What inspired you to write the Souls Series?

I’ve always been interested in any story that defies time and goes beyond the confines of a normal human lifespan: vampires, time travel, reincarnation... I love them all. The concept of souls bound together across millennia first came to me when a work colleague told me how she had been approached in a nightclub (in the 1990s) by a man who apologised for apparently abandoning her in the 1640s but, as he explained, he had been killed in battle before he could return. My colleague even said she recognised him. This gave me the idea for a story about a tragic couple meeting time and again throughout the ages, but always being kept apart. During a long walk on Skye, I began formulating some of the past life stories these doomed lovers might have had, and the first notion of how I might pull it all together into a book. I worked on the concept, on and off, for many years, until one day I was walking with friends (in the Scottish Borders this time) and started talking about my writing ideas. My friends liked the reincarnation story and, when I got home, I was seized with the determination to make it a reality. Over the rest of that weekend, I slept four hours, ate twice, and produced the first 25,000 words of what would become ‘Trinity of Souls’.

How many books will there be in the Souls Series?

My original plan was to write a trilogy, but when the draft of the second book, ‘Destiny of Souls’, hit 175,000 words and I was still only in the middle of the story, I knew there would have to be at least four. Later, a fourth and fifth book followed without me being anywhere near starting the original planned third instalment. To add to that, the fourth book spawned the sixth, and the fifth, like the second, will probably need to be made into two (the draft is almost 240,000 words).

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I currently envisage there being ten to twelve books in the Souls Series.

How many have you written so far?

As of December 2023, Trinity (book one) is ready for publication and I have completed drafts of books two to six. I’ve also written about half of what will be book eight or nine (I got a bit ahead of myself at one point, but I just went with the flow).

What else have you written?

Well, I’ve written or co-written almost twenty plain English tax guides, but that’s probably not what you mean. Over the years, I’ve written hundreds of poems and, more recently, I've written a few short stories. You can find some of these by following the links on the Writing Page, including one that's now decided it wants to be the first chapter of a novel instead (Reborn).

What about novels?

I’ve started many novels over the years, beginning with a spy story called ‘Justin Thyme’ when I was around ten or eleven. To date, ‘Trinity of Souls’ and the other books in the Souls Series are the only novels I’ve managed to finish, but I hope to return to some of my other ideas one day (probably not ‘Justin Thyme’ though!)

Which of your characters is most like you?

There’s a lot of me in Susan Carpenter. We both lost a well-loved, supportive parent at an early age (in my case it was my mother) and we have both been thrust into situations where we worried we were too inexperienced. I too have feared the embarrassment of failure standing in front of the giants of my profession whom I respect and admire, and I actually did once say, “I feel like a pub singer following the Rolling Stones.”

Ben Carlton isn’t much like the man I really am, he’s more the man I once thought I was supposed to be. As for Mortimer, he’s a lot of fun to write and a good way to indulge the darker side of my imagination. There are odd little shades of me in there, which I think some people might recognise, but, by and large, I’m glad to say we are very different!

Who is your favourite character?

She Wolf, without a doubt. She’s only just starting to take shape in Trinity, but she really comes into her own in some of the later books. She’s a warrior with wisdom, a woman of great honour with the courage to face her fears and fight for what she believes in. I love her.

But all of Susan’s incarnations have their admirable qualities. Sarah has a lovely sense of humour; Serwaah finds phenomenal inner strength; Sally hangs onto her dignity in the face of everything that’s thrown at her; Susan proves herself a worthier adversary than Mortimer ever bargained for; and Shebana is already questioning the very nature of our existence at an early age.

Who is your least favourite character?

Well, oddly, it isn’t Mortimer. He’s the sort of villain you love to hate. While he’s incredibly evil, completely without morality, he’s also polite, charming, and sophisticated. He will murder you with style!
It’s quite hard to hate anyone you create, but I’d have to say I can make an exception for Dicky Savage: I think he wins the ‘most hated character’ accolade.

How much of the books do you plan in advance?

I usually start with a beginning, a reasonable idea of the end, and some rough thoughts on what will happen in the middle: so I know where I’m starting, where I’m going, and have some idea of the route I will take. However, things do change during the writing process and I often find a character tells me they have more to contribute than I’d originally anticipated. A good example is Vixen, who you will meet in ‘Victory of Souls’ (book five). She starts out as what you might call a ‘bad girl’, but it turns out she has a fascinating back story and is far more than she initially appears to be.

Another thing that may happen is I like a character too much to kill them off. This has happened a few times, but I don’t want to put too many spoilers on here. On the other hand, sometimes I stick to my guns and a character has to go… no matter how much I love them. But, then again, the beauty of the way the Souls Series is structured is you can always visit a character again.

Do you actually believe in reincarnation?

I certainly think it’s a possibility and events like the one I described earlier (my colleague in the nightclub) give it some credence. But, for me, it’s more hope then belief. I hope we get more than one go at life; some of us need it!

Who would you like to come back as if you are reincarnated?

That’s a really difficult question. Even aside from whether reincarnation is real, we don’t know what the future holds for humanity. I suppose I’d like to try being a woman. That freaks some people out a bit when you say it, but I’m not talking about changing gender in this life: that’s fair enough for some people, but it’s not what I want. No, I mean I’d like to be a woman in another life. Maybe it will happen… who knows?

To be more specific, I guess I’d like to be someone like Serena, who you will meet in ‘Galaxy of Souls’ (book four). She’s dedicated to serving humanity and is one of the first people to travel to the stars. I’d like to be her… but I’m not brave enough!

What other authors have inspired you?

Top of the list has to be Stephen King. He’s a master storyteller with an incredible talent for creating fascinating characters. When I finish one of his books, I miss those characters like an old friend who’s no longer with us.

‘Justin Thyme’, who I mentioned earlier was, of course, inspired by Ian Fleming’s hero, James Bond. As a child, I leaped straight from Enid Blyton to Ian Fleming and devoured all the Bond books in a couple of years: the speed of my consumption limited only by how far my pocket money would stretch. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how much Fleming’s villains have inspired mine.

Wilbur Smith’s great African adventures are part of the inspiration behind some of the historical elements in the Souls Series: I think he covered everything from ancient Egypt to the present day. He doesn’t usually do it all in the same book though (‘The Sunbird’ being a notable exception).

In the science fiction arena, I’m a fan of Isaac Asimov, especially ‘I Robot’ and the ‘Foundation’ series, as well as Arthur C. Clarke, who blended science fact and fiction so well. Going further back, the concepts created by H.G. Wells have been a huge influence on many people, myself included.

And who hasn’t been inspired by Shakespeare? You may spot his influence when you get to Sammie and Bazza, around two thirds of the way through Trinity.

Finally, to add some humour and a twist of irony to it all, you can’t beat Douglas Adams. I’m a big fan of ‘The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and its sequels: not only is it comedy genius, it says so much about the absurdities of human nature!

Where else does your inspiration come from?

So many places, both in the world of entertainment and everyday life. I’ve been greatly inspired by film and television (even though I haven’t had a television for over seven years). ‘Game of Thrones’ was a great inspiration for me, as was Russell T. Davies’ writing for both ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Torchwood’: I think that man has made me cry more than anyone else I know.

Did you say you don’t have a television?

Yes, that’s right. I read somewhere recently that, if you want to be a writer, you have to find a way to free up a lot of time. That’s how I did it.

I’m not a complete hermit though, I do subscribe to a couple of streaming services, so I can watch films and the occasional TV series on my laptop. I love listening to radio and music too.

What are your favourite films?

They’re an eclectic mix. ‘Notting Hill’ is one of my favourites, it makes me laugh and cry in equal measure. At the other end of the spectrum, I think ‘Alien’ is one of the best films ever made, and ‘Aliens’ must be one of the best sequels. I’d add ‘Jaws’, ‘Die Hard’, and ‘Highlander’ to this list, as well as two of the best Stephen King adaptations, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘The Green Mile’: tremendous stories of injustice, hope, and the triumph of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable adversity. ‘Cloud Atlas’ is another more recent addition to my list, with a fabulous ensemble cast and stories spread across many centuries. I like anything with time travel and the first ‘Terminator’ film stands out as a story that completes a perfect circle. My partner prefers romance, but we found the perfect compromise in ‘The Lake House’, another great favourite. Naturally, on top of all this, there are the Bond films: I’ve been a fan since I was eight.

Then there’s comedy and satire such as ‘Life of Brian’ and the other Python films, ‘Time Bandits’, and ‘Doctor Strangelove’. I like comedy with a message.

But my number one slot goes to ‘Paul’, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s comedy science fiction film about an alien with attitude. It references some of my other favourites, and looking at humanity through the eyes of an alien tells us a great deal about ourselves.

Who do you admire in real life?

First and foremost, my partner, Linda. She’s caring, kind, honest, funny, supportive, patient… she’s my She Wolf. She’s my first test audience for the Souls Series and has shaped quite a few things in the books.

Beyond family and friends, my greatest heroes are musicians, particularly singer-songwriters. John Lennon stands out as the greatest of them all for me, but I also greatly admire the other Beatles, Freddie Mercury, Prince, Buddy Holly, and many others.

Your books span all human history: what is your favourite historical period?

That’s a difficult one, I don’t know if I have a favourite. I admire the bravery and fortitude of people in the Second World War: military and civilians alike. I think the 1960s were an incredible watershed between the world we knew before and the modern world that followed. Going further back, the Romans have always fascinated me, as well as ancient Egypt, Napoleonic times, the Vikings, the Tudors… I like all periods of history really. The beauty of the Souls Series is I can explore them all, as well as the mystery that is the future.

What about your favourite place?

That’s much easier to answer: Scotland. I’ve been in love with Scotland since I moved here in 1997 and it has inspired a great deal of the Souls Series, including where it all begins.

As a fan of time travel, who would you like to visit if you could go back in time?

As far as celebrities are concerned, the most interesting person to visit has to be Jesus Christ: meeting him would answer a lot of questions. John Lennon would be my next choice, then William Shakespeare (I could ask him for writing tips).

But the person I would most like to visit is my mum.

Why are there so many gay characters in your books?

Haha – good question! I’m not sure really: although I would argue they’re generally bisexual rather than gay. Many of my friends are gay, so that’s one possible reason. Also, as I mentioned before, Russell T. Davies was one of my inspirations: and he loves bringing in people of different sexualities.

There’s also the key point that, in the Souls Series, most souls can be reborn as either a man or a woman, so this would naturally lead to a lot of variety in people’s sexuality. Furthermore, many cultures took a very different view of sexuality in the past to the way we look at it today. And then there’s the theory that everyone is on a sexuality spectrum, somewhere between gay and straight.

Like I said, I don’t really know: I’m straight this time, maybe I was a lesbian in a former life?

Why do your characters often have names that begin with the same letter in each of their lives?

It’s more the sound than the letter: for example, Susan was once Charlotte and, in the future, she will be Cindy. There are two reasons why this happens.

Firstly, it’s because a strong soul has a strong identity which, in turn, means they gravitate towards a name that has the sound they identify with. This may be the name their parents give them, their last name, or a nickname they later adopt. For example, Ben was once William, but he was known as Billie.

The weaker the soul, however, the more varied their name may be, making them harder to identify.

The second reason for my naming alliteration convention is a practical one: it helps the reader identify which soul I’m writing about. But do beware, sometimes it’s a red herring!

How will it all end?

The Souls Series will end where it all began. That’s all I’m saying for now.