10 questions: Oli Jacobs, author of Deep Down There

Another in my occasional series of short interviews with other writers. Today, it’s the turn of Oli Jacobs, author of the forthcoming Deep Down There. Here we go…


    1.        Who are you and what’s your book about?

It’s a question I often ask myself... as far as I’m aware, I’m Oli Jacobs and my book – Deep Down There – is about a strange hole that suddenly appears in a small cul-de-sac.

Oli Jacobs

Oli Jacobs

  2.        Why should folk read your book?

Because it’s the best gosh-darn horror book you’ll ever read. Plus, it combines elements of surburban tension, and creeping dread. And, of course, a massive hole.


    3.        What’s the appeal of your book?  

Finding out what’s down the hole. There’s a lot of build up with how the residents react to it, and efforts to “solve” the problem of it, but when things get weird that’s when the true horror kicks in. Not to mention when one eager resident wants to abseil 0down...

    4.        Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy? 

Deep Down There is currently available for pre-orders at https://unbound.com/books/deep-down-there/ Not only will you get the book, but you’ll get your name inside too!

Deep Down There provisional cover

Deep Down There provisional cover

    5.        Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

A fair few hours of procrastination, before a flurry of words in an hour or two period. It’s all in my head, it’s just getting to the fingers to tap out...


    6.        Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

I don’t actually like reading books about writing, but I’ve heard Stephen King’s On Writing is quite the tome.


    7.        Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

The Stand – Stephen King, At The Mountains of Madness – HP Lovecraft, House of Leaves – Mark Z Danielewski


    8.        Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

 Apart from the aforementioned three above... probably Leviathan – Ian Edginton, Songs of a Dead Dreamer – Thomas Ligotti, The Last Days of Jack Sparks – Jason Arnopp.


    9.        Any words of writing wisdom?

Always have a plan, and a good soundtrack to write to.


  10.        Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

A hole suddenly appears in a small community, unleashing not just their own inner demons, but something lurking in the very core of the Earth. Shady agencies, maddened neighbours, and whatever it is lurking... Deep Down There.


Social media contacts: Facebook - @OJBooks, Twitter - @Olijacobsauthor, Instagram - @olijba


Book URL: https://unbound.com/books/deep-down-there/

Previous publications: Kirk Sandblaster, Filmic Cuts, Bad Sandwich, The Children of Little Thwopping, Wrapped Up In Nothing, Strange Days in High Wycombe, Station 17... all can be found here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B0086XR1JG

Huge thanks to Oli for playing along. Deep Down There is a project that I’ve supported on Unbound, so here’s hoping that you’ll do precisely the same and that the book’ll get into print soon!

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My book in three books ... I'm interviewed by Mark Bowsher

I’ve been interviewed by the excellent Mark Bowsher of Rabbit Island Productions about East of England. Specifically, about three books which have been - in some way - an influence on the novel.

Here’s the interview.

Mark’s own recently-published novel The Boy Who Stole Time is out now from all good, reasonable, and slightly shabby retailers. You can find out more about his book here.

There’s still time to find more out more about (and to pre-order) East of England here.


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10 questions: Toby Howden, author of Paper Tigers: Martial Arts & Misadventure in Japan

Today's interviewee in the ongoing series of questionnaire-style friendly interrogations of fellow Unbound Publishing authors (my noir thriller East of England is on its way from Unbound - details, including how to pre-order special advance copies are here) is Toby Howden. Here's Toby to tell us all a bit more about his book:

TH pic.jpg

1. Who are you and what’s your book about?

My name is Toby Howden and my book is Paper Tigers: Martial Arts & Misadventure in Japan, a memoir about an ill-judged attempt to become the real Karate Kid whilst working in a traditional Japanese paper factory during the nineties.

2. Why should folk read your book?

Because it’s a hilarious and heart-warming tale of friendship, following your dreams and how, when things don’t go quite as planned, there’s a better story to be told. It highlights many of the funny and painful faux pas you can end up committing in foreign cultures, plus, it’s all embarrassingly true.

3. What’s the appeal of your book?

I think travelling to the “mystical Orient” to train with martial arts masters is something many people have dreamed of doing, but few have ever considered the reality of such an endeavour. There’s an enduring curiosity about traditional Japanese culture, but most Westerners experience it through the polite camera lens of a tourist, or as a well-paid, segregated English teacher. I’ve yet to come across anyone else who has worked there doing manual labour whilst attempting to become a ninja - with good reason.

4. Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy?

It’s out now in paperback and digital in the usual places – Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones etc.   

TH book.jpg

5. Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

My beautiful girlfriend usually wakes me with a martini as the sun rises over our private island hideaway. The sounds of the warm sea lapping on the sandy white beach drifts in through the billowing linen curtains. I fight off Ursula’s advances donning a tight black polo-neck over my muscular, tanned body and begin the first task of the day, pondering the tricky second novel.

Sorry, you mean my day…

I wake when it’s still dark, then commute far enough to ensure the complete destruction of the environment. Boring meetings, teaching and admin whilst daydreaming about writing. Home, family, kids, bedtime, wine. Not always in that order. Around ten o'clock I turn the computer on, stare at it wistfully and hit the PlayStation for an hour. At eleven o'clock I’m almost ready to begin. I open my current ‘work in progress’, check Facebook, Twitter, put some tunes on, mess about with Instagram, the news, then back to Facebook again. I‘ll then re-read my latest sonnet, ponder different fonts and maybe open more wine.

Around midnight I ignore the angry texts from my partner telling me to turn it down and come to bed, and suddenly, as if by magic, I’m in the zone and begin to write…

6. Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

I’m guessing everyone’s already read On Writing by Stephen King. Brilliant for so many reasons and reassuring proof that truly great writers are not simply born overnight. Slightly more obscure but well worth checking out is Joel Stickley’s blog ‘How to Write Badly Well’, very funny and informative. 

7. Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

Lost in Place by Mark Saltzman, a truly hilarious and superbly written coming of age memoir about trying to get high and master Kung Fu in Connecticut USA during the 1970s.

Fantastic Mr Fox. Having three kids I get the joy and privilege of re-reading stories from my childhood. Re-visiting the Roald Dahl classics is pure inspiration. They’re a masterclass in creativity and the art of making supremely clever writing appear effortless.  

Angry White Pyjamas by Robert Twigger. A year in Japan completing the infamous Tokyo Riot Police Aikido course; made me reflect about my own martial arts experiences and persuaded me that it was something worth writing about.

8. Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

I guess something by Ray Mears or Bear Grylls might be sensible on a desert island.

Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebe-Hill is pretty epic and definitely worth a re-read. The story of the Native American Sioux tribe. A heart-breaking book that forces you to reconsider modern definitions of ‘civilisation.’

The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, a truly masterful writer, she created worlds and characters with such depth, I feel as though her books are old friends.

Can I take some pencils and a pad of paper and write one?

9. Any words of writing wisdom?

Writing a book is like reaching the summit of a mountain only to be confronted by the far more challenging mountain range of publishing; think Mordor rather than The Sound of Music.

Most people don’t care that you’ve written a book, many publishers are actually quite annoyed by the fact. Deal with it. Conversely, some people will immediately assume that you’re going to be the next famous millionaire celebrity JK, and a precious few will believe in your writing to the extent that you will be utterly humbled.

Also, ignore twats who tell you it can’t be done.  

10. Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

‘Wax on, wax off, wacked out!’ (Courtesy of Unbound). Or, ‘Man goes to Japan to master martial arts. Will he do it? No.’

Social media contacts:

Website: LLToby@twitter


Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/paper-tigers


Huge thanks to Toby for answering my questions! As he says, Paper Tigers is available now from all good retailers, so you really don't have a reason to not pick yourself up a copy ...


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10 questions: Maximilian Hawker, author of Breaking The Foals

Part of having gone through the crowdfunding process for me with Unbound Publishing for my upcoming noir thriller East of England is the sense of community that develops with other writers who are doing - or who have done - similar. So, this series of questionnaire-format interviews explores other writers who have works either in process or in print with Unbound. Today it's the turn of Maximilian Hawker, so it's straight over to him: 


1. Who are you and what’s your book about?

My name is Maximilian Hawker and my debut novel, Breaking The Foals, is about a Bronze-Age royal torn between upholding his duties to his despotic father, or defending the people over whom his father rules. Oh, and it’s all set in the city of Wilusa – which was the historical Troy of myth. (Yes, Troy was a real city.)

2. Why should folk read your book?

For £3.99 on Amazon you will get a very different take on the tired let’s-retell-the-Trojan-War trope of modern literature. I love the mythology as much as the next person but have delved beneath it to discover the historical reality behind Homer’s poetry; my research has informed Breaking The Foals and this is the first time I believe any writer has actually tried to portray Troy in all its raw, unfamiliar sincerity.

3. What’s the appeal of your book?

If you like family drama, war, natural disaster, tragedy, humour, crazed rulers who consider themselves divine and communities that worship the bones of extinct creatures as gods, then you may very well enjoy my novel.

4. Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy?

All the usual places, good sir: Amazon, Hive, Waterstones and if you are a bookshop you can order it from Gardners.

BTH cover.jpg

5. Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it.

Frustratingly, the idea of having a day of writing is laughably optimistic for me. I work in frontline children’s social care and have a wife and two children, so getting any time to myself is a treasure. However, my top tip is to get up earlyish on the weekend, let your kids watch a bit of TV and/or play, and then get on that laptop and hammer out a few thousand words before the miniatures have completely woken up. Mornings are definitely my optimum time for writing.

6. Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

Never read any. My reading time is precious and I prefer to lose myself in fiction and enjoy another writer’s skill – that teaches me plenty enough.

7. Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer.

Number One is Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières; I read it at GCSE and it was the revelation that propelled me into writing and into reading a lot more than I had been. It is, in my mind, perfect and de Bernières’ style of blending the comic with the tragic is something I try to emulate. Number Two would be The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, which taught me how an expert delivers exactitude in description and scene development. Finally, Geomancer by Ian Irvine, which consoled me with the fact that a writer can throw themselves into a novel and make a lot of it up as they go along, while delivering something that hangs together well and is a real page-turner.

8. Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières (for the reasons outlined above); Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë; and The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy.

9. Any words of writing wisdom?

Expect nothing and write for enjoyment.

10. Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch.

It’s a historical drama called Breaking The Foals and tells the story of the real Troy of myth, gripped in the throes of a political uprising with Hektor, crown prince, torn between whether to defend the oppressed people or remain loyal to his dangerous, irrational father.

Social media contacts:



Website: www.maximilianhawker.com

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/breaking-the-foals/  

Previous publications:

Poetry and short stories in a number of publications, but I ain’t gonna list ‘em all!


And that's it! Huge thanks to Maximilian for his time. I've read Breaking the Foals and it's well worth your time, so if you're in the mood for a mythic retelling, then give this book a whirl! 

10 questions: Amy Lord, author of The Disappeared

As you know, I'm currently crowdfunding my new novel East of England through Unbound Publishing. And I'm not alone! So, I've asked a few fellow writers on Unbound's current roster to give a quick overview of their writing work, and the book they're crowdfunding themselves in a ten questions format. 

First up is Amy Lord:  

Amy Lord.jpg

1. Who are you and what’s your book about?

I’m Amy Lord, a debut novelist from the North East of England. My novel, The Disappeared, is speculative fiction, inspired by the likes of Margaret Atwood and George Orwell.

The story is about obsession. Set in a dystopian version of the UK run by a military dictatorship, it tells the story of a young woman determined to fight back against the regime. Clara’s father was arrested by the Authorisation Bureau when she was 11 for the crime of teaching banned books to his students and she never saw him again.

She grows up to become a teacher and wants to rebel, but the only thing she can do is take the books her father left behind and teach them to her students. When one of them disappears, she is plunged into a nightmare, uncertain of who to trust.

2. Why should folk read your book?      

The book has had some awards success before finding its way to Unbound, winning a Northern Writers’ Award and being longlisted for the Bath Novel Award. It’s also a thought-provoking read, full of action, which explores how people can break themselves against each other.

3. What’s the appeal of your book?

I wanted to write a story that explored how easily we could find ourselves in a repressive society, where so many of the freedoms we take for granted have been taken away. It’s something that I’ve been working on for a lot of years, but it feels timely at the moment.

The story is also told from two different perspectives: that of Clara and her stepfather, who is a Major in the Authorisation Bureau and the man who arrested her father. His chapters are some of my favourites, as they allowed me to really explore his obsession with Clara’s mother and the lengths he will go to possess her.

4. Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy?          

The Disappeared is currently crowdfunding with Unbound and is about three-quarters of the way to the final target. If you’d like to buy a copy, you can pledge to the campaign.

5. Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:        

There isn’t really a typical writing day for me. I have a full-time job, so I usually write quite late in the evening, after work. I like to listen to music while I work and I have an ever-increasing playlist of melancholy songs that helps me find the right emotions and focus. I love writing when everyone else has gone to bed: there’s something quite powerful about immersing myself in the story when the house is still and I’m the only person awake.

6. Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

I’m yet to find a book about writing that has really grabbed me, but I recently came to the end of a year’s mentoring programme where Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder was endlessly recommended. It’s aimed at screenwriters, but supposedly fantastic for helping with story structure. I’ve also had Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert on my list for ages. It’s not a writing manual as such, but the focus is more on finding inspiration and creative practice, which is something I enjoy reading about.

7. Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:  

Since the television adaptation became popular, it feels like a cliché to list The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s been one of my favourite books since I studied it for my English Literature A-Level. It’s the one book I wish I could have written, I get lost in the intricacy and intelligence of the language every time.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is beautifully written, full of observations about life and the modern world that just take my breath away. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt is the perfect example of a book aimed at younger readers that deals with some incredibly dark storylines using simple, understated language, which makes it all the more powerful and heart-breaking.

8. Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

Sorry, got to be The Handmaid’s Tale again. The Crow Road by Iain Banks is another of my favourites, for his storytelling, the uniquely drawn characters and the relationships between them. I read it when I was very young and have returned to the book again and again over the last 20 years, taking something new from it each time. I’d also take Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, which is one of the few classics that I return to, along with Dracula, by Bram Stoker.      

9. Any words of writing wisdom?           

Believe in yourself. The more you write and the more you read, the better your work will become. But it will take years of practice to get really good, so don’t be disheartened when it doesn’t happen straight away. And when you’re ready to query your work, the main thing is to keep going. Rejections are your badge of honour, the more you get the more likely it becomes that someone will eventually say, Yes.

10. Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

In a crumbling and desperate city, a young woman must risk everything to fight back against a violent regime, led by her obsessive stepfather, the man who destroyed her father and claimed her mother for himself.

Social media contacts: @tenpennydreams (Twitter and Instagram)

Website: http://www.tenpennydreams.com/

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/the-disappeared/

Hopefully, some of you fine folk out there will be intrigued by Amy's book and will consider supporting it!