Where are you from?
I was born in South west London, and lived in the inner London area of Hammersmith for many years. After some years in Birmingham I am now living in South west London again.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I grew up in South London and also in Kent and Sussex and had a very disruptive childhood, which explains why I got so into reading and then writing. I studied Modern Languages (French and Spanish) and taught English in Greece for a while.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My novel “Sea of Stone” is now available on Kindle. It’s a sequel to my 2001 novel “Dead Ground.” There’s also a short called “Desk Job” also on Kindle.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I first started writing at school, writing poems and also knock-off thriller writing and fanfic based on TV series of the day. Then when I was staying with my aunt and uncle during the school holidays I discovered the Science Fiction section of the local library. It was a mind-opener.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I started to get stories published, in my late 20s.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The first one that was actually published? A member of my writers’ group told us about a call for a series of ‘puzzle’ novels. This didn’t come to anything but it did inspire me to take what was originally a peculiar pirate novel and turn it into “Sea of Stone” as we have it now. Plus I’ve always been fascinated by out of the way places, islands, edges of the world. I’ve discovered one that I may even retire to (whenever that is).
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t think I can answer that for myself. I do tend to a bit of a fragmented style using unusual words and odd punctuation, sometimes.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For the new one? “Sea of Stone” is descriptive in a way. “Dead Ground” is the areas of terrain you can’t see. “Desk Job” is a phrase that comes up at the start. “Dreams in the Damp-House” is a reference to good old HP Lovecraft.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think everything I write is about the importance of Place – rather than community as such – and the way the strange and unexpected can crop up in all sorts of unlikely situations.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The Island tales (Dead Ground and Sea of Stone) aren’t at all, they’re supposed to be adventures. However the ongoing “Walking on the Bones” which is on its third version now is a homage to Hammersmith and set mostly in a few streets in that part of London – which is why I don’t feel I can change the setting to anywhere else I’ve lived such as south Birmingham and SW London, and there are people and places in it I’ve experienced. Occasionally real-life characters get walk-on parts. Sometimes I have to distance my characters from people I’ve met since.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I sometimes say the book that most influenced me was Robert Rankin’s “The Antipope” – not so much because of the book itself, but because I found a copy in a second-hand shop, discovered that Rankin was writer in residence at an arts centre near me, went to events he ran there and met people that I’m still friends with, decades later and who’ve influenced my life.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t really have one, there are several. I like Bizarro fiction though because it seems to do what fiction is supposed to do, i.e. not be real. It’s what happened with painting at the end of the 19th century – now that photography existed, painters became less concerned with what things were and more with what thiey were like. Imagination took control.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
PoW-WoW – the Prince of Wales Writers on Writing group, which met at the Prince of Wales pub in Moseley, Birmingham every week. If I can have two, the 3SF writers group which met in London during the 1990s and 2000s and without which “Dead Ground” wouldn’t have been published.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not for me, I suspect. It is for some people but I suspect in this day and age going pro would be harder than before.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’d bring it up to date. Written in 2003-4, there is email but no social media. Nowadays there would be. The first one (“Dead Ground”) I would update the way the characters talk. Depicting dialect can be misconstrued. Harry Stephen Keeler (a fave of mine), who was all for racial harmony, gets called a racist for depicting the speech of non-white people accurately.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think because I didn’t like sports at school. Also I though the stories in the books I read and films I saw were stupid and I could see how I’d like to change them.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I don’t really have a work in progress because I’m between projects but this is from “Dreams in the Damp House” (which may or may not become a proper novel) These extracts are from the scenes introducing the two main characters.
Sunday night on the western approaches. Zack watched the sky darken before he reached out and switched on a lamp. For a moment he thought he saw something move in the shadows, something small and slick and fast. He recoiled. A mouse? But it was long gone, down along the long wall that separated his flat from the top-floor stair landing. He settled back into the armchair and let the music wash over him. Eyes nearly closed he could see odd shapes in the indigo near-dark between the grey of shifting clouds. A pattern of lights was a descending aeroplane heading for Heathrow. A sudden spat of light against the window announced the coming of rain. Soon the clear display of lights was crazed and the rain came down, teeming down the sheer face of the glass from high up, until the outside world was dark and enclosed Zack and his tiny safe space in its dark hand, whether malign or benign, he could hardly say.
The box was perhaps three feet long, a foot high and a foot wide. Talitha fingertipped some of the dust away to reveal the lettering: V PYNEGAR.
Pynegar, she thought. The name rang the faintest of bells. Some old boy, old lady, who had lived here. She knew nothing about the former inhabitants; the previous house had apparently been derelict for years and condemned.
She reached for the tongue of the lock and pushed it up, expecting spiders if nothing else. The hinges creaked.
But inside, although she prepared herself for seething multi-legged horror, there was nothing horrific to be seen. Just a series of packets, dusty brown-grey card. She picked one up. Packets that were soft and musty to the touch, it was true, and something had indeed crawled and died unidentified in the bottom of the box but she could ignore that now that she had all the packets in her manicured hands and she was turning away from the place of wetness and insectile death and bundled that dampness to her bosom despite its damp and her clean pullover and clutched it and somewhere in the back of her mind the name PYNEGAR did indeed ring a vague bell. She looked around the shed one last time, but there was nothing more than a bunch of dusty chairs and rusty tools.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Plot. My last NaNoWriMo novel didn’t have one. It was just a rant. And there were dogs. A rant with dogs. I used to write poetry and I’m still more concerned with atmosphere than plot and the rest of it. Also I tend to vague words such as adverbs and ‘seem’ like ‘it seemed to …’ No, it didn’t seem to be (whatever), it was! I also have a nasty habit of using untranslated foreign languages especially Spanish. Just because Cormac MacCarthy does that, doesn’t mean I should.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Only internally. Imaginary landscapes. Although I do write about places I’ve been to. My previous NaNoWriMo novel, the one with the extracts above was partly set in southwest London but also in Lyon. A lovely city.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Keeping going. Sustaining the interest. I suspect my natural distance may be 10,000 to 20,000 words.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I’m not sure. I must have learned something but can’t say yet..
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
I’d like David Tennant to play John Sartis in “Walking on the Bones” but that isn’t actually as I imagine him, if that makes sense. Also Sartis Is Not The Doctor (although he may think he is!). For Talitha in “Dreams in the Damp-House” – I picture her as looking much like Audrey Tautou.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write what you want to write. Look for anthology markets that you can fit what you write into. Then write more of what you want to write.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
It’s all in the books!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The last book I read was “Guernica” by Dave Boling.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Probably one of the ‘Janet and John’ books or the Ladybird books.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Dogs make me laugh – in a nice way. Places and people I’ve left behind make me cry. There’s a London blogger who sometimes posts sunset pictures from the window of her flat. I used to live in the same block and had the same sunset view. Not any more.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
My Dad (who passed away in 2004).
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
‘Chris Amies – Deceased’. Because it better be true.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I like painting – I took it up a couple of years ago and enjoy it. Also running – I do parkrun (weekly public 5km runs) whenever I can.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch much TV. Quiz shows mostly. I start off watching SF and horror films but they usually don’t sustain my interest. Recently I saw “Slacker” (not “Slackers”, that’s a different film) and it fascinated me – I think it was the setting, the way it’s a portrait of Austin, TX at the end of the 1980s.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I like Indian food partly because the choice of vegetarian food is so tasty. The problem with vegetarian food in the West isn’t the food, it’s the vegetarians (I think it was Jeremy Hardy said that). My favourite colours are dark orange, mustard yellow, deep purple, crimson.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’d like to have got involved with music. Although I have plenty of musical friends I’m not a musician.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
The Solitary Reviewer – at http://chramies.typepad.com/
My Amazon page is https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B0034Q27NU – however this only shows my pubs book on it so far! I’ve added the other titles and they should appear ‘within 5 days’.
My website is http://chramies.typepad.com/
The two new titles are: