What's the greatest influence on your writing?
Name your favourite literary hero and villain.
I love Conrad's Marlow in any of the books he's in. My favourite, or at least most terrifying villain, must be the Judge in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Beyond good and evil. Or for a rather more loveable villain: Mr Toad.
What is your philosophy for life?
My grandfather's philosophy of life was, "Never go anywhere for the first time." Mine's the exact opposite.
How many brothers and sisters do you have? Is anyone else in your family a writer?
I've got three older sisters. My father once published a book on the Anglican doctrine of baptismal regeneration. It wasn't a huge seller. He doesn't approve of Attila, but I suspect he's just jealous.
Did you enjoy school? What is your most vivid memory of your school years?
Loathed it! Most vivid memory: probably breaking into the Masters' Common Room via the roof, and getting drunk on their British sherry. (Quite disgusting stuff, actually.) We were caught, beaten and suspended. Shame we weren't expelled.
Did you always want to be an author? If not, what did you originally want to be and when and why did you change your mind?
Yes, always. I've tried other things along the way, out of financial necessity, but I was rubbish at all of them.
Who do you most admire and why?
Pope Benedict IX, for becoming Pope at 12, hosting some magnificent orgies in the Lateran Palace, and then selling the job on to his godfather, Gregory VI, when he got bored.
What jobs did you have before you started writing?
The usual embarrassing roster: Mr Whippy Ice Cream van driver was probably the worst. Certainly the stickiest.
Tell us about your best or worst holiday experience.
My best holiday ever was spent house-building for the Lenca Indians up in the highlands of Honduras. Loved it.
My worst: well, I was quite cross at having my umbrella stolen by a transvestite belly dancer in a nightclub in Istanbul back in October 1998.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
Perhaps being arrested for indecent exposure. But I was 16 at the time, brimful of Wadworths 6X, and we were only mooning at passing cars along the A46 in Gloucestershire. Unfortunately the last car we mooned at was a cop car. Oops . . .
What is a typical writing day?
Wake up to Radio 3. Cup of tea. 8.30, start writing. 8.35, decide I need to check my emails. 9am, return to writing. 9.05, think of something I need to buy on Amazon. 9.30, stare out at the cows for a bit. 9.35, return to writing. 9.40, wonder what today's page of ********.com looks like (this item censored).
The days just fly by.
"I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go past" – Douglas Adams.
What do you do when you are not writing? How do you relax? What are your hobbies?
Playing my mandolin very badly; cross-country running; chopping logs; the local pub quiz team (sorry); watching Zulu for the fiftieth time; whisky.
Have you started your next book? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Attila III is, of course, the Final Conflict. Doomsday. Apocalypse. The World That Was Lost and Won. At the head of his vast army of horse-warriors, Attila finally turns on the Empire: first Constantinople, and then the ultimate prize: Rome. Does he win? Does Rome lose? Yes and no. Like I say, Aetius, the Last of the Romans, fought for the World That Was Lost and Won. Yes, I've started it, in fact I can't really think about anything else at the moment, and yes, it's pretty exciting. I hope my readers think the same.
What single thing might people be surprised to learn about you?
I was Sexual Advice Columnist for Time Out magazine for a year. Eventually sacked for giving advice that was "unhelpful, and often offensive".
Anything else you'd like to add?
The long weekend I once spent in Vienna with Brian Sewell, the celebrated art critic, was purely for journalistic reasons.
Compliments of Orion Publishing Group, UK