JRR Tolkien, of course. Writers from the Golden Age of science-fiction – Asimov, Zelazny, Bradbury, Blish – who inspired my love of the different and wonder-ful worlds. And Charles Palliser, who wrote a brilliant book called The Quincunx, to which The City owes a good deal.
Why did you start writing?
My husband, fantasy writer David Gemmell, always encouraged me to write, and I contributed research and then some written scenes to his later books, particularly the first two novels of the Troy trilogy. When Dave died in 2006 he was halfway through writing the third part, Fall of Kings, and his publishers Transworld asked me if I could complete it for him. Many people have suggested that this must have been hard work emotionally, but it wasn’t. On the contrary, during the six months it took me to finish Fall of Kings, the months immediately after Dave’s death, I felt closer to him than ever and I’m sure it helped me, in part, through the process of grieving.
Fall of Kings went well, I was relieved to learn, and Transworld then asked me if I was interested in writing a book of my own. I wasn’t at the time – perhaps I was too shell-shocked – but after a few years the writing urge came upon me and I started working on The City.
How do you get inspiration for your writing?
I believe memories of every book I’ve ever read, every movie or TV program I’ve ever seen, every place I’ve been to and person I’ve met are still swirling around, merging and dissolving, in the back of my subconscious. The creative process, for me, is just a matter of rediscovering these memories and putting them to work, although often in a very different guise. For instance, no one reading The City or The Immortal Throne would instantly think ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer!’ but that show had an enormous influence on my writing – the strong females, the humour (I hope), the conflicted villains and the unexpected plot swerves.
Do you plot everything out or create as you write, and why?
I create as I write. Sitting in front of a computer is the only place ideas come to me.
My husband used to say, ‘If I have no ideas, I start the book with a stranger riding out of the woods – or into the woods.’ When he beganWolf in Shadow he had been working on another book which was going nowhere, so he binned it. Without one idea in his head he sat down at his typewriter (yes, it was that long ago), rolled in a sheet of paper and wrote, ‘The rider paused at the crest of a wooded hill and gazed down over the wide rolling empty lands beneath him. There was no sign of Jerusalem.’ Those words on the page dictated the direction and tone of the whole book.
I can’t imagine plotting everything out first. I’m afraid I’d be sick of the book before I got halfway through writing it.
Which one of your characters would you most like to have dinner with?
I would say Archange, because she’s had the most extraordinary life, but I’m afraid I’d find her rather daunting and I’d get tongue-tied and not enjoy either the conversation or the dinner. So I’d have to say Stalker, because he’s much more approachable and fun and I’m sure he’d have lots of tall tales to tell.
Do you ever write real people into your stories? Why, or why not?
Not really – I find it more fun to make stuff up.
What advice would you give someone who says they want to be a writer?
Then write! No excuses! Most people can write a sentence, and if you can write a sentence then you can write a paragraph, a chapter. Getting words on paper, or on screen, is the only thing that matters. You can only get better by, as in all things, practicing.
If you mean a published writer, then having an honest critic or two on call is the ultimate blessing.
Do you have any advice for your fans?
Buy my books!