Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
We mostly write under the name Maynard Sims (previously L H Maynard & M P N Sims) because there are two of us. Len Maynard was born in 1953 and Mick Sims was born in 1952. So we are both now officially pensioners in the UK.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Len Maynard was born in Enfield, Middlesex in 1953 and Mick Sims was born in New Cross, South London in 1952. We both now live in Hertfordshire, about 25 miles apart.
Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e. your education, family life, etc.).
Len Maynard has been married twice but isn’t married to anyone right now. He remains a romantic. He has a son, Iain, who has done artwork for our books over the years. Lilybet is his adored granddaughter. He left school (Ambrose Fleming in Enfield) without any qualifications. He then became a lapidary and worked at that skilled profession for over 43 years before taking early retirement. Outside writing he enjoys music, listening and playing, reading and food and tea.
Mick Sims has been married twice but has managed to hold onto the last one and last year celebrated 30 years together with Clare. He has a daughter, Emily, who graduated from university last year. Macie is his wonderful granddaughter and he sees her almost daily. He left school (where he met Len aged 11) with A levels and went to work for a bank where he survived 40 years one month and two days before taking early retirement. Outside writing he enjoys reading, and gardening.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
All the news and information from our 40+ years of writing together is at our website www.maynard-sims.com
Len has completed books 4 and 5 in the Jack Callum series of period crime dramas. www.jackcallum.co.uk The first three books were published by Joffe Books.
Mick is putting the finishing touches to a ghost story collection which will be a limited edition hardcover featuring a good number of new stories and a few reprints.
The Bahamas trilogy of thrillers was published from WorldCastle Publishing – Touching The Sun, Calling Down The Lightning, and Raging Against The Storm.
The 7 supernatural books that were published through Samhain have been signed with a great publisher and we await their publication. We have seen some of the covers and they are wonderful. These are the Department 18 books – The Eighth Witch, A Plague Of Echoes and Mother Of Demons – and the standalones – Nightmare City, Stronghold, Stillwater and Convalescence.
The same publishers are bringing out a new Department 18 novel – Tashkai Kiss.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Our first short story was in the early 70’s. Len wrote it and showed it to Mick in the George pub in Enfield. Mick wrote one in return and off we went. Our first professional sale was 1976, followed by our first collection of ghost stories in 1979.
That has been followed by a further nine collections, numerous novellas, a few screenplays, 23 novels, as well as over 30 edited works, including some as publishers, essays, reviews, all kinds of things.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Never really. We have never been able to make a living from it but we have had pretty much everything we have written published. Success as a writer(s) has been publishers’ acceptance, readers praise, agents approaching us, award nominations, positive reviews, and requests for interviews, commissions, and requests for advice.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
We grew up with Pan Horror and a few early stories were similar in feel. We used to visit the market stall in Enfield Town every Saturday and buy up every book we could find that was vaguely genre. Then retire to the Crown and Horseshoes and pore over the day’s catch. It was discovering what are known as traditional English ghost stories – M R James and the like – that inspired Shadows At Midnight – our first book.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Ghost stories have a particular feel and the title needed to reflect that and be tasteful and a little enigmatic. The publishers liked it as well which always helps.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
We have developed a Maynard Sims style over the years since we began to write together. Initially Len was more plot and action, and Mick added flowery bits. We have developed a style that is a joint one now. Having said that, the latest ghost story collection is Mick only, some from Len’s ideas, and the Jack Callum novels are Len, bar the odd scene.
Writing in different genres – as we do – the style of each book is modified appropriately. The Jack Callum crime series is set in the 50’s and 60’s so the language and pace reflect that. The Bahamas series of thrillers have to be faster paced and up to date. The romance books – written under a pseudonym – have to be within that genre and have plots and characters that the readers require. The Department 18 books of supernatural investigations are written in one style while each standalone supernatural novel has its own voice depending on the story. When it comes to the ghost stories they very much have their own style.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
In each book, even the supernatural ones, are scenes and characters from real life. In particular the ghost stories are often based on events that have happened to us. It helps become emotionally attached to the characters if what is happening to them is personal.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Both of us have travelled through the years and so we draw on places we have visited when we write. Research doesn’t stretch to visits pre-writing – a shame with the Bahamas!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
With the series we have edited (and some we published) such as Darkness Rising and Enigmatic Tales, we have commissioned the artists and designed the covers ourselves – although Darkness Rising covers were designed by Prime Books. Our various publishers have always designed the covers and asked our approval but they are the professionals. We have supplied artwork where we thought it fitted (Stillwater, The Eighth Witch, are two examples). The Maynard Sims Library – the eight volume set of all our supernatural stories and novellas up to 2014 – were designed by Iain Maynard.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are lots of themes we explore in most of our books but no great message to deliver. We write for entertainment.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Favourite authors tend to be old favourites from over the years. Jack Higgins, Ed McBain. Current reading tends to be either non-fiction as research – 50/60’ for the crime series, or psychological thrillers, crime novels.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
We had great support from Don D’Auria who was senior editor at Dorchester Publishing who brought out our first supernatural novel under the Leisure imprint and who later moved to Samhain and took us with him. He was a wonderful supporter of our writing. Mick had the pleasure of meeting him in Chicago where the novel that was pitched became our first book with him. We both then met him in Toronto at another writing convention. Great bloke.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Regrettably not one that can support us financially. But as a pleasure and a desire that drives us then writing is as much a passion as any job we ever had. It is enjoyable and demanding at the same time. We are very professional with our writing and although we wish we had been more successful commercially but we love every minute.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
There are always things about a book that when it is finished and it is too late you think I wish I had done that. It gets less through the years. It is hard to translate what is in your head to what comes out on the page. Each book is read about ten times before it goes out and whoever writes it out of us has the other to critique it objectively.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Only that some books take longer than others to write. We think we have got better with age, and the process is certainly easier and less painful.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
There are so many books that it is impossible to say. With the Department 18 screenplay that won the British Horror Film Festival Award the lead character – a constant in the novels – is a Hugh Jackman type. So just like either of us really – not!
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Read. Write. Persevere. Get an agent if you can (we never managed to hold onto one). Read more. Practice. Try different genres unless you know 100% only one is for you. Talk to other writers but plough your own furrow. Go to conventions. Join societies. Don’t be swayed by what others say. They are not you. Trust your instinct.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Our website strapline is Buy Our Books. Read Our Books. Love Our Books. But really it is – try us. We write in lots of different genres and styles so try one you like. Make contact – we are always happy to chat online with readers.
We are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest – as well as at our website.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Mick – My Soul To Take by Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Len – some non-fiction about the 60’s.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Len – for pleasure it was Pan Horror issue 2 I think. At school there were lots we were made to read and, looking back, there were some beauties – John Wyndham for example. Mick – Stories To Be Read After Midnight ‘edited’ by Alfred Hitchcock is the first I can remember buying to read. At school there were loads such as 1984, Brave New World, Shakespeare, Chaucer, poetry… English was my favourite subject by far.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Mick – I can laugh out loud at my funny granddaughter and cry at the drop of a hat or a sad movies / advert / meal. Len – family and the absurdity of life in general can make me cry and laugh in the same minute.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Aside from family members who have died there are so many important historical figures that people from the past that it is impossible to narrow it down. Len would enjoy meeting some old rockers and theatrical figures from stage and screen.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Len – playing guitar, reading, planning how to become a millionaire. Mick – reading, gardening, walking the dog, looking after granddaughter, realising my chances of being a millionaire are getting more remote.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Mick – I enjoyed The Affair although it has gone on too long. Series one of Designated Survivor but series two is getting samey. A few US comedy series such as Big Bang, and the occasional UK comedy such as Not Going Out. I like crime dramas but prefer UK ones such as Broadchurch and Line Of Duty.
Len – box sets of a variety of shows. I love the US dramas. Dr Who. Old black and white movies.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Len – you can’t beat Pizza Express with a cup of tea. Music is a broad mix that basically revolves around rock.
Mick – most foods, most colours, and music is Soft Machine.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Get bored very easily. There is no pleasure in reading if you realise you can never do it yourself. Gardening is nice but doesn’t feed the soul in the same way. Family is great – and far more important than writing of course in the grand scheme of things – but writing is escapism.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Len – leave the light on. Or – good bloke, son, brother, dad and granddad.
Mick – an you hear me? Or – son, husband, dad, granddad, he was all right.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Everything is accessible via our website at www.maynard-sims.com We will love to hear from you. There are excerpts, buying links, history, all sorts of fun and frolics.