Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was just about to say, it didn't, and then....
I grew up in Lancashire, I lived in Stalybridge, a declining mill town on the edge of the Peak National Park, for several years. There's Babbitt for you, right off. Lancashire boy, straight off of the moors, fierce temper and ungovernable rebel.
I read too much revenge tragedy as part of my degree course, and I write bad poetry, and I like horses.
I guess the thing that really influences the Babbitt books is my love of history (childhood spent exploring old houses and a fascination with the past) but more than that they're about families and friendships and love and how if you're brought up odd and lonely and different you come out.... skewed. Funny that two of my central characters are damaged Puritan lads, both abused in their different ways - Hollie Babbitt physically, Thankful Russell emotionally - who both want to belong and wouldn't know where to start. Russell's a self-destructive bipolar alcoholic, and Babbitt has PTSD. Both absolute sweethearts, but messed up by people who were supposed to love them but made a damnable bad fist of showing it.
Autobiographical? Couldn't possibly comment, old son.
Describe your desk
Well..... sometimes, I'm afraid, my desk is an A4 spiral bound notebook and a fountain pen, propped up on my knees on the train between Truro and Plymouth. And sometimes it's a laptop that's been chewed on and played with so often by Aubrey the 14lb tom cat that most of the Up/Down keys are missing, and I'm sitting up in bed typing into the witching hour.
Mostly my workspace is the space between my ears. I do most of my writing there, and then I come back and put it onto a page later on, when I have the liberty, and when it's all plotted out.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Funny one, that. "A Cloak of Zeal" - which is the latest one actually available in print - came out of a short story called "Unbreakable", which in its turn came out of the book that's currently in progress.
See, it's like this. I'm currently writing what is chronologically book 5, because that's the point at which the troop are in Cornwall, where I live, and having chatted nicely to some of the local bookshops and elicited some interest in a book that's about the English Civil War and doesn't involve people saying "la, sir!" or being generally - foppish - I've sort of committed myself to writing the book they want to sell. It's not hard, the lads were going to end up down here at some point, but anyway.
So, book 5. Russell - who was never meant to have more than a walk-on part, damn him - is now well and truly attached to the troop, causing chaos as usual. And someone asked me if Russell was the blonde boy in "Red Horse" who is cared for on the battlefield by Luce Pettitt after the battle, and so I wrote "Unbreakable" to straighten out in my head just exactly who the dickens Thankful Russell actually is. Having done that, of course, I then got to wondering just how a young lieutenant of infantry ended up in a cavalry troop by way of the personal staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Parliament, and.... well, there he is. And then a friend of ours became very ill, and let's be honest, although Babbitt's sergeant Cullis owes rather a lot to my friend, he has more in common with the infantry sergeant France Hale, and so "A Cloak of Zeal" came out dedicated to Tiny Castle.
So, meh, we've got this novella floating around which is mostly Russell and why he's as messed up in the head as he is, and a novel about Fairfax's south west campaign in which he starts to come about a bit and very warily to become the man he might have been if he hadn't had a pike through his face at Edgehill.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
My dad died.
That's pretty much it. I write too much, and I have a fierce compulsion to have the story out there, to wait for the traditional agent/publisher/Hollywood path. (Har har har.)
That, and I got bored with people telling me the English Civil War isn't sexy, and the clanky side of Ironside even less so. Damn well is. I should rather have a plain russet-coated captain, who knows whereof he fights, and loves what he knows, than that which is a gentleman and nothing else. Passion and honour and principle. How could you not be more than half in love with Thomas Fairfax?
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Making people laugh, and cry. Having had an email from someone saying that Hollie Babbitt needed a kick up the arse (wouldn't argue that one) - and that Russell was sexy (might argue that one)
Having made a troop of fictional Ironsides into real people, for hundreds of people - not people on a page, but people like me and you, who think about their kids at home and what they're having for supper and worry about paying the bills. And I think that might be the first time anyone has ever done that, for the English Civil War. Not a lot of morally-upright cardboard cut-out cliches, but people.
What are you working on next?
Three-quarters of the way through the 1645/46 South West campaign, and after that it's back to Lancashire, to pick up "Babylon" - book 3, set around the Bolton Massacre and the Siege of Lathom House and the battle of Marston Moor and all that good stuff.
Short story coming out later this year in an anthology called "Steel and Lace".
Working on an anthology of Napoleonic short stories - the anti-Sharpe - in aid of St Luke's Hospice in Plymouth.
And always and ever going on in the background, the early years of Hollie Babbitt, in his mercenary career in the Thirty Years' War in Europe. Which is dark stuff.
Who are your favorite authors?
T.H. White, Rosemary Sutcliffe, M.K. Hume, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Hannah Glasse, John Webster, Christopher Hill, C.V Wedgwood, L.M. Montgomery, James Lee Burke....
(I can be quite eclectic!)
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Three cats and a four year old. And breakfast.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Making cake for assorted re-enactment groups, embroidery, and making 17th century clothing.
We do not own a television. The thief of time. I do spend a bit too much time lurking on the internet though.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Unfortunately, yes. Though I'm not sure I ever finished it. It was a detective story involving Sherlock Holmes, a graveyard at midnight, and my two imaginary friends (both horses) Napoleon and Josephine.
I have no idea of the plot, but I was about four, and I remember writing in the back of my parents' car going on holiday. I had a very odd bag for my bits and bobs in the car, one of those stiff plastic drawstring affairs like a swimming bag that were fashionable in the 1980s, and it was a hot day. It was a green bag, and I remember the smell of plastic in the sun.
Regrettably, I was car-sick on my story, so I never completed it.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.