Have you always known that you wanted to be a writer?
Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it. I’ve been writing since I was 11 years old, and published since 14, so I guess in the grand scheme of things, yes, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. But when I was 7 years old, my Mum, who is also a writer, and my Dad, who was a publisher and is now a writer, took me aside and said, ‘now, young one, remember – never, ever, everbe a writer! It’s a ridiculous job. Do something proper, like learning how to drive a train .’ They swear to this day that it wasn’t reverse psychology…
Do you have any particular favorite authors who have influenced your work?
Roger Zelazny! (I always name him, because he is an uber-god, and I feel it’s my one-woman duty to praise and honour him, since he’s only really praised and honoured in a relatively select crowd and this is a shame.) He wrote some of the most charming, moving and imaginative fantasy I have ever read. Also, Raymond Chandler and Terry Pratchett are right up there as uber-dudes too.
What do you do to keep yourself inspired and motivated while working on your novels?
Um… Thai food? To tell the truth, the way I work is that I’ll do something completely different for 3 months while the whole writing thing sorts itself out at the back of my mind, then at the end of that time I’ll be so desperate to write the book that it’ll usually get written in 5-8 weeks, so there’s no time for me to lose motivation. I do think it’s important to go out and meet people and see stuff while writing the book to avoid going mad/bone mass deficiency, but once I’m into a story, nothing else really bothers me.
Magic works a bit differently in A Madness of Angels than in a lot of other contemporary fantasies—tell us a little about urban magic.
Magic – good old fashioned, elves and dwarves stuff – seems to be about the mystical intonation of dead languages and invocation of ancient spirits full of unknowable wisdom. Which is all fine and fun, but, magic in the good old bunny-out-of-rabbit sense, seems to be as much about wonder as about mystical mumbo-jumbo, and I never really got a sense of wonder from people intoning in cod-Latin. But I do get lots of wonder from stuff I see in the city – graffiti, odd corners, bits of lost history at the back of a car park, nooks and crannies, people and smells. London in particular is a mish-mash of worlds, new and old, familiar and strange. So I guess urban magic came out of the desire to find something wonderful in all the mundane things I saw every day. Thus, in urban magic, the demons you summon are likely to be wearing trainers and smoking a fag; the vampires have their own specialist dentists; spells are recited in the language of the txt msg, the light on the end of a wizard’s staff will be sodium-yellow, the wizards will meet in kebab shops and curses will be spray painted onto the shuttered shop fronts.
Where did you get your inspiration for Matthew Swift’s world?
It’s a bit corny, but mostly it just came from walking round London. I mean, once the reasoning for urban magic was in place, the rest of it just fell into place from looking at the stuff you see from the top deck of the bus! It’s my world, full of traffic jams and Chinese take-away; it’s just looked at a little strangely.
If it’s not an unfair question, which characters are you most fond of and why?
Hum… I have a lot of time and affection for both Swift and the angels, even though I concede they’re rather screwed up. I enjoy writing Oda, despite the fact she’s as likeable as a hernia. I have a deep love for a very minor character – Dr Seah – partially because she’s a good deal of fun, but mostly because she is one of the very few characters I have ever knowingly based on a real person, who is, in so many ways, Dr Seah…. writing the Bag Lady is immensely fun! I love the Bag Lady, the page just becomes so much more fun when she’s on it…
Do you have a favorite scene in A Madness of Angels?Why?
The Transport For London ticket scene, in which Swift holds off Hunger at Bond Street using nothing more than the terms and conditions of transport on the back of a ticket. I love this bit, partially because I get really pissed off by people shoving me in order to jump their fares, but mostly because I think it captures what urban magic really should be – mundane, boring city things becoming rich, exciting and full of power.
What can we look forward to seeing Matthew Swift do next?
The Midnight Mayor is his next adventure… what can I say without revealing too much? It’s the story of what happens when Swift gets given a very old job that he really, really didn’t want and can’t get out of; of why every city has defenses and what happens when they fail, and most of all, it’s the story of why you should never, ever steal a traffic warden’s hat.