Tonight I am delighted to welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks, author and all-round lovely chap, Graeme Cumming. Something tells me this is going to be an interesting evening!
Good evening, Graeme, thanks for joining me for drinks this evening. So tell me, what are we drinking?
If you’re going to ask me difficult questions like that, I’ll need to keep a clear head, so I’m contemplating a sparkling water. As you’ll see, I like living life on the edge…
Seriously, for a quiet night with easy conversation, I’ll go for a Scotch – and don’t go putting anything in it!.
I’m not quite sure what you are implying, but I can assure you my intentions, and the Scotch, are pure. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
I’m not much of a pub-goer unless it’s for a meal or to go and watch a live band. It’s tempting to suggest any pub with a band playing classic rock, but we wouldn’t get much chance for a chat. For that, although it may be a little out of our way, I’d suggest heading down to Waterstones in Piccadilly and stopping off at the 5th View Bar. A great, relaxing place to have a drink and unwind – as long as you can drag yourself past the books!
How did I not know this place existed, it sounds exactly like my kind of bar, although I’m not sure I could drag myself past the books, I have notoriously low will power in this area. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
I’m going to plump for Roger Moore. He’ll never be classed as a great actor, but I’ve yet to watch something he was in and not be entertained, and his heyday in TV and film does tend to coincide with my formative years. Plus, he’d have stories to tell, and I’d love to hear all that behind the scenes stuff. I never met him, but always got the impression he’d be good for a laugh and wouldn’t take things too seriously – and I’m sure he’d appreciate you using this picture of him above all others.
And, on the subject of not taking things too seriously, I reckon Dawn French would be great company. Again, I’m sure she’d have stories to tell, and she may have a serious side to her, but I suspect we’d have a good laugh.
I love Dawn French so much. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?
After a bit of a break from it, I’m currently working on (yet) another draft of a novel called Carrion. It’s one I originally started nearly fifteen years ago after writing nothing for several years. I started it because I realized it had been a long time since I’d last written anything, and I chose this particular story because I’d told a version of it to my kids at bedtimes. I say a version because it’s evolved into something you wouldn’t dare tell your children. The first draft took around six years to complete. Since then, I’ve rewritten it a few times, but never been quite happy with the result. The essential story hasn’t changed, but there are different ways to tell the same story. I think I may have cracked it this time, but I’ll let you know.If I have, it should be released by the end of the year.
Given how creepy your last book was, I can imagine that it isn’t really going to be a children’s bedtime story but I will look forward to reading it. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
For a lot of writers, the proudest moment comes when they see their book in print. Funnily enough, it didn’t really excite me. The eBook had been out for a while, and the release of a paperback was just another part of the process. I’ve never been particularly attached to books as objects – or any other objects for that matter. Forgive me for thinking aloud on this, but it has helped to get the cogs turning. I think it was the point when I realised my market was bigger than I expected, and that came about when Anne Williams at Being Anne reviewed it.
My biggest challenge is a recurring one. Whenever I start a new story, I struggle to motivate myself, and I procrastinate and look for distractions – isn’t the Internet great for that? Once I’m up and running with it, though, I tend to feel less inclined to be distracted.
I am a terrible procrastinator when it comes to my writing. I’m actually doing it right now by typing up this blog post! What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all.
Like a lot of people, I’d love books of mine to be turned into movies or TV series, though it says something about the state of literature that to be considered a success it needs converting to a different form. At a more down-to-earth level, I’ll be very happy if I can earn enough from my writing to live on – and I don’t need much.
What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?
Carrion. Even when I’ve got frustrated with it because I can’t find the right way to tell the story, I’ve always been convinced it’s a story that needs to be told. And I’m excited because I feel I’m on the right track with it now.
I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
I used to have great ambitions to go to lots of places but, as I’m getting older, I find I’m not so bothered, even though I’ve not managed to get to lots of the places I should have done. I’m more interested in the things I can do when I get there, particularly if there’s an opportunity to sail. My preference is to sail dinghies, but my favourite holiday was taking a sailing course in the Canaries, where we lived on the boat for a week.
The top of my bucket list would be to go sailing again, though there are a range of places I can go for that, and it all looks the same once you’ve slipped your moorings and headed out to sea.
Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.
I have two children. Apparently that came as a surprise to someone recently. Not sure what that says about me…
That might be the funniest answer to this question I’ve had so far and I’m now wondering what they know about you that we don’t! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
Shibumi by Trevanian. I don’t tend to read books more than once, but there are a handful I go back to occasionally. This is one of them. It’s probably a bit dated now – it was written in the 1970s – but it’s brilliant in my view. It tells the story of an assassin – his life and a specific situation he finds himself in when he’s dragged out of retirement. Some aspects of it are tongue-in-cheek, but it still stands up as a terrific thriller. If you like the idea of kicking dints in Volvos, you’ll love it!
Half German, half Russian, Hel was raised by a Japanese general and survived Hiroshima to become a mystic, a master of the senses, and the most deadly assassin in the world.
Nicholai has left his past behind him to live a life of isolation in a remote mountain fortress, determined to attain a state of effortless perfection known as shibumi. Then Hannah Stern arrives at his door.
Hannah needs protection from a sinister organization known as the Mother Company. But, as Hel knows all too well, they are not easy to escape. And now they’re coming after him too. The battle lines are drawn: ruthless power and corruption on one side, and on the other…shibumi.
Since I drive a Volvo, I’d rather we didn’t encourage that type of behaviour but this sounds like a different book to my usual fare so I’ll add it to the pile. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
For me, the best way to avoid a hangover is to not drink all evening. But if I’m going to drink, I tend to pace it and have the occasional glass of water to break things up a bit.
And if I do get a hangover, there isn’t really a cure that works. I just spend all the next day moaning about how bad I feel.
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
Assuming I haven’t got a hangover, then my preference is for an active weekend. I often sail at weekends between March and October, and getting out on the water and feeling the wind is a great way to remind yourself you’re alive. If time permits, going for a good walk or bike ride helps to blow the cobwebs away, though I’m quite happy to have some quiet time reading, and maybe a catch a movie at the cinema. (Though I might be being a little ambitious trying to do all of those things!)
Busy weekend, I hope it stays dry! Graeme, this has been a blast, thank you so much for joining me and best of luck with the writing.
As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.
“You know what they are, don’t you?”
A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family, in particular, it’s more than a coincidence, but unease increases following a brutal attack. As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences.
And only a select few know why the ravens are gathering.
Graeme Cumming has spent most of his life immersed in fiction – books, TV and movies – turning to writing his own stories during his early teens.
He first realised he genuinely had some talent when he submitted a story to his English teacher, Christine Tubb, who raved about it. The same story was published in the school magazine and spawned a series that was met with enthusiasm by readers. Christine was subsequently overheard saying that if Graeme wasn’t a published author by the time he was 25, she’d eat her hat. Sadly, she probably spent the next 25 years buying her groceries exclusively from milliners. (Even more sadly, having left school with no clear direction in life, Graeme made no effort to keep in touch with any teachers, so has lost track of this source of great support and encouragement.)
Having allowed himself to be distracted (in no particular order) by girls, alcohol and rock concerts, Graeme spent little of his late teens and twenties writing. A year-long burst of activity produced a first draft of a futuristic thriller, Beyond Salvage, which has since lain dormant, waiting for a significant edit.
With the onset of family life, opportunities to write became more limited (though it could be argued that he got his priorities wrong), until he reached his early forties, when he realised he hadn’t written anything for several years. Deciding to become more focused, since then he has written regularly.
With his interests in story-telling sparked by an excessive amount of time sitting in front of a black and white television, his tastes are varied. Influences ranged from the Irwin Allen shows (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, etc.) to ITC series (The Saint, The Champions, Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) and so many more), so the common theme was action and adventure, but crossed into territories including horror, fantasy and science fiction as well as crime and espionage.
This diverse interest in fiction continued with reading books and his discovery of the magical world of cinema. As a result, his stories don’t always fall into a specific genre, but are always written as thrillers.
Graeme’s first novel, Ravens Gathering, was published in 2012, and has been warmly received.
When not writing, Graeme is an enthusiastic sailor (and, by default, swimmer), and enjoys off-road cycling and walking. He is currently Education Director at Sheffield Speakers Club, although he lives in Robin Hood country. Oh yes, and he reads (a lot) and still loves the cinema.
If you would like to find out more about Graeme and his books, connect with him on social media: