One month until Small Places is out!

It’s only one month until Small Places is out! It seems bizarre that I started writing it in late October of 2019, almost two years ago. I wanted to spend some time talking about some of the origins of Small Places. I think I’ve mentioned before that I was on holiday in the New Forest, reading Nevernight, and wanted to write something woodland-themed. I’m very interested in shamanic practitioning, and the human connection to nature, in all its beauty and savagery, so wanted to bring a little of that to the book as well.

I’ve always enjoyed walking in the woodland, and forests have always felt like magical places to me. The stained-glass window that Jamie and Mel see is very real, and very impressive – if you’re ever near the Forest of Dean, it’s well worth a trip!

After Parasites, I felt the need to try and plan something a bit “cleverer” – I really like the Lyran adventure, but it definitely feels a little open-ended sometimes. I wanted to do something more contained, with a tighter narrative arc. As any readers of Parasites will know, I’m a big fan of multiple universes and secret places, and taking this to a fantasy setting was something I’d already considered for another (on indefinite hiatus) novel, but in a slightly different way.

I’ve also always been a fan of the ‘appearances can be deceiving’ trope, so a lot of the horrifying creatures in Small Places are not quite what they seem, and vice versa. Similarly, ever since reading the wonderful Perdido Street Station (and The Scar, which I confess to liking a little more), playing Dishonored and Terraria, I’ve been keen to include aspects of steampunk, which I hope you’ll enjoy. There are undoubtedly influences from visiting the Natural History Museum in London – and the underground route to it from South Kensington Station – as well as various underground vaults in London, including Waterloo’s Vaults on Leake St and the now defunct-Shunt club in London Bridge.

Looking back at my notes from 2019, I still can’t quite figure out where Mel came from. As a child, I grew up with the Chronicles of Narnia, and my brain tells me that the closest analogue is a well-meaning witch in a BBC series called Simon and the Witch, both of which are a long way from Mel’s personality! She’s my wife’s favourite character in the book and potentially mine as well, and I’d be very interested in telling more of her story someday. 

Any book is a huge combination of inspirations and prompts, but I do hope that if you’ve got an advance copy, you’re enjoying the book – and if you read it next month, that you also enjoy it! I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please get in touch with any questions.

Augmented ‘reality’?

I’ve always had a fairly vivid imagination, and rarely have trouble imagining the scenes I’m writing, but sometimes I see something that inspires me – or just want to make it a little more real. 

When I don’t know that much about something I’m writing on, I’ll turn to the Internet or hands-on research, but if it’s about visualisation and style, then I tend to go a bit more left-field. So for example, I used these cards to help with certain parts of an underground city that I’m writing about for Small Places. I’ve been reading The Near Witch and playing the necromancer pack in Diablo 3 to get a feel for all things witchy. And this game gave me some surprise inspiration for a few locations. 

This isn’t something I did at all for Parasites – I wanted most of the plants and locations to be different to some of the common sci-fi tropes in literature and film. Oddly, the storm world came from a dream I had as a kid years ago, and Vega kind of grew by necessity. I really can’t remember where Carthusian, the vast cathedral ship, came from, but it’s one of my favourite locations in anything I’ve written. 

I basically cheated in Aenigma; it’s an alternate reality urban fantasy, so I could re-use real locations – with a few additions, obviously. Wild Court is similar, and the entire inspiration actually came from walking past Wild Court itself, which is a side street not far from Holborn in London, at a time when I had a fairly unpleasant job near there!

So I guess my inspiration is a real mish-mash of sources; hopefully the output is a little more orderly…