- How do the two of you tackle writing a book together?
Mick – It was a painful process to get to the fluent process we have now. We started with short stories back in the 70’s and all of those stories were a learning curve of course. What I don’t think we realized at the time was that we were both not only learning to write – and all writers develop at different speeds – but we were also learning to write with another person. Those two things combined certainly made for a combustible mix.
One way it would work was one would start a story, stop for a variety of reasons, hand it over to the other for them to finish. We then had a jointly written story. We decided very early on that each story should have one author voice – by which I mean more than just a style, although a cohesive style was important. Another way we did it was for one of us to completely write a story and then hand it to the other to edit, revise, as needed. That was when a lot of rows began. How dare he suggest changes to my precious story? We had a meeting place by the river, near the pub, and after a row, sometimes hours after, we would meet up there as if by pre-arrangement and come to an agreement about the story. Pregnant pauses were our specialty, with silence as a weapon.
Over the years we have smoothed it all out. We are open and honest with each other, and no offence is taken when change is suggested. I have a voodoo doll of Len at home with enough pins left to carry me over the next few years.
Taking it right up to the present day, when we write as many novels as stories, we each write the complete book/story and then hand it over to the other for revision which includes proofing, copy editing, as well as
revising if we feel it needs it. With each book we spend days at the end reading it together, page by page, for grammar, continuity, repetition and other flaws we find.
With the novels, each has been different. We find it is important that a book has a single voice – an author point of view, a narrative drive the reader can connect with. Luckily our styles have developed over the years into a single M&S style so there is never a case of anyone being able to see the joins. Although one reviewer did say they could – on a book one of had written alone. No wonder they couldn’t reply when I asked them where the joins were! We also got a review along the lines of – did it really take two of them to write this pile of **** – which was one reason behind the change of name to Maynard Sims.
So we write separately – we live about 25 miles apart – and send a finished piece via email. The other reads and proofs and revises. Usually there are typos of course and continuity issues but often paragraphs or whole chapters are added in.
Len – We wrote as individuals for a while then realized that we would be competing for the same markets, so the sensible thing seemed to be to pool our resources. And we’ve been writing together ever since. Initially we would finish each other’s stories and argue about which version was better. We’d spend hours discussing a
single word if we felt passionately enough about it.
We used to brainstorm, sometimes for weeks on end. I remember one novel we planned early on in our careers was discussed at length and completely story-boarded – a process that went on for weeks if not months. In fact it took so long to plan we both ran out of steam on it and it was shelved. We refined the process after that. I think we have been writing together for so long now that we respect each other’s strengths and recognize each other’s weaknesses.
When I write something I want to blow Mick’s socks off. That’s the challenge. That’s why I think we’re very fortunate to have this partnership. Sitting alone at the computer, writing away with no idea who your potential reader might be must be a very daunting process. I read a writing tuition book years ago and in it the author said that you must write the book for “the anonymous reader looking over your shoulder.” I don’t have to do that. Mick’s the reader looking over my shoulder, and I figure if I can impress him then I must be doing something right.
- If you could live in any world, real or imaginary, where would it be and why?
Mick – I don’t read Fantasy, never understood it, so imaginary worlds aren’t for me. I am quite happy in my own little world of writing, seeing daughter and granddaughter, occasional holidays, gardening, reading, TV, meals out, walking the dog, stroking the cat. I am very grounded in reality and happy to be who I am.
Len – I tend to be rooted in the past, but a past that is often seen through my own rose-tinted glasses. I’m sure it wasn’t really as good as I remember it, but I hanker for a world that was slower paced, when technology wasn’t all pervading, when you could go out for a meal or a drink with someone and they weren’t preoccupied with their Twitter or Facebook feeds, and you could have a decent conversation.
- Have you ever written yourself into a corner and asked the character what to do?
Mick – all the time. The characters that really stand out always take on a life of their own. I start to write, often with a very vague idea of who they are, and they flesh it all out themselves with their actions and emotions. I often feel as if I am just the conduit they need to present themselves to the world. It is one of the joys and mysteries of writing that what ends up on the page bears little resemblance to the initial thoughts that began the story. Often it is the merest of ideas that gets started and the characters take on the story and run with it.
Len – I do it all the time, unfortunately. I tend to start with a basic premise for a book, have a rough outline and then let the characters tell the story. Sometimes the characters aren’t all that forthcoming and I have to give them a nudge. The best way around it is to walk away and give the story some time to germinate in my subconscious. When it’s cooked I usually get an information dump to my conscious mind – usually at some Godawful time in the middle of the night. But that usually works.
- Would you talk about your upcoming books and their production schedule?
Mick & Len – Samhain brought out a standalone ghost story novel in March – Stillwater. They have Department 18 book 5, Mother Of Demons, out in August and an e-novella, Convalescence, out in November. We have an erotic romance e-novella out in July from Siren.
We write standalone horror, the Department 18 series and erotic romances (under a pseudonym). In addition we write crime and thrillers. We self published three last year (Let Death Begin, Through The Sad Heart and Falling Apart At The Edges). We are in discussions with a new agent about a trilogy of novels set in the Bahamas and a new 1950’s set crime series (Jack Callum).
We have completed out tenth collection of ghost stories and strange tales and that is currently with a publisher.
We are co-editing an ITW anthology this year and are reading through submissions to that.
- How important are character names and how do you come up with them?
Mick – names are important. They help outline who and what the character is and what their stance might be. Some names are perceived as stronger than others – in books and in life. Think whether the character will be called by their first or last name as that will help dictate what they are called.
Len – I often fall foul of inconsistency with names. I tend to name them depending on the action or emotion within a scene. That might mean I call a character Len in one scene, Len Maynard in another, then Maynard, and often Detective or whatever their job / rank is. I have learned to stop myself doing that but it remains one of the main things Mick corrects when he proofs my stuff.
- Who are the authors that have influenced your writing the most?
Mick – Ed McBain, Tom Sharpe, Stephen Jones (editor), Don D’Auria (editor), H R Wakefield.
Len – I rarely read fiction when I’m writing, because I tend to soak up influences like a sponge and they end up coloring what I’m writing. But my early influences were Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch and British writers like Jack Higgins, Graeme Masterton, along with many of the ghost story writers from the golden period between the two world wars.
- Would you fill us in on the screenplays you’ve written? What’s up for the future?
Mick – I have written all of these. I have a friend who produces 3D films and he has asked me several times in the past to write screenplays based on his ideas. I have written four of those for him. In addition we have a few shorter scripts based on our ghost stories. A screenplay based on The Eighth Witch and one called Department 18 which is based on scenes from Black Cathedral and Night Souls. That one won Best New Screenplay at the 2013 British Horror Film Festival and we had to go up to London to receive the award. All very exciting at the time but despite some interest none of our screenplays have ever been produced.
Len – I have never tried to write a screenplay. I am happy with stories and novels.
Mick & Len – 2015 will see Department 18 book 5, Mother Of Demons, from Samhain. A Bahamas trilogy of adventure novels – Touching The Sun, Calling Down The Lightning, and Raging Against The Storm, has been completed. A new crime series, featuring DCI Jack Callum, has been started, and the first novel written, Three Monkeys. Current work in progress includes the second Jack Callum novel, a new standalone crime thriller, a new supernatural novel, and further romances. 2016 will bring the tenth collection of ghost stories and strange tales – The Dead Are Dancing Down Our Walls – which will include all ourrecent new stories, many of them unpublished.
- If you were able to trade bodies with one person for one day who would it be and why?
Mick – It sounds pompous or something but I wouldn’t want to trade with anyone. I love what I have and don’t hanker after anything more. I wish I was taller, younger, fitter, more clever, but if given the chance to swap I wouldn’t. Better the devil and all that.
Len – I’m happy as I am thanks. All that “be careful of what you wish for” stuff rings true for me. I dare say if I swapped with someone, I’d discover they had some undiscovered and very unpleasant disease or something. So I wouldn’t want to tempt fate.
- What are the next three books you’re planning to read?
Mick – Encore by Maynard Sims as that is the next one Len will finish (Jack Callum series book 2). The latest Mark Billingham. The next Peter Robinson.
Len – I have a whole shelf of books waiting to be read, but I’m writing at the moment, so they’ll have to wait.
- What five people living or dead would you invite to a dinner party? And I wonder, if you were to throw a huge bash together, who would make both of your lists?
Mick – All dead – I’m not very sociable. My mum and dad. Ed McBain. Winston Churchill. Florence Nightingale.
Len – My dad – that would be fascinating as he died when I was five, Harry Patterson (Jack Higgins), and a whole host of people from the world of music hall (vaudeville) world. Failing them, Roy Hudd, who’s books about the last subject are my constant “go-to” reference works.
- If you could claim one book as your own – think fame not fortune – what would it be?
Mick – I re-read the Ed McBain 87th Precinct novels all the time and love them all.
Len – The Furies by Keith Roberts.
- How do you want the world to remember you?
Mick – as a good husband, father, grandfather, friend and brother, and a writer who could entertain the reader.
Len – As a nice bloke and general “good egg”, a good father, grandfather, brother and son, and as a writer who sought to entertain without the pretentions of being a great literary talent.
. These lads are everywhere! Find them on Facebook. Check them out on the web. Follow them on Twitter. They are on Pinterest and Instagram. Want more? Check Tumbler! On Linked In? Look here.
It was a pleasure meeting you today Mick and Len. We’ll have to do it again sometime!
Police procedural plus supernatural happenings equal Department 18 by the writing team known as Maynard Sims. MOTHER OF DEMONS is the fifth book in this series. This novel far exceeded my expectations – you know how cops are with the paranormal usually. One believes, one doesn’t and after awhile it gets irritating. Well, Department 18 knows the paranormal is real. They’ve fought demons, seen ESP in action and don’t need to be told twice that a house is haunted. I found that refreshing and very enjoyable.
In the tale we have a set of twins, a brother and sister born three minutes apart. The girl, Alice, is fascinated with the Greek gods and believes herself to be one of them. It doesn’t hurt that she has learned to open her mind and access the hidden powers of the brain that we all have buried.
These are all stand alone books and can be read in any order. This one did make reference to a couple of very minor happenings from the past but it shouldn’t affect the reading enjoyment of the other novels. I don’t normally read series out of order, I’m funny that way, but it seems it really doesn’t matter here. So pick up any of the Department 18 books and enjoy one! Amazon will release MOTHER OF DEMONS on August 4, 2015. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
They have a trailer at YouTube also: click here.
Buy MOTHER OF DEMONS at Amazon.com
If you could live in any land, real or imaginary, where would it be and why?
Part of me immediately leaps to memories of growing up and experiencing The Belgariad for the first time, being dizzied by Elric of Melnibone and Thomas Covenant’s The Land, but you know what, they’re all really pretty profoundly disturbing places to actually live. Imagine being in Middle Earth, Third Age, Sauron on the rise, life expectancy probably about 20 minutes… sure I’d love to hang our with Belgarath the Sorcerer, I mean, how cool would it be to have that old storyteller drop by? But a war with Torak, the mad god kicking off? Yeah, no. I think I quite like where we are, even if I’d happily have a little magic slip into our more mundane world every now and again.
The books that I’ve reviewed of yours were both written under pseudonyms. I know that authors publish under different names for a variety of reasons, such as when they write in different genres. Would you discuss your reasons and let us in on the names we should look for to find your books?
Most of my stuff is under my own name, (he says, then contradicts himself) but there are five novels under the Alex Archer penname, there’s Black Flag written as Matt Langley, and I originally released Moonlands as Aimee Carr but changed my mind and rereleased it as Steven Savile. Honestly part of the problem is I feel like I’m screwing with my readers and I don’t want to do that. I want you to know if you pick up a Steven Savile novel you’re getting something you’ll enjoy – but because I spent about a decade writing for hire in a number of worlds that’s more difficult as there’s no seeming continuity. There’s Doctor Who and Torchwood and Stargate, Primeval, Warhammer, Slaine, Arkham Horror, Fireborn, heck there’s computer game stuff like Risen, and the soon to be released Hollow Point and there’s nothing remotely similar. So I made a bit of a tactical mistake, people picking up my thrillers like Silver and Crucible aren’t going to love Shiftling, for instance, which is a coming of age horror story. The problem is I want to fix this, but every publisher who buys me now says ‘oh, no, we’re buying your name as well’ so it’s getting more difficult to create a new persona that will carry the different genres… but I’m working on it.
What are the next three books you are planning to read?
Right now I’m reading The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker, which I’ve been working on for about two months, which is really unlike me, but sometimes life is just like that, it gets in the way. Then I’ve promised myself I’m going to revisit Sir Terry Pratchett (as a football fan I’ve got Unseen Academicals cued up) and have Sarah Pinborough’s The Death House up after that.
Would you talk about your upcoming books and their production schedule? And specifically, are you working on a sequel to MOONLANDS?
In terms of releases, I’ve got Hollow Point – which is a punchy science fiction novel due out from Paradox Interactive – some time soon. It’s been ready for launch for about a year but the game it links with has been delayed several times so that pushes the book back. Then there’s my first Sherlock Holmes novel for Titan, Murder at Sorrow’s Crown, which is co-written with my good friend Robert Greenberger, which is out in October. Right around the same week my original conspiracy thriller Sunfail, is coming out in the US via Akashic Books. These things are all done and have been finished for a fair while, going through the editing, proofing processes in pre-production. It ends up making me look incredibly prolific, but for instance Sunfail was actually delayed by 9 months, so what should have been a nice gap between novels now makes it seem like those buses that always seem to come three at a time.
In terms of what I’m working on right now, I’m just finishing off the first novel in my contract with St Martins, Glass Town, which is an original fantasy novel in the same kind of vein as Clive Barker’s Weaveworld (for an easy comparison) and when that wraps I’ve got two more big things lined up, Parallel Lines, my debut crime novel with Titan Books in the UK and US (which I think will be out some time around Fall 2016) and Herne the second novel in the St Martins contract. I’ve been approached by Amazon to kick off a very popular Kindle Worlds universe too, which could be interesting, and have some fun short stories coming out soon, including Last Light, which will be in Kevin J Anderson’s 2113 anthology of stories inspired by RUSH.
Which is all a long way of saying Sunside, the second book in the Moonlands universe is a way off yet. My hope is to sit down and write it around Christmas time, if I’m lucky. It’s all mapped out, and I like to think it’s pretty epic. It’s certainly something I’m looking forward to doing. I’d also like to write a second Matt Langley novel at some point. But you know what, I always want to slow down, take 12 months to write a novel, savour the process, not feel the stress of knowing people are waiting and are disappointed that they’re not getting the resolution they want… I write probably 8-10 hours a day, five-six days a week, so I’m not really as productive as it might seem, I just focus very hard on keeping on keeping on.
What five people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
Like everyone I’ve got people I admire, but they’re probably not who you’d think. I’d love to sit down with Steve Perryman and Garry Mabbutt for instance – Spurs players, I’m a huge Tottenham Hotspur fan and have been all my life. These two embody everything I love about my club. Neil Peart, the drummer of RUSH, who has lived an incredible life and is part of my favourite band of all time, to talk the craft of words and to listen to stories of cycling across Africa etc. and from the world of movies, I think it’d have to be Cameron Crowe, who is responsible for several of my favourite films of all time. It’s all a bit male, so in the habit of saving the best til last, the fifth guest would have to be Aimee Mann, just because…
Who are the authors that influenced your life the most?
That’s really hard to give a definitive answer to, I guess I owe the most to those who first captivated me as a reader, so it’s several of the names mentioned in that what world would you want to live in question. Off the top of my head, David Eddings, Clive Barker, Jonathan Carroll, Stephen Donaldson, Stephen Gallagher, would be high on that list. Moorcock…
What do you do to lift yourself up when you’re feeling down?
It’s easy to be flippant, and I might have had a really good answer to this one once upon a time, but the truth is, a lot of writers suffer with depression and depressive episodes, and my life pretty much turned upside down seven months ago when my father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Diffuse b-cell. He didn’t make it through the chemo, and five weeks ago he died. I’ve been feeling down for something like seven months, properly down, unable to shake the mood that’s taken away my usual smiles and chirpy nature to the point where several times my wife looks at me and just says ‘I know…’ she knows I’m not me at the moment and haven’t been for a long time. I’ve tried the usual things, listening to favourite albums, reading beloved authors, going for walks in glorious countryside, but the truth is something inside me is changing. I’m angry. I’m sad. It’s festering inside me and soon I think I’ll go through some sort of rebirth, coming out the other side transformed by life into whatever the next version of me is going to be. That’s probably a more depressing answer than you were expecting, sorry about that.
If you could claim one book as your own, think fame – not fortune, which book would it be and why?
Weave world. I’ve loved it since I read it when I was 18, and read it again as a 40 year old and loved it even more but in so many different ways. First time it was the staggering imagination, second time it was the fact that every paragraph was packed with beauty and thoughtfulness.
What’s your comfort food?
Mars Bars and Ben & Jerrys… why go against tradition?
How do you want the world to remember you?
Oh, that guy… you know… him… he wrote that book… You know the one? It was really good… what’s his name again?
It was a pleasure having you here today, Steve. I hope we meet again soon!
BLACK FLAG was written under the pseudonym Matt Langley by Steven Savile and was a finalist for the People’s Book Prize in the UK. No small feat, that!
This is an educational reference book for teens to teach computer coding skills. It’s not a novel in the traditional sense and yet there is a story line to follow and puzzles to solve along the way. I think I would call it an interactive novel. If you have teenage kids that might be interested in learning computer programming, this might be a handy tool for them. I think it a great way to learn a new subject.
Buy BLACK FLAG at Amazon.com today!
I LOVED this book. It was a fairy tale, a coming of age story and it was about a GIRL! I mean how many heroines do we see in books these days? Answer: Not enough. There’s plenty of coming of age stories out there about boys – and Savile has written a darn good one of those, btw. But, for a guy to be able to write about a strong female character is pretty freaking cool in my book. I’m a sucker for coming of age stories anyway; they don’t even have to be my age group, but I’ll admit it helps if the memories are there. And for MOONLANDS they are there.
MOONLANDS is a story that blends every story you ever heard of into one big melting pot of a wonderful reading experience. The Grimm Brothers play a major role as you’ll be quick to discover, but you’ll find brushes from the Star Wars, Alien, Hobbit, Wizard of Oz and other universes as you read through these pages. If you’re like me, it won’t take long til you reach the end and cry out, “When is the next book coming out?!” And luckily we found out from the man himself. It’s just way too long to wait. I’m glad I found this. It’s worth a re-read!
Buy MOONLANDS for yourself at Amazon.com and see!