I have great pleasure in sharing my interview with Kevin Albin, author of Stonechild. Kevin talks about serving in the police force, protecting the Prime Minister, conservation, and writing his debut novel.
Over to Kevin…
I served 25 years with the police in the UK, eight years of which were with a tactical firearms team, and I worked as a negotiator. In 2002, I took a career change, and retrained as an International Mountain Leader, working across the globe guiding on mountaineering trips and expeditions.
I have led many trips to the jungles of Borneo, my favourite destination, an enchanting place that has sadly seen much deforestation. My trips were based on education and conservation. In 2011, I won the Bronze in the Wanderlust Magazine World Guide Awards for my work.
My hope is that my writing will continue to spread the word on conservation and protection of all species.
Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?)
I was born in London. I spent 25 years working as a police officer on a tactical firearms team and as a negotiator. I now work as a guide and spend much of my time on conservation projects. I have drawn on all three experiences in my writing of Stonechild, my debut novel.
I started writing from about ten years of age when I used to produce a small booklet of pictures and words on dinosaurs. It hasn’t been all the time, I have flurries of writing, sometimes an article for a magazine or a website, and sometimes I don’t write at all.
I live in France, with my teenage son. I teach English to the French at an adult centre. I am a keen motorcyclist, both road and off-road.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)
This is my first book, and I have to say, I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. I have written some articles for magazines, websites and blogs but this is very different. I think I tend to move on from writing an article, occasionally they can be revamped and used again, otherwise that’s it done. Stonechild seems so much more a living thing, and I pick it up often to read passages.
What genre is it, and what is it about?
I originally wrote the story in 2011 as YA fiction, and it was picked up by two literary agents, although not accepted in the end. The Covid-19 confinement, and the recent sentiment towards statues, gave me the time and motivation to do a complete rewrite. This time, I leaned more towards an older audience even though I kept the main characters at the same ages. I found it difficult to put it into a genre, but the readers have done that for me by being nearly all adult.
The story starts with the statue of Sir Winston Churchill who comes to life to give the Prime Minister a serious message on conservation. The statue explains that by building statues, a link is formed between the living and the dead. London comes to a standstill as other statues come to life, Shakespeare, Nightingale and Brunel, and they explain the urgent need for change. Molly Hargreaves, who has never liked statues, doesn’t believe they are sincere and she sets out to prove that they are here for other reasons. She is aided by the statue of Sherlock Holmes, pursued by a secret society, the Agalmata, and captured by the statue of Edith Cavell. Knowing that we won’t listen to the message, the statues position themselves in Trafalgar Square, surrounded by the police, and the battle for London begins.
What or who inspired you to write this book?
I was working in London as a facilitator on a corporate training day. My clients were standing in front of the Royal Tank Regiment Memorial statue in Whitehall Court, Westminster, trying to work out a clue. They were taking ages, and I imagined the statue coming to life with the answer for them. I was doing a lot of work in conservation at the time, and the idea stuck as a way of getting a message across.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
We try to make a promise to our readers, you read my work and I’ll make it interesting, and hopefully we stimulate an emotion. We ourselves should feel that emotion in our writing, so, if it’s not making you smile or feel sad, or stirring some sentiment, then something may need changing.
What do you enjoy most about writing and why?
The surprise, is what I enjoy most. I start with an idea, some words come together, sometimes after some research. I tinker, move things around, let it sit for a while, tinker some more. Then, suddenly, it has come together and I like what I have written. It catches me in a surprise nearly all the time.
List three interesting facts about yourself
Once while protecting Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Chequers, when she had gone for a walk in the countryside, we come across a newly born calf that she wanted to attend to. I had to advise her that the mother cow didn’t look pleased, and we returned. Years later, I wrote an article suggesting the cow could have succeeded where the IRA had failed, and won a holiday to Slovenia.
In 2011, I won the Bronze in the World Guide Awards for my work, which was presented at the Royal Geographical Society by Bill Bryson. A great honour.
When I was a young police officer, I was sent to the home of an elderly woman who hadn’t been seen for a few days. There was no response on knocking, and I was authorised to enter the house, which I tried to do through a partially open sash window. As I swung myself over the opening, the two parts of the window dropped trapping my fingers between the two. Apart from being very painful, I had to be rescued by the Fire and Rescue Service, and the elderly woman was away staying with her daughter!
What is your least favourite part of the publishing/writing process?
The hardest part for me is getting going. I don’t think I suffer with writer’s block, if the words are not coming then I just leave it and go and do something else. It’s when I have a piece to write, and I may have the ideas forming in my mind, but I get easily distracted. Once I start, I’m good to go, but it can take a while.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Taking time to post a review on Amazon, we all need that. With Stonechild, there’s also a message on conservation, which is very important to me. After 17 years working as a guide in so many countries, I have seen great changes and lots of warning signs, and now I believe the situation is urgent. So, sharing the book’s existence and its message would be really helpful.
What is your next project?
Stonechild finishes with the President of the United States telephoning the Prime Minister at four in the morning asking for help. The Statue of Liberty is missing, it’s as though she has just walked off! So, I am working on the sequel, which is based in New York and will see Molly as an adult, pulled from London into the next adventure. I also have an idea developing for a character who gets involved in the trafficking of wildlife and his adventures. Again, this style of eco-fiction is a powerful way of making a point.
Where do we go to when we die? Imagine human consciousness embedded in the molecules of a statue. So, when the statues of London come to life, it is a spectacle like non other, and they come with a specific message, and an offer we cannot refuse.
As the world reels in this wonder of science and religion, Molly Hargreaves has other plans and she sets out to prove that things are not as they seem. Chased, captured and confined, Molly confronts the statues and her own fears. But who can she convince? The people are welcoming, the Government has succumbed, and the police try to act, but how do you shoot stone and metal? Be prepared to be run ragged around London on a mystery worthy of the great Sherlock Holmes.
Huge thanks to Kevin for joining me on my blog to talk about his writing and publishing journey. Please take a few moments to follow his platforms, leave a comment, or buy his book.
Find out more about Kevin Albin and Stonechild here:
Book sale https://amzn.to/2BfnoWs