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  • How much of "Pilgrim" is based in scientific fact?
    I wanted to limit the number of speculative leaps in order to make this as scientifically grounded as possible. As such, the only core "fiction" is that there is scientific proof for a single unified field that operates by attraction. But that's not to say there is no basis for this idea. Scientists have long speculated that there might be a single unifying field at the heart of our reality. Einstein spent his last years looking for the common thread that could unite the forces and fields that we know from physics. Physicists are still looking for ways to unite Newtonian (macro) physics and the world of quantum (micro) mechanics. What intrigued me was everything I read about the Law of Attraction, and whether this was a missing link, given the role of attraction in so many of physics' central premises. I'm not a scientist. But thankfully there are very many good scientists who have attempted to make quantum physics accessible to the general public, and their books make for a fascinating journey into the unknown. Because physics has as many questions as it has answers. So, while the "discovery" in Pilgrim of a single unified attraction-based field is speculation, the other insights are drawn from what physics, philosophy, and religious traditions have been saying for some time.
  • In "Echoes", is Threfield Percy a real place?
    There isn't a place called Threfield Percy, but in creating the manor I've been able to draw strongly on the remarkable work at Wharram Percy, a deserted medieval village (DMV) not far from York in the north of England. Wharram Percy has been excavated and investigated for many decades, starting with a project instigated in 1948 by the historian Maurice Beresford and archaeologist John Hurst. There are hundreds of DMVs in England and on the continent (for instance, in the Netherlands). Typically, a village might decline over 150 to 200 years before being abandoned, with economic factors playing a large role in that change. Many historians assumed the Black Death was the principal driver of such decline; some now dispute this, pointing to wider trends such as population shifts from villages to towns, and the switch from arable to sheep farming; others highlight the famine of 1316-1318 as having a significant effect , killing up to 10% of the population and leaving them weakened by the time plague arrived. The question I asked was what might cause a village to disappear almost overnight, a rather more dramatic premise for a mystery tale! For more information on Wharram Percy, visit the English Heritage site.
  • What's your writing process?
    I'd never thought about this until I started writing full-time. Before, I wrote because it was a compulsion, but because I was working full-time it was squeezed in around the rest of my life. In the case of "Grace", I was writing on the train as I commuted into London every morning and again as I returned home, then I'd type up my notes in the evening and it just kept going from there. "Echoes" was different because, suddenly, I had time. And many people around me were asking what my process is. Some writers are incredibly disciplined. Graham Greene was reputed to have set himself the task of producing 500 words a day, and not leaving his desk until he had done so. When writing "Grace", I was inspired by an Andrew Motion interview in which he said first thing in the morning was his most productive time, before the rest of life started to intrude; I tried that, and it worked for me, for a while. Jeffrey Archer is said to be incredibly disciplined, writing every day for a set number of hours. I'm an instinctive writer. I write when I'm in the mood, and I go easy on myself when I'm not. I believe in being in the flow. The difference in my work between flowing and forcing is very evident to me. That might mean I work for five or six hours, or fifteen minutes. Of course, when the words are flowing, it's the best feeling in the world, and then time has no meaning anyway.
  • Where do you get your ideas from?
    There are two different answers to this, because "Grace" and "Echoes" came in one way, and "Pilgrim" came from somewhere else altogether. In the case of my two historical novels, I dreamt these plot lines when I was 17 or 18 years old. Both times, I woke up with a clear vision in my head: the principal characters, the historical backdrop, and the core structure in terms of the beginning, the middle, and the end. (Although I ended up changing the ending for "Grace"!) Filling in the detail for those books happened in two ways: first, as I researched those eras; and, second, as I wrote the books. Both were quite linear in their creation, by which I mean I sat down, knowing the general direction I was heading in, and the books flowed from start to finish in a very organic way. "Pilgrim" was different. This was inspired a few years ago after I'd spent some time reading around the subject of the Law of Attraction, and was starting to delve into what the scientific basis for this idea might be. Until then, it hadn't even crossed my mind that this might become a novel; it was just something I was applying to my own life. But once the seed was sown, it quickly took root. Soon, a series of intuitions led me to the premise for different characters, and the right structure for the book. After that, the ideas for each stage started filling in by themselves, in much more detail than I had been used to before. Which meant that the actual writing, once I sat down to produce a draft, came astonishingly easy. As a result, "Grace" and "Echoes" took 2-3 years to write each, whereas "Pilgrim" was done in a matter of months.
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