Today we travel to Oxfordshire, England to chat with Alistair Birch about how a dramatic social circle change, cooking, happy dancing, puzzles, paying it forward, the Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon, Barney Rubble, the Forest of Dean, the river Wye, and a simple picnic come together as part of Alistair’s current and past life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Alistair, and I’m a British author from Oxfordshire in England where I live with my second wife and stepson. I like to write thrillers, though I have been known to write comedy and rhymes, the sillier the better. I try to take a relaxed approach to life where humour and kindness are prominent. We aren’t allowed pets where we live, though we are allowed regular visits from George dog who we adore. I enjoy cooking and running long distance, though all the food I consume means I don’t run too fast.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I only got the writing bug in the last few years though I’ve always had a love of making up rhymes. At school, I didn’t really write, and I wouldn’t say that my skills with English language were all that good. This will probably have you scratching your head, thinking, why now? Simply, I am in a new and happier marriage and over the last 8 or so years I have changed my social circle dramatically. A few years ago, I felt frustrated and anxious that I didn’t know anyone in my local town despite having lived here for a few years. As though I’d flicked a switch, I decided to do something about the situation, which I did with surprising enthusiasm. Now I run marathons and I write books and I’m incredibly lucky to know some amazing people who are now life friends. I also have a desire to be better tomorrow than I am today.
What is your favorite time of day and why?
If it is a weekday and I have been out all day at my day job, then assuming she is home, my favourite time is 5:30pm when I walk in to see my wife. My head and heart always do a little happy dance when I see her at the end of a working day.
Have you ever had any Do It Yourself disasters?
Absolutely. I worked in a college and took advice from the on-site electrician ‘Rocket’ Ron. All I needed to do was drill a hole through a thick wall from a caretaker’s room through to a storeroom next door so I could wire up a phone socket. The sensible thing would be to drill low down at the skirting board height and feed the cable straight into the back of the box. Unfortunately, I took Ron’s advice. Picture if you will, me, aged around 20, standing on top of a ladder, drilling through a fifteen-inch wall. The heavy drill was above my head, and I could only grip it from one end as there wasn’t a second handle grip. I got more and more tired as the drill bit inched through the concrete. Suddenly my wrist knocked a button which put the drill onto an automatic always on setting. My grip slipped and the entire drill spun at high speed with me no longer holding it. Within a few seconds the lead wrapped itself around the tool which yanked it from the power socket, all the while I stood white as a sheet atop the ladder.
What is the most enjoyable aspect you’ve found through writing?
There are two things. I only loosely plot my books, so I have a start and an end, and a few characters figured out, but that is about it. I am what is known as a ‘Pantser’ as I write by the seat of my pants. My day job is in IT and I have a very logical brain. I am good at picturing things, and I enjoy puzzles. So, the first thing I enjoy is working things out as I go. Sometimes I may find myself a little stuck and that is when I can form it as a challenge. The second thing I am proud of is I had help to improve when I started out and now, I have newbie authors approaching me for advice. I love paying kindness forward.
What is the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?
Another easy one for me to answer. I ran my first full marathon, by signing up just one week earlier, and with little training. It was the Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon and I had been chatting with a virtual friend called Rob. I’d never met him, though we knew each other from a Facebook group and on our messenger conversations I knew he was running this event and he was anxious about it.
He was running for charity, and he told me his medication was making him dizzy. I called him and after a conversation with my wife we booked me onto the race so I could run it with him. We had little money, and needed to pay for travel, the race, food, and accommodation, but it felt like the right thing to do. On race day we ran from Liverpool waterfront up around Everton and Liverpool football grounds, with Rob doing great but going too fast. I kept up but I kept telling him to slow down. After 8 miles Rob stopped with horrible shin pain. We slowed and managed to get to 12 miles when his race was done. At his request I carried on and completed the 26.2 miles. That wasn’t Rob’s day, but he did complete a full marathon the following year.
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
I would answer with The Flintstones. As a kid in primary school and some of secondary, I was given the nickname ‘Barney.’ Simply I looked and acted a bit like Barney Rubble, including the silly voice.
Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.
I love the peace and tranquillity of nature. I love mountains, rivers, lakes, the sea. I grew up in Gloucestershire so a walk in the Forest of Dean, along the river Wye is hard to beat, or maybe climbing the Malvern Hills in the middle of the day. A gentle breeze to take the edge off a warm sun, with a few cumulus clouds across a bright blue sky. To eat, just a simple picnic, bread, cheese, chutney, a little fruit and a bottle of water.
What are you currently working on?
I am almost between projects. I have just finished a draft manuscript for a new standalone psychological thriller which I started in July. This is set in a school, mainly in the early 1980’s. I need to get some beta feedback and submit this one, but friends have read chapters all the way through the writing process, and I have done basic edits as I went along. I am already happy with it. While I think about a little polish on this one, I may write a 1940’s wartime thriller. I have a friend I’d like to collaborate with on this one, so I’ve started those conversations.
Tell us about your most recent book.
My debut thriller, ‘Shadow Pursuit,’ hit the shelves on 18th October 2021. I took a piece of artwork called ‘The Great Bear’ as inspiration. Google it, and you will see it is an unusual map. For me as a thriller writer that offered an opportunity to hide secret information in plain sight. There are good guys in the security services, bad guys plotting terrible stuff and innocents caught up in between. Within each chapter I took the point of view of a character and went with it. So sometimes the reader is in the head of a bad guy and sometimes good. I tried to cram loads of fast paced action in and I left some threads hanging which I pick up in the sequel. I submitted the sequel to Dark Edge Press in the summer.
It was wonderful having you on MTA, Alistair. Wishing you much success with your books, and all you pursue! – Camilla
Samir El-Mudarini is deep undercover investigating a human trafficking syndicate when he is murdered.
Eva Merriman, a Metropolitan Police detective, is reassigned to the manhunt for El-Mudarini’s killer.
Sam Keplar wakes to an emergency call, sending him on a quest to save his brother.
Eva and Sam are brought together by the actions of a shadowy organisation that has slipped through the cracks of British society. And it is up to them to prevent the worst act of terror London might ever see while fighting for their own survival.
Publication date: 18th October 2021
Title: Shadow Pursuit
Author: Alistair Birch
Where can we purchase the book?
The book can be bought from Amazon, but it is also available in UK bookshops like Waterstones Etc. as well as Kobo, Nook, Apple and Google Books.
Connect with Alistair:
Here are a few suggestions on how to further support this author:
- Comment on the interview
- Share the interview using the social media buttons
- Click through to learn more about the author and their book(s)
- If interested, buy the book and leave a review
To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host