Vampire novels are all the rage now. Did this help to inspire you or did you imagine a different kind of vampire from the beginning?
I've been reading fantasy my entiire life, I've always had a thing for historical fiction; particularly the kind where the heroine or hero is running round with a couple of daggers and something very nasty is going on in the background. And I terrified myself for weeks as a small child with an adult vampire novel so I'm surprised I didn't write this sooner. But it took a while to nail the plot down.
Also, I wasn't even sure Tycho was a vampire when he swirled his way into my head, dressed entirely in black leather and velvet and carrying his daggers. All I knew was he lived for the dark, feared the moon and had lost his memories. And to be honest I'm still not sure he is. At least not in the pure Twilight sense.
What I wanted to do was a vampire ur-myth.
A story that explained how what we call vampires reached Europe, where they came from and what they were. That's the back ground to Tycho's personal story. He's the first vampire in Europe [there's a theory that says vamire's are mentioned in an 11th century Russian manuscript but it's probably a mistranslation.]
Obviously he doesn't know what he is; just as he doesn't know yet what is powers are, or that he can transfer them to other people. He's simply him and not at all happy about that. What he really is becomes clear later. Although there are clues in the first book.
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
It's one of those great what ifs, and most people joke that they'd rob a bank or empty the nearest jewellery store, or hangout unseen in the dressing room of some incredibly hot Hollywood star, or go see what their friends and family really say about them when they're not around...
But realistically, most people would probably panic.
I'd spend the entire first day worried I'd turned into a ghost, or was locked in some weird limbo where no one could see me or hear me and I would never escape. Around the time I became visible again I'm either be totally insane or getting used to it and ready to have some fun. At least that was my reasoning while making Tycho come to terms with his new powers. If weird powers came with an instrution manual that would be different. Then, I'd probably rob the bank, and become an unseen assassin.
You grew up in the Far East, Britain, and Scandinavia. Where did the idea to set a vampire novel set in Italy come from? Did you travel there a lot before you came up with the idea or afterwards to do research?
As a child I went to Venice a few times in high Summer. It was always hot, the sun blinding on the wide expanse of the Grand Canal, the water in the little canals behind the big buildings stinking and often green. Venice is old and fabulously beautiful, but there is also something creepy about it. A really disconcerting feeling that you're in one of the strangest places in the world.
And on a practical level you are. Canals instead of streets. No cars; an entire city that walks or takes boats. And so thick with history that something has happened on every slab of every square. But it's more than that And when the fog fills lagoon you can believe it's the only island in the world. The only city. That it is the world. As a child - a strange one, admittedly - I came up with the idea that the water of the lagoon stopped the ghosts in Venice from escaping. That was why it felt so odd. In Venice ghosts outnumber the living. And when you walk through the city you're walking not just through history but ghosts everywhere.
I went back in my teens, and was shocked by how dark and tortured Venetian art was. At least the pictures on show in churches and the Ducal palace. For ever beautiful, red-headed Titan nude there were three painting of men being tortured, murdered, exiled... I began to see where the ghosts came from.
The Fallen Blade is not a ghost story. But that sheer sense of strangeness was in my head when I began thinking about Tycho. And there seemed only one place I could set his story.
Obviously, reseaching the book was fantastic fun. So far I've made three trips in the last two years, walking the backstreets, using waterbuses to navigate from one part of the city to another. A lot of it was spent sitting in cafes with a notebook, thinking, 'Ah, so that's what Lady Giulietta looks like.' Or that house there is obviously where Lord Atilo lives. I'm now half way through the next part of Tycho's story, The Outcast Blade, so I'll be going back soon.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I'm always writing, sometimes in my head if I can't get to my laptop. Often on my iphone or the nearest scrap of paper. I still have a novel outline I wrote on a restaurant napkin because it was the only thing I could find to write on.
I work in cafes and bars and on trains, and occasionally on planes and in airports and public parks. I'm writing this in a cafe in West London while waiting for a friend. When not writing I'm reading, walking or riding my motorbike. Also drinking, arguing with friends or having sex (although I'm not sure if I'm allowed to say that.) The bikes a Triumph Bonneville that I've had made all black and I use it to belt round the backroads near my house in Winchester. There's a certain purity and sanity that comes from riding a motorbike, at least there is for me. It locks you into the moment. And you're really know you're in the zone when you feel the world stay still and the world flow around you. I always write better after riding. This is another reason I do it.
I suppose if I'm not writing, reading or riding then I'm probably travelling or cooking, which is something else that works for me. Food tends to play a large part in my books.
Do you have a favorite character?
I like all the characters, even the bad ones. But Lady Giulietta, red-haired and stroppy, a pawn in her families power games, the orginal medieval poor little rich girl who decides to fight back is right up there for me. And so, obviously enough, is Tycho. He's the most fun but also hardest to write because he's not quite human and I have to keep that in mind. There's a strangeness to how he sees the world. And I have to remind myself - and the readers - that how he sees the world is not how the rest of us see it, for all he's got human failing and emotions in the mix.
The other one I really like is Duchess Alexa. I think there's a lot more going on with her than anyone around her realises. How old is she? Why goes she always wear a veil? How come she looks so young? This is a woman who likes to watch the world through the eyes of a bat and poison her ememies. Yet is so devoted to her niece, Lady Giulietta, that she'll do anything for her. That's Alexa's weakness, of course.