Born in north London, Colin worked for many years in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has been a novelist for the last twenty years, with his work published widely in the UK, US and Europe. His books have been sold in translation in Bulgaria, Brazil, Belgium, the Czech republic, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Korea, Macedonia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey. Also Iran, but they just steal it over there.
He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz. He also completed a nine hundred kilometre walk of the Camino in Spain.
He lived for many years near Margaret River in WA, helped raise two beautiful daughters with his late wife, Helen. While writing, he also worked for many years in the volunteer ambulance service. “I’d be at my desk typing, then thirty minutes later I’d be crawling into an overturned car."
So here are a few of Colin's favourite things....
Book as a child and as a teenager?
I started reading as a teenager. My favourite book? Catch-22. I was astonished that you could use language that way. James Bond. Hemingway. Portnoy’s Complaint. Graham Greene. The entire Pan Book of Horror Stories series. No discernment. Also no historical fiction. I HATED history. That love affair came later, after I divorced formal education.
Author/authors?Hilary Mantel - daylight second. I think her prose style is extraordinary and her technique flawless. God is a woman! I also love Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible. I read it at least once a year.
Period of history?
To write about? Don’t have one. But I wish I’d lived in Asia as a debauched white trader in the 1920’s. Maybe I did. I still love Asia, but it’s too sanitized now.
Character in one of your own books?
Phillip, in my most recent novel, “Stigmata.” I so admire his courage, his devotion to his young son, his sheer bloody minded determination, and his integrity as a man. He’s a good guy but with so many human flaws. I would have loved to have had a beer with him but of course I can’t, because he lived pre-beer and he’s not real. At least, not technically.
Scene you enjoyed writing?
Any scene between William of Augsburg, that damned hypocrite monk in “Silk Road”, and his translator and muscle, Josseran Sarrazini. God, they hated each other! But their scenes together always came out either funny or poignant. I could write a five page scene between those two in ten minutes any hour of the day or night.
Place to write?
Don’t care. Give me a laptop and access to emergency bourbon, I’m good to go.
Step in the process of writing? E.g. researching, drafting, editing etcI love the research if it means going somewhere murky. The book research - not to so much. But I’m absolutely diligent about it. I love editing my books. I get too anxious when I’m writing first drafts to really enjoy it. I sometimes hold my breath for five pages or more, don’t know why. Can’t be good for me.
Method of writing i.e. longhand or typing?
I can type with four fingers as quick as I can think, which I guess tells you something about how slow my synapses are.
TV program /movie?
Don’t watch much TV - Modern Family because of the relationships. Very funny.
Movies - The Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves, Empire of the Sun, The Last Emperor, Gladiator; the commercial historical epics, which is what I write and what I love.
Thanks so much for sharing, Colin. Best of luck with Stigmata!
1205AD: Philip of Vercy sails away from the roasting wasteland where he has passed the last year. As a Knight of the Realm, he has fought the infidel in the Holy Land. Now, after twelve months of savage, bloody warfare in the scorching sun, he is finally coming home to his castle, to peace, and to his beloved wife.
But France offers neither comfort or peace. His wife has died in childbirth, his young son is dying, and, in the south, his Cathar countrymen are being brutally persecuted. When Philip hears rumours of a healer in the Languedoc, a young woman blessed by God and marked with Christ's Stigmata, he rides out on a desperate quest to save his son.
His journey takes him into a vision of hell that outstrips even what he saw in Outremer. Disgusted by the senseless slaughter, Philip gradually becomes embroiled in the Cathar cause. And then he finds his miracle: Fabrisse Berenger, the daughter of Cathar parents. She is bewildered by her strange wounds, but Philip is fascinated by them...and more fascinated by the serene goodness of Fabrisse herself.
Together, their destiny will be decided in the snows of the Black Mountains where they must make choices not just to save their lives, but their souls.
You can buy Stigmata at Amazon UK. Colin blogs at Looking for Mr Good Story and will be appearing at the Ubud Writers Festival in Bali in October and the Belgrade Writers Festival in November.