, many of which are about magpies.

He’s had his work published, online and in book form. Currently Pete has a pile of words that one day may possibly be a novel, working title “Sick City Syndrome”.

Pete signed for Kensington Gore Publishing early March 2016. His collection of short stories “A Tiding of Magpies” is being published soon with the novel “Sick City Syndrome” to follow later in the year.

What made you serious about writing?

I’ve always been a passionate reader. In school, age 12 I was writing short stories and also wrote a play (which my class performed), but then I discovered tabletop roleplaying via Fighting Fantasy books and my storytelling urge was assigned to RPGs for many years. In university I discovered LARP and was part of that mad, enjoyable hobby for around twenty years where my stories were pretty much interactive theatre. That teaches you well by the way, as the audience are also taking part in the story so you get instant feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

I did a degree in Environmental Science and part of that was communication of science and science journalism. Inspired by that I had a plan to work for a science publisher on books and/or magazines so did the MA in Publishing at Oxford Brookes. For various reasons I never did make it in publishing, but it was always an interest. So when Bristol Festival of Literature started I volunteered. In short order I was organising events for it and getting to know writers, publishers and other literati. Around the same time a couple of my friends got publishing deals and I remembered my vague – ‘I’d like to be an author one day’ ambition, long quiescent. Working at the festival I got to attend a lot of workshops, and be immersed in creative energy so I decided that I should write.

I still procrastinated though, until I met a writing tutor who, in response to my “I’d like to write one day,” asked me, “why don’t you then?” I had no good reason not to, so started writing short stories. I stopped LARPing soon after and got serious about writing. I was blasé about my level of skill until I got my first critique from a writers group at a convention, and was rudely awakened that I didn’t know the rules of grammar or punctuation and the story I’d submitted had major problems. I took that to heart, invested in some writing books, a good grammar book, and made myself learn.

When I submitted a story in response for an anthology call out (Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion) and it was accepted, I got more serious. Joanne Hall & Roz Clarke who edited that collection were instrumental in teaching me how a story is built. I aim for continuous improvement, I want each story I write to be better than the last, and am constantly learning.

Being published, and wanting to be published again made me serious about writing. Winning a couple of short story competitions made me realise that I could be serious about writing.

How do you write, do you have a specific place or can you write anywhere?

I mostly write in what we grandly call ‘the library’ at home – we have many books, many, many books (they seem to breed) – I’ve been reviewing books online (and for magazines) since 2010 and was getting sent a lot of ARCs – I’m also a terrible book hoarder and bibliophile so can’t resist adding to the collection, even though I have enough unread books to last me a couple of years of reading (at least). So where I write I am surrounded by books. But I’m not precious – when I need to I scribble in notepads, on a tablet, on my laptop at home, in coffee shops, in airports, on trains – you can’t ritualise writing, you have to be able to write anywhere I think.

What is your inspiration for writing? How do you get ideas for stories and how do you pick which ones to pursue?

In a word life is my inspiration for writing – I experience something that sparks associations with something else and that may be the start of a story, or a character, or a situation, or a setting. Everything that happens could be inspiration, stories make the world. How to pick and choose? Well that’s the mysterious part – some things sound like great ideas and you write a story and the story doesn’t come together. But then some things you think are a little thing – a setting for a single scene, a walk-on character, grow in the writing. The novel I am writing right now – Sick City Syndrome – came from two separate, and on the face of it very different, stories. The book is from an entirely different point of view to the earlier stories but they are like the foundations for it – unseen – but what the novel is built upon.

OR, if you read my story “Five for Silver” in A Tiding of Magpies I reveal the big secret of where writers get their stories from…

What advice do you give to writers just starting out?

Don’t wait for permission, learn the rules of English before you try to break them, join a writing group, go to conventions or literary festivals and get to know other writers – read everything, then read it again critically and write. Finish your shit and get feedback.

What is your new book about and when will it be released?

On 28th June 2016 I’ll be releasing a short story collection called A Tiding of Magpies.

The stories are all themed around the counting magpies poem – “One for sorrow, two for mirth… ” What’s been interesting is so many people grew up with the TV show version of the song they are surprised by the traditional version – I have no idea why they changed it for TV. The stories are dark and use horror, fantasy and SF tropes. Several have child narrators and are often ambiguous.

I’ve had several nice blurbs from other authors and a brilliant foreword from Paul Cornell.

“As if Raymond Carver turned his hand to writing science fiction.” – David Gullen (Clarke Award judge)

“However dark their subject matter, there is a sweet and subtle music to Sutton’s stories. They take you to strange places.” – Mike Carey (Lucifer, The Unwritten, The Girl with all the Gifts, Fellside).

“Pete Sutton has a talent for the fantastic.” – Paul Cornell (Shadow Police series, This Damned Band, Doctor Who, Elementary).

To keep up to date with Pete’s latest works and projects, visit:

His website.

The Bristol Book Blog  (His blog)

Far Horizons (a literary e-mag where he is an editor)

or follow him on twitter at @suttope





An Interview With Kim Fleet

12 minutes with Kim Fleet, author of Paternoster.

How did you come up with the idea of Paternoster?

The previous books that I’ve written have all been murder mysteries rather than straight crimes and someone challenged me to write, if you like, a ‘proper’ crime story set in Cheltenham with a proper detective and clues and red herrings. And I thought I have absolutely no idea how to do this. But then I thought, well I wonder if I could give this a go. I do read quite a lot of crimes, so I thought ‘okay, let’s see how this works out’ and I just started with a huge piece of paper on the dining table and a pack of coloured crayons and I thought of everything that was interesting about Cheltenham. Just to look for places where murky things might happen or places that seem so very very respectable and wholesome and I quite like to subvert things so I write down all sorts of things about Cheltenham and then I thought ‘okay, which ones really excite me’ and I was really interested in the regency architecture and the development of Cheltenham as a spa town. I really liked the idea of all these elegant ladies and gentlemen coming to take the spa waters, and underneath that there might be a bit of murk that I could exploit in a crime story.

I then had to start thinking about what the contemporary timeline would be. I came up with my idea for a detective. She’s a private investigator, deliberately not a police officer because the police have very strict rules on what you are allowed to do and I wanted her to be quite a bit of a maverick and I wanted her to be a rule breaker and I didn’t want her to be hauled up in front of the chief constable every two minutes for doing something wrong. 

So, how did you build this character? Eden Grey is very interesting in the way her personality changes from this strong perceptive detective, to someone afraid in their own home after memories from the past come to find her.

I wanted her to have a background, so why has she turned up in Cheltenham and I wanted her to be an outsider because something about the way an outsider sees a new place, they see different things in it to those who live there. I wanted her to be exciting, so I gave her this back story that she was an undercover officer working for customs and excise. She’d implanted herself in a guns and drugs running and people smuggling group. It all goes horribly wrong when someone betrays her and her cover is completely blown and the gang tries to kill her. She survives it obviously otherwise it would be a pretty short story! But then she has to change her identity.

In the process of changing it, her parents are told she is dead. Her family is told she is dead. She has to move to a new place, she has to find a new job so she decides to become a private investigator. Being nosy, poking around in other people’s problems is what she is good at. But she also knows the gang is after her, she keeps on getting messages and mysterious phone calls saying ‘we know where you are, and we’re coming to get you’. She knows that if they catch up with her it’s going to be absolutely horrendous. So I have a scene in the book where someone else in the gang comes out of prison and is picked up. Two weeks later, somebody finds some very nasty human remains. The reason why I put that scene in there is just to say to the reader, this is what will happen to Eden if they catch up with her. She is going to be killed in the most horrendous way. I don’t spell out how that will happen cause I think the reader#s mind can come up with something much nastier. 

Well this criminal underground works not only in your modern day timeline with Eden, but also in old Cheltenham with Rachel Lovett. Where did you get the idea of the Paternoster Club? Of course, it is based off of the Hellfire clubs based in London, but where did the idea of one being in this seemingly respectable town, come from?

Basically I thought about Georgian Cheltenham and how it was developing. Areas of land were being bought up and huge estates of houses for the super rich were being built. Where there’s money there is going to be some kind of treachery and some kind of double dealing. Just because there is so much power and influence and money at stake. One thing we do know about the Georgians is that clubs existed for the very powerful and wealthy men. I knew about the Hellfire club and I thought ‘What if’ , what if there was something like that that existed in Cheltenham. And so I created the paternoster club, basically for the wealthy men to divvy up the power and the money between them.  

The thing that I like about Rachel, the 18th century prostitute in the story, is her story in many ways reflect Eden’s , in the way that she doesn’t use her real name; she is given a new identity when she is basically trafficked into London to be a prostitute. She is also on the run. In London, she’s been stealing some gloves and the thief-taker is after her. If he catches her, she will probably be hanged, if not transported. And so she is another woman who is running for her life and who is using a different identity. 

You have a lot of these mirrors in you story – not just between Eden and Rachel but also between the Paternoster Club in 1795 and when it is continued in the modern timeline. What was your reasoning behind this?

I just thought that if these clubs exist to benefit the wealthy and the powerful then why should they finish just because the Georgian era ended. So it was that really powerful question you have as a writer – what if – and because it’s fiction, you can do anything you like. You can twist history, you can twist story lines and I just liked the idea of it continuing to exist. Just being this absolutely subversive and underground club for men who are extremely bent and dodgy. It was a way of linking the two timelines. I have this philosophy of time that is never really finishes – as you walk down the street in Cheltenham you can see echoes of previous ages. We’re experiencing Cheltenham in ways very similar to the ways the Georgians experienced it. 

Throughout the story we see many of the well known areas of Cheltenham, how does it feel to put your town into a story, so people recognise the areas you show them?

It’s really satisfying when people come up to me and they say my street is in your book! And when they say we can really see where the places were. Because I’d been challenged to write this crime set in Cheltenham, and I thought about what makes it interesting and unique and I wanted to actually reflect the landmarks of Cheltenham. So that’s why there are mentions of Eagle Tower, GCHQ and the coffee shops along the promenade. It gives it an authenticity to the story as well. But there are specific things about Cheltenham, so that the story couldn’t be set anywhere else, like the spas and the regency architecture and the fact that GCHQ is there. There are things that don’t exist anywhere else, so I thought well, I’ll use them then. 

Do you have any advice for those who want to write a book?

It’s really simple; to be a writer you just need to read a lot, and write a lot. Sometimes people say to me , “I wish I could read more but I don’t have time but I want to be a writer”. Well you can’t be a writer if you don’t read. You have to submerse yourself in reading all sorts of different things. And then to be a writer, just write. That sounds a bit kind of basic really but what I would recommend is don’t think about it too much. Set aside some time every single day – even if it’s only fifteen minutes – and just write. If you like, get an object and make up stuff about who owned that object. Who is that person, what is there hobbies, what are their secrets, what do they dream about at night? Or get postcards of things that inspire you and fill them out about why and stories about them. Even if what you’re writing about you think is just complete rubbish, it doesn’t matter. The thing is all about showing up. 

What’s your favourite reading spot?

I have a little garden, and it’s really sunny. I have a little swing chair in my garden and it’s next to some roses and a lavender plant, so it’s lovely and scented. And that is my favourite reading spot, when it’s summer I absolutely adore curling up in that chair – if I can get the cat off it, of course – and I just love sitting there and reading. 


A quick thanks to Kim Fleet for spending the time chatting to me about the first book in the Eden Grey Mysteries – Paternoster. If you would like to buy the book go to:



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