Back in the distant mists of time, Alex spent three years at art college in Maidstone; a college that David Hockney once taught at, and later described in a piece for The Sunday Times as the ‘most miserable’ episode of his life. Here, Alex was responsible for producing – among other things – the college’s first theatrical production in which the lead character accidentally caught fire. Following college, he found employment in the advertising industry as a copywriter. He has turned to writing fiction in the twilight years of his writing career.
His novella, ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’ – a black, comic urban fantasy, was initially written for his children in 2011 and published by PenPress. It has since become a Kindle bestseller in the US.
In 2014 his short story, ‘Scared to Death’ – the fictionalised account of the first British serviceman to be executed for cowardice during the First World War, was published in an anthology (‘The Clock Struck War’) by Mardibooks along with 22 other short stories to mark the centenary of the Great War.
Alex’s psychological thriller, ‘The Chair Man’ set in London following the terrorist attack in 2005 was published as an e-book by Fizgig Press in 2019 and as a paperback in 2020. It is his first full-length novel.
Alex’s claim to fame is that he is quite possibly the only person on this planet to have been inadvertently locked in a record shop on Christmas Eve.
What inspires you to write?
There have been several people that have inspired me to write. Going back to my school days, I had a very unusual and inspiring English teacher by the name of Clive Lawton. He was very charismatic and had an affinity with kids to the extent that he really was on our wavelength. He'd do the most extraordinary things and turn everything on its head. On one occasion he announced that instead of him marking our essays he was going to ask us to mark his, and then handed out old essays he'd written in the past. He'd often tell us that the syllabus was boring and that we were going to ignore it and have a serious discussion about something fairly contentious like advertising and the blatant use of sexual imagery. The point of his lessons was to make us think and to convey to us the power of words. And by teaching in this wholly unconventional and radical manner, he not only gained the attention of every single child in that classroom. He also instilled a love of words and ideas. And as a result, every child in my class passed their O level exams, and nobody received anything less than a B grade. Later on, when I started working as an advertising copywriter, my Creative Director, a man by the name of Ken Mullen was also influential. Ken was and still is a brilliant writer. He had two degrees in English Literature from Oxford University and is the only English advertising copywriter to have had his work quoted in the Oxford Book of Modern quotations. These included two headlines he had penned for The Times newspaper when he was working for Leo Burnett – 'Our sages know their onions.' And 'No pomp. Just circumstance.' He encouraged his entire creative department to immerse themselves in literature, cinema and the arts in general. But perhaps, more importantly, he wore his learning lightly and was incredibly funny and approachable. He was, in short, the best boss you could ever hope for.
Tell us about your writing process.
As far as style is concerned, I think I'm a bit of a chameleon. As an advertising copywriter, I'm used to adopting different tones of voice to address different audiences. I think it's the same when it comes to writing books. My first book for children, young adults and parents was deliberately written in an old-fashioned, whimsical style redolent of authors like Clive King and Roald Dhal. When it came to writing 'The Chair Man' though, I adopted a crisp modern unfussy style of writing that felt right for the subject matter. When it comes to my approach to writing, I'm most certainly a plotter. I need a road map to see where I'm going. The story can evolve as I write it, but I have to have very clear directions and know where the thing is heading. So before writing the first chapter, I have to have a fairly detailed synopsis typed out; and the ending is absolutely crucial. And I'm very pleased that the endings to both of my books are I think unexpected and satisfying full stops.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I listen to my characters who are often very loosely based on characters or amalgamations of characters I've encountered or read about in real life.
Who are your favorite authors?
There are so many wonderful authors out there. I can't possibly pick just one. Authors I love include Ian McKellen, George Orwell, P G Woodhouse, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Melvyn Peake, Aldus Huxley, Bill Bryson, Markus Zusak , Thomas Keneally, Clive King, Richmal Compton, Beryl Bainbridge, Harper Lee, Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Keneally, Julian Barnes, James Thurber, Clive James, Margaret Atwood, Frederick Forsyth and Homer Hickam – to name just a few.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I tried the usual tactics of approaching literary agents with letters of introduction and sample chapters, but received nothing more than stsndsrd rejection letters from them many months later. So self-publishing was the only remaining option.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think the future for book publishing is bright. Self-publishing is growing, but the inherent problem is that there is obviously no quality control to speak of, so among some really excellent self-published titles out there, is a lot of dross. So the talented self-published author has to make a noise to get noticed. And that in itself can be an uphill struggle.
What genres do you write?
So far, children's and thrillers.
What formats are your books in?
All information is provided by the author and is presented as it was submitted so you the reader get to hear the author’s own “voice” in their interview.