How did you get off grid? And what was the most difficult thing to get right?
We bought a remote farmhouse high up in the hills and about a quarter of a mile down a track across a field from the road, where the only link to civilization was the telephone line (which it turned out after we moved in was too far away from the exchange to get broadband so we went back to dial-up for 2 years until the telephone company put a new piece of string up the valley).
So water comes from a spring up the hill which is fine until the pipe freezes in winter and leaves us cut off until it thaws. We can tell when something has died in the tank as the water develops a distinctly metallic taste and then the toilet ball valves stop working as small bones get stuck in them.
Heating and cooking are from oil and electricity comes from a generator and a wind turbine, supplying the biggest set of batteries you have ever seen.
Before we had to do it, we didn’t really think about what running our own power station was actually going to involve such as servicing a diesel engine every month or so.
And when winter comes, the key thing is to make sure we have the tanks filled up to the max before the snow arrives. Spending a few weeks lugging five or six 25 litre jerrycans of fuel at a time down across a field that’s waist deep in snow to be able to keep the lights and cooker on, just because we’ve managed to let them run out, is quite a good reminder not to let it happen again.
What made you decide to want to be off grid?
Complete, unadulterated, insanity.
Are you completely self-suffucient?
As far as utilities go, yes. It’s quite fun seeing the look on salespeople’s faces in shopping malls when they try to sell us on switching suppliers. They can just about cope when we say no we don’t have gas, but saying we don’t have an electricity supplier just freaks them out.
Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?
Err…well, whether it was amongst the ex-pat crowd in my first book set in Africa or amongst the bikers of my more recent series, beer, and lots of it, seems to crop up quite a bit for some reason that I can’t quite fathom!
What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?
I quite enjoy cooking but I tend towards a fairly blokeish approach to cusine involving either some old standby favourites like a good chilli, or a fairly experimental and decidedly non-menu driven approach based on ‘what have we got in the fridge and let’s see if it goes with those herbs, veg or whatever?’
Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s usually interesting.
What is the title of the book you would like to talk about, and can you give us a small taster of it?
It’s Heavy Duty People which is the first in my series of ‘biker lit’ books. It is a hard-nosed crime thriller set in the world of outlaw bikers. His club and his brothers have been Damage’s life, but when the gang starts to become gangsters and brother starts killing brother, Damage has to choose which side he’s on and what he’s prepared to do.
To quote one of my reviewers: “Damage is the show-stealing superstar of the book and he really is a fantastic anti-hero. A rule-breaker, a loyal servant and a pragmatic murderer; he’s positively Shakespearian in his moral complexity.”
But to let him speak for himself as he does at one point
“Just think, next time one of your mates has a snort at a party or your bird drops a tab at a club, someone’s had to source it for you, someone like me. This coke and shit doesn’t smuggle itself in y’know? It takes a bit of good old entrepreneurial risk-taking and effort on somebody’s part so’s you can get off your face. There’s demand, we take the risk and supply, and we get the rewards. Ain’t that how it’s supposed to work? Anyway, big tobacco sells stuff that kills you and if you’ve got a pension I bet you own some of it.”
Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?
I’m a bit like a magpie with words and phrases in that things I hear seem to get picked up and hidden away somewhere, for years, decades even, until it’s time to bring them back out and use them.
This was actually a phrase I overheard once about twenty five years or so ago being used as a sort of code. Someone I knew was in the early stages of being sounded out about hanging around the local outlaw club and was told that he (and not me I have to say), really ought to go to a party that was coming up the next weekend because ‘some heavy duty people’, referring to the club, would be there.
What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?
Undoubtedly the thing that sells books is people I don’t know talking to other people I don’t know about them, that’s to say, good old word of mouth. The tricky thing is, what can you do as an author to help generate that? I’m active on social media, both on my own and as part of the great ASMSG group and the thing that I think is most important is engagement with the people who respond to anything I put out there.
Whenever I get an email, tweet or whatever from anyone who’s contacted me about one of my books I make a real effort to build up a relationship with them, partly because it’s really great to hear from them and that they’ve taken the time to make contact, but also because I find they are the people who then become real ambassadors for my books.
Okay, now tell me something none has ever heard before from you, maybe something about class A drugs in industrial quantities, and killing? Hehehe, I just love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. :-)
Well, I can tell you that the TV development process is as slow as hell and seems to require all the planets coming into alignment at the same time but that’s my problem really.
I can tell you that when the NSA look at my google search history I’m going to be in real trouble and might want to know why I’m looking into how to use washing powder to get rid of a body.
I can tell you I’ve worked out a way to win the lottery and I’m working that into a plot.
And I can tell you that successfully laundering money involves there stages, insertion, getting the dirty money into the banking system in ways that mean it isn’t questioned, layering, which is the moving of money around inside the system so that it’s origins are disguised, and then extraction which is how you then get the money back out again in a way that enables you to make use of it as clean money. And come to think of it, there’s probably an ebook in there…