Q&A

When will your next book be published?

I’m writing book two of my new William Warwick series, which will be published in September 2020. But before then, my publishers are also releasing a special numbered and signed 40 th anniversary edition of Kane and Abel – I still can’t believe it’s forty years since I wrote that. More details on book two of William Warwick will be released soon.

Do you prefer writing novels or short stories?

I’ve written seven sets of short stories – A Quiver Full of Arrows, A Twist in the Tale, Twelve Red Herrings, To Cut A Long Story Short, Cat O’Nine Tales, And Thereby Hangs and Tale, and the latest one was Tell Tale, which was published in November 2017. That’s a total of ninety short stories! The process is very different. With a novel, you might not have a clue where you’re going, but with a short story, you have to know the end. It’s only 3- 5,000 words. But I’ve always enjoyed writing short stories as I’ve collected so many anecdotes over the years which, along with people I’ve met and the places I’ve travelled, have inspired me to put pen to paper.

Are your adaptations available on video or DVD?

Kane and Abel was made into a CBS television miniseries in the US starring Peter Strauss as Abel Rosnovski and Sam Neill as William Lowell Kane. It was subsequently made into a television mini-series by the BBC in 1986. This original series was released for the first time on DVD on 18 October 2010 in the UK, and in Australia in early 2011. First Among Equals was televised by ITV in the same year, and Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less was televised, again by the BBC, in 1990. Unfortunately, these are no longer officially available on either video or DVD. As for films, I’ve never had a film made of one of my books but I remain hopeful.

Have you ever written a screenplay?

I’ve written two – “Paths of Glory” about George Mallory’s attempt to climb Mount Everest, and for False Impression.

Of the books you have written, who is your favourite character and why?

Miss Tredgold in The Prodigal Daughter. She was meant to be in the story for just a few pages, but she ended up dominating half the book.

Is it true that you often don’t know how a book will end?

I usually know the first four or five chapters in detail, and the next 10 in outline, which will take me to the middle of the book. Then it’s time to pray. As I write, I’m wondering what will happen on the next page. My theory is, if I wonder what will happen on the next page, there’s a good chance you’ll wonder what’s going to happen on the next page too! If you know exactly what’s going to happen two chapters down the line, you’ll give it away. If you don’t know, you can’t give it away.

Do you write with a specific reader in mind or do you write for yourself?

I write what I feel at ease with, and then hope that it works for the reader—it might be a saga, or a thriller, or short stories.

What is your writing day like?

I’m very disciplined and prefer to write at my home in Mallorca, as I have a purpose-built writing room overlooking the Bay of Palma. I don’t like any distractions while I’m working – so no phones or music, just quiet and a calming view. I still work in two hour blocks – and I have a huge hourglass, which was a present from Mary, on my desk to ensure that I work for the full 120 minutes of each session. I write from 6.00am to 8.00am, then break for two hours for breakfast and to read the morning newspapers, or catch up on the cricket scores around the world; then from 10.00am until 12.00pm, when I break to go to the gym or for a long walk before a light lunch. Back to work at 2.00pm until 4.00pm, after which I might relax by watching an old episode of my favourite TV show, The West Wing, or some sport,
and then my final session is from 6.00pm till 8.00pm. Then it’s a relaxing dinner and in bed around 10pm. I find that my morning sessions are usually the most productive.

How long does it take you to write a book?

I used to write one every two years, but this has accelerated to one a year. It normally takes me about six weeks to produce a first draft. I then take a four-week break and get away from it. I come back and do another draft. That takes another four weeks, and I handwrite the whole thing out again.

Is it true that you still write your books by hand?

Yes! I can’t type. My ability with anything mechanical is almost zero. I handwrite every single word.

What are your favourite books?

– The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
– The 39 Steps – John Buchan
– A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
– A Diamond As Big As The Ritz – F Scott Fitzgerald
– The Prodigy – Hermann Hess
– Beware of Pity – Stefan Zweig
– Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

They all have one thing in common, not only are they good writers, but great storytellers. Other favourites are Wisden – A Cricketer’s Almanack, any PG Wodehouse and How to be Topp by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle.

What are your favourite films?

A Man for All Seasons — for the magnificent direction of Fred Zinnemann, incisive script by Robert Bolt, and superlative acting of Paul Scofield.

The Sting — witty, fun, and I don’t think there’s been a better ‘sting’ film since; fine performances by Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and brilliant direction by George Roy Hill.

And you can’t beat The West Wing for TV drama at its absolute best. Brilliant performances by the whole cast. I must have watched the whole thing at least twice.

What’s your favourite music?

I’m a huge Sinatra fan, as well as Sammy Davis Jr, Tony Bennett and Bobby Darin. I’ve also recently discovered Lionel Ritchie, which is wonderful for playing in the car while I’m driving around London looking for a parking space.