The #1 profile – Philip Caveney

He’s got a lot happening. Philip Caveney won the Oldham book award for his first cinema book – Night on Terror Island – set in Stockport. That was a few weeks ago. Shortly before this Philip had launched his latest book – Crow Boy – set in Edinburgh.

Philip Caveney

And now that he finds himself on the Bookwitch best of 2012 list with Spy Another Day, there can be no better start for the new feature on this blog than to find out some odd bits and pieces about local boy Philip. Faster and quirkier than a regular interview, this is where I let authors loose on their own.

Over to Philip Caveney:

How many books did you write before the one that was your first published book?

My first published book, The Sins of Rachel Ellis (1977), was my third serious attempt at a novel. But before that, from my teens onwards, I had written scores of short stories, most of which will never see the light of day.

Best place for inspiration?

Train journeys can be good for ideas. There’s something about staring out of the window across empty fields that gets my mind ticking. But ideas can come to you just about anywhere…

Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?

I have already published three teen romance novels under a female pseudonym… unfortunately, I signed a contract that prevents me from revealing the name. But the ‘lady’ even got fan letters from young female readers!

What would you never write about?

Umm… I’d write about anything if I genuinely believed I wasn’t being gratuitous.

Through your writing: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?

I met my German translator at an event in Glasgow once. That was certainly unexpected. And I ended up in Portugal at a medieval festival watching a performance of Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools. I even had to get up, dressed in period clothing and talk to a huge crowd of people, none of whom could speak any English. Doesn’t come much stranger than that.

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

A lot of people have suggested that I AM Max the buffalope, from the Sebastian Darke books, because of my proclivity for gloominess. But I’d probably most like to be Mr Lazarus, from the Movie Maniac books, a man who seems to live forever and can leave all his infirmities locked up in a reel of film.

Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?

Good, in that it would raise my profile and bolster my bank balance. Bad, because in all probability, they’d make a dog’s dinner of it. They generally do.

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?

How long it took me to ‘make all those books on the table.’ Youngsters don’t always have an accurate idea of how publishing works. They think of it as a kind of cottage industry. It’s more of a collaboration.

Do you have any unexpected skills?

Loads! I can sing, play the drums and I qualified as a graphic designer.

The Famous Five or Narnia?

Oh dear. I have to admit to never having read a single Famous Five book. Just wasn’t my kind of thing. As for Narnia, I liked the first two books, but thought they started to get a bit tedious after that. I gave up somewhere in the middle of The Horse and His Boy. Yes, I know. Sacrilege.

Who is your most favourite Swede?

Can I have four? Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Frida. It would seem churlish to separate them.

How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?

There’s a room full of Billys in our apartment, a mixture of my books and Susan’s books, just crammed in to the available space. One of these days, we’re going to put them in some kind of order (or so we keep saying). Then there’s a special red bookcase that has only books that I’ve published. When you add in translations, that’s quite a bit of acreage. Having no more room for physical tomes, we now arrange our latest purchases (very neatly) on her kindle and my iPad. It works.

Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?

Well, one of mine, obviously (we authors are shameless self-publicists) but failing that, I’d go for Ray Bradbury’s classic fantasy novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s the book that made me want to be a writer and even after all these years, it still delivers.

If you have to choose between reading or writing, which would it be?

Writing, I guess, but it has to be said that all writers should read and that without reading, I doubt that anyone would ever become a writer. I’m always appalled when I meet would-be writers who say they don’t read because they don’t want to be influenced. How arrogant is that? As writers we begin by imitating the best. Eventually we find a voice of our own. Then look out!

I’m surprised he didn’t pick Max von Sydow as his favourite Swede, but what do I know? And Philip has written romances!!! We didn’t know that.


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