When will your next book be released?

The fastest and most reliable way to find out a books release date is to look it up on one of the big online bookstores. That's where I look to find out when my books are coming out!

Which order should I read your books in?

Check out my handy Reading Order guide.

Will there be more books set in the world of the Black Magician Trilogy?

Maybe. I do have some ideas for a story set around twenty years after events in the Traitor Spy Trilogy, but not yet enough for a trilogy.

What inspired the Black Magician Trilogy?

A late night news report about preparations for the Barcelona Olympics inspired the first chapter of The Magicians’ Guild story. The report claimed the city authorities had sent trucks around the city, into which all the homeless were loaded and then taken them to other cities. That night I dreamed that I was one among hundreds of people being driven out of a city… by magicians. We started throwing stones and instead I threw magic. I woke up and wrote down the dream, sure that in the morning I’d read it and laugh (most dreams make for bad stories). Instead I saw it had potential. Later it fit with a society I’d imagined where magic was latent and required expert tuition, so the teaching of it became a privilege only available to the rich.

Did you base the Black Magician Trilogy on an era or culture of this world?

Not really. I’ve found that some people think the Black Magician Trilogy is ‘medieval’ (as in European Medieval) simply because it’s fantasy. I deliberately set it in a more technically advanced era. Sonea’s world lies somewhere between late Medieval and Victorian times, with the development of technology skewed by magic: the lack of warfare for a few hundred years and the presence of powerful sorcerers meant nobody had a strong motivation to create guns and cannons. A rich intellectual elite control knowledge, so printing presses have been invented. For the architecture, food and furniture I took inspiration from Japanese culture. The Sachakan culture is vaguely inspired by classical Rome – as an empire that has faded but, in this case, magic was able to sustain a form of slavery.

Was the Black Magician Trilogy influenced by Harry Potter books?

Occasionally someone who hasn’t done their research asks me this. The Black Magician Trilogy first draft was completely written by 1996. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published in 1997. I didn’t read HP1 until my agent raved about it – in 2000, which was about the time the books started to gain widespread popularity. I loved them. JK Rowling has done all writers a great favour by encouraging a whole new generation to read – which can only be a good thing for both them, and all other writers.


This can be read only after reading The Novice

Spoiler Questions and Answers

This can be read only after reading The High Lord

Spoiler Questions and Answers

What inspired the Age of the Five trilogy?

I have to dig a long way back into my memories to answer this one, as the original story was sketched out when I was about 14 or 15. The most obvious source of inspiration was classical era mythology. I tried to imagine what it would be like to live in a world where gods were real, had bad tempers and interfered in human affairs – usually to human detriment. At the same time I was inspired by science, especially biology. I tried to imagine what a mermaid would really look like, or if it really was possible for a horse to have wings. Not all of these imaginings have ended up in the trilogy, but I’ve tried to incorporate magic into the ecosystem as if it was just another force upon which animals and plants — and humans — could call upon for survival.

Will there be more books set in the Age of the Five trilogy?

I don’t have any plans to write a sequel, for two reasons: unlike with the Kyralia world no ideas have developed in my mind since I finished it, and the way I ended that story (in the epilogue) allows the reader to make up their own mind what the future might be like. If I write a sequel, I will have to choose one of the options. But fan suggestions that I write a prequel about the Age of the Many do appeal. Perhaps one day…

My parents have heard that there is sex in the Age of the Five trilogy. Is this true?

Yes, it is true. I was aiming for an older audience with this series. There isn’t a lot of sex, however, and it’s not particularly explicit. Tell your parents to find a copy of Priestess of the White in a bookstore or library and read the first half of chapter 20 – just a few pages. If they feel that scene is too ‘adult’ for you, then you had best wait until you’re a little older before reading the trilogy.

Are any characters based on yourself?

No. In many ways Sonea is what I’d like to be. She’s smarter and stronger. Never assume that a character’s story reflects the author’s life or that their opinions are the author’s. Even if the author has put bits of themself in, you can’t be sure which bits they are. And why would you assume the hero/heroine is based on the author when you wouldn’t assume the bad guy/gal is?

Are any characters based on people you know?

No. I use character types but not specific people. Characters need to be free to change and evolve, so the chances are if I based them on someone I knew they soon wouldn’t be them any more. The closest I’ve come was using a friend’s name, but that character unexpectedly turned evil and I vowed never to use a friend’s name again!

How are the names/landmarks pronounced?

I really don’t mind how other people pronounce the characters’ names. Every person who reads the books automatically decides how the names sound as they read them, and correcting that would only change their experience of the book.

Why all the invented words for animals, etc.? Why not call a cow a cow?

Because it’s not a cow. It’s an animal that fills the same ecological niche as a cow. Naturally, humans are going to domesticate animals that are useful to them, so those animals of another world that happen to be used for fur or meat or transportation will be similar to those of our world used for the same purpose.

What amuses me about this question, is that nobody ever asks me why I didn’t call a llama a llama, or a wallaby a wallaby. Assuming that all made up animals are just copies of European ones is not unlike taking it for granted that all fantasy worlds are “medieval’ or that all characters are ‘white’.

Was x, y or z supposed to be a surprise, because I guessed it would happen?

The more people who read a book, the more likely it is that somebody will predict how things turn out. It’s most common when there are only two ways a situation can turn. I call these outcomes ’50/50 twists’. (50/50 as in there are two possibilities, and so you always feel ‘half right’ when you find out the answer.) Occasionally people email me who guessed everything and feel cheated. Don’t be. You’re a rare and clever reader!