Interview with A. F. McKeating

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first book I remember was a picture book. I can't remember if it even had any words, but I do remember the illustrations which were pictures of a "Mrs Mouse" figure tucking up her little ones at night and having some sort of adventure. I remember sneaking a look at it in bed when I was supposed to be sleeping. I was maybe four years old at the time. I don't have the book any more and I'd love to know what it was. There was something about it that stuck with me, though, and maybe that's what started my love of reading - the discovery that you can be taken outside yourself by a book that you just don't want to put down for the night!

To be honest, I don't remember the first actual story I read, as I became a keen reader and read anything I could get my hands on. Early books that made an impression on me, and which I returned to time and again, included C.S. Lewis's Narnia series, Tove Jansson's Moomin stories and short stories by Joan Aikin.
How do you approach cover design?
With great apprehension! Until I had to think about the covers for my own books and stories, I'd never appreciated how difficult it can be coming up with the right image. Ideally, I'm looking for something which captures the reader's interest, while offering a fair indication of the nature of the story. For short stories, I tend to stick with a fairly simple cover: title and author's name. Lazy, perhaps, but sometimes simplicity seems best.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis - for the feeling of an adventure within an adventure and journeying bounds of the known world (in this case, Narnia).
Persuasion by Jane Austen - for the humour, the subtle character assassination and the period.
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury - for the poetry and imagination of his writing.
The Stand by Stephen King - for the breadth and depth of the whole adventure.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - for the clarity of writing and the story itself.

Do I really have to stop there?
What do you read for pleasure?
I have a few favourites that I keep returning to, "comfort reading" I suppose: Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Jane Austen, for example. I like things that are quirky and offer a bit of magic in the everyday world - Graham Joyce's Some Kind of Fairy Tale, for example. I've also read my fair share of classics, including Dickens, the Brontes and George Elliot - I think any writer has an enormous amount to learn from them in terms of composition, use of language and sheer persistence in telling a good yarn.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
A Kindle.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I've never been comfortable with the direct email route, so I tend to stick to things like Twitter and Goodreads, where there's an opportunity to link with readers and other authors. I also have my own website,, where I've posted free samples of my work.
Describe your desk
It's a basic IKEA model, situated near a window so I can watch the clouds go by.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a shipbuilding town in the North of England. When went to school, it was accepted that you either carried on with your education or went into the shipyard. There didn't seem to be many other options. So it was almost a given that I would leave at some point, at least if I wanted to go away to university. I suppose that coloured my outlook in lots of ways that I didn't realise at the time; the feeling that I wouldn't be "here" forever and that sooner or later I would move on. I'm not sure how that's influenced my writing. Judge for yourself!
When did you first start writing?
I wrote on and off throughout my childhood, as other interests waxed and waned. I won a creative writing prize when I was 18, but as I was just going off to university and discovering life as a student, I never really thought of building on that early success. I started writing again in my late twenties, when I produced my first novel. It languished in a serious of boxes as I moved around. In fact, I don't even know if I have it any more. I started again in earnest some years later, starting with short stories but always going back to novels. There's something about their length and the scope that provides to develop a story, which really appeals to me and which I feel most comfortable. Not that you should ever underestimate the challenges and discipline involved in writing successful short stories!
What's the story behind your latest book?
I'm working on a sequel to The Accidental Career of Hilary Darke. It's set a few years after the events of the first book and Hilary hasn't lost any of her dark side. As writers, we're often warned against writing sequels, but I felt there was still a story to tell. I don't feel as though I've quite done with Hilary yet. Or maybe she hasn't done with me!
Published 2014-01-17.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Maddy and George: Messages through the Wormhole
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 44,200. Language: English. Published: July 21, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction, Fiction » Science fiction » General
What's a few billion light years between friends? Meet Maddy and George, friends who live on opposite sides of the galaxy, who write to each other through the wormhole. They live on different planets, but whether it's dealing with bullies or trying to win the inter-schools football league, life can be tough for a ten-year-old, wherever you are...
A Shade Darker
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 83,280. Language: English. Published: April 3, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
"OK, we'll play it your way," she told the darkened screen. "If you want inspiration, I'll give it to you. Both barrels. And then some." Plagiarism, blackmail and broken bones. The sequel to The Accidental Career of Hilary Darke.
Past the Shadows
Price: $1.23 USD. Words: 72,810. Language: English. Published: April 26, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Dragons don't exist. Do they? Claire North: twenty-two years old, museum dogsbody, looking for meaning in her life after a bad patch. An ages-old race of people who claim to be descended from mythical creatures. A chance encounter with a stranger, which catapults Claire into a series of terrifying events which soon have her fearing for her sanity and the lives of the people she cares about mo
The Accidental Career of Hilary Darke
Price: $1.23 USD. Words: 89,160. Language: British English. Published: March 24, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
Hilary Darke. Struggling writer. Reluctant temp. Highly effective killer. She'll do whatever it takes to survive.
Breaking the Rules
Price: Free! Words: 3,890. Language: English. Published: February 9, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » Satire
Editors everywhere take note. Be nice to your writers. They don't always take criticism well. When a student in a writing class is snubbed by her tutor, who also happens to be the editor of the edgy magazine which keeps rejecting her stories, she takes it very personally. She wants him to see the real her, so it's time to rewrite some of the rules...
The Monster Inside
Price: $1.23 USD. Words: 94,740. Language: English. Published: August 28, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Urban
Monsters come in all shapes and sizes… Two people: five years apart, but connected by their fight to keep the bad things at bay.
Dawn Breaking
Price: Free! Words: 2,200. Language: English. Published: February 5, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Fairy tales
(4.00 from 1 review)
The godmother has never fitted in and no-one really wanted her at Dawn's christening. But all she wanted was to show her that there's more to life than pink...
Price: Free! Words: 820. Language: English. Published: September 6, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
They met in the springtime... A short story about a short marriage between two people which ends badly for one of them.
The Interloper
Price: Free! Words: 2,210. Language: English. Published: August 23, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fairy tales, Fiction » Fantasy » General
A fairytale, in which a cat falls out of one story and into a new adventure.
They Shall Inherit The Earth
Price: Free! Words: 6,540. Language: English. Published: August 22, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
Ethan is the first human child created on Earth in 500 years. Is he the answer to the current labor shortage or will his creation change life for the synthetics forever?
The Long Shadow
Price: Free! Words: 5,530. Language: English. Published: August 22, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
A contemporary ghost story. The diaries of a dead woman reveal how she has been haunted throughout her life by a mysterious shadow.