|Len Maynard (left) and Mick Sims (right)|
Len Maynard (b.1953) and Mick Sims (b.1952) have been writing together for a long time. "We met in 1964, aged eleven, at Ambrose Fleming Technical Grammar School in Ponders End, Enfield. We weren't friends immediately, that came later, when, aged 18, we had left school and started work - Len as a lapidary in London and Mick for Lloyds Bank. Len left after 43 years, Mick left after 40 years - we do things for the long haul. We began to talk one night, in the bar of the Crown & Horseshoes pub in Enfield, went for a long walk after closing time, and a life time of friendship was born.
"Mick is married to Clare, Len isn’t married to anyone any more, and there are two children between us, Iain Maynard and Emily Sims, and two grandchildren, Elizabeth Maynard and Macie Sanchez-Sims. We both live in Hertfordshire, about 25 miles apart."
Their full bio is longer still, and well worth a read, which you can do here. They do pretty much everything in collaboration - including this interview!
1. Tell us three things about yourself.
Mick - I was born in one of the last pea-souper fogs London had and I was three days old before my father saw me for the first time as he couldn’t get to Kings College hospital before then. I am friends with Len Maynard because of a mutual girlfriend - I dated her and then Len did and berated me about the poor way I treated her and we began a lifetime of open and frank discussions. I suffered quite severe OCD for many years causing odd social behaviour and a general inner feeling of anguish most of the time.
Len - I was born at home in 1953 and spent my first few weeks in the drawer of a wardrobe – true! Mum and dad couldn’t afford a crib. I was dropped on my head onto a concrete path at about eighteen months – which might explain a lot. I grew up wanting to be a) a footballer, b) a wrestler) c) a bass player in a rock band. I started writing at twenty and haven’t stopped since. I think that’s four things, but I’ve had a rich and eventful life! Damn it! Does that make it five things?
2. What was the first thing you had published?
Mick - 'Curtain Call' a ghost story in London Mystery Magazine and 'Benjamin’s Shadow' in A Taste of Fear edited by Hugh Lamb - both 1976. W
e were writing together even then but I think those both came out under my name because we hadn’t made the sensible decision to amalgamate the names at that time.
Len – 'Curtain Call'. The story was one I began and faltered on after a few pages. Mick took it on and completed it successfully. At that time whoever finished a story owned it and got the credit, so the first couple of pages were the first of mine I saw in print – and, credited or not – it was still a thrill.
3. Which piece of writing are you proudest of?
Mick - the next piece. I never feel satisfied with anything I have written, mainly because the initial idea generally fails to materialise exactly as envisaged. Having said that I think the pseudonymous erotic romances are well written, the three thrillers we self-published last year (Let Death Begin, Through The Sad Heart, Falling Apart At The Edges) stand up well, the Department 18 series is getting stronger and stronger and Stillwater is a good ghost story novel. The unpublished work - see question 7 - I do feel is satisfactory.
Len – If I had to choose one piece it would be Convalescence (Samhain Nov 2015), simply because it was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. It contains themes that hark back to our first collection and have reappeared intermittently throughout our career. So the story has been a long time coming – over forty years. It was only now that I felt able to write it and address the themes honestly and properly.
4. …and which makes you cringe?
Mick - much of the early stuff of course, uncollected stories and some in the earlier collections, were experimental and so may not hold up to close scrutiny now. I think most of what we have had published is good enough to not feel embarrassed about. Maybe some of the letters and articles I penned in my early angry genre days might bite me where it hurts if I ever saw them today.
Maybe I have never really written anything special - feels like that sometimes, or else a ‘big’ publisher would have picked me up? Or an agent would have taken me/us on?
Len – It’s probably the first story I ever wrote – a horror story about a bad acid trip called 'Lester’s Strange Dream' (See what I did there? I was always renowned for my subtlety!) It was a pile of steaming… I sent it off to the Pan Book of Horror and the editor at the time, Herbert van Thal, had the good sense to reject it out of hand. Thank God he did – I’d hate for that story ever to see the light of day.
5. What’s a normal writing day like?
Mick - different every time. After forty years at the day job (banking) I took early retirement at the end of 2011 and since then every day is different. My time is spread between looking after granddaughter while daughter is at university (she travels into London several times a week), doing some freelance writing work (editing, proofing, ghost-writing), doing some business coaching work (coaching mentoring, training, access to finance), household chores, gardening, walking the dog, socialising when my patient wife can drag me out of the house… and writing. So each writing session will be different from the last. I might do some daily, it might be weekly. I might write 2000 words a day or I might have a mammoth 10000 day. It’s flexible, it’s fun and it’s free.
Len – On a writing day I get up and faff around for a couple of hours. When I finally sit down at the computer, I read through and amend what I did the previous day, usually rewriting most of it, and then I start. I aim for between 500 and 1000 a day, but life has a habit of disrupting that schedule. I take my granddaughter to and from school, visit my elderly mother and usually watch a DVD with her, feed myself – I’m getting better at that, making sure I cook a meal every day, and sit down for at least an hour, with a glass of wine and coffee. For years I used to exist on tea, toast and chocolate bars, so I’m getting better. When I finally fall into bed I usually nod off for a couple of hours before my brain starts whirring with plot or character ideas, and then sleep is a thing of the past. It’s not unusual for me to get up at three in the morning and go back to the computer to write.
6. Which piece of writing should someone who’s never read you before pick up first?
Mick - Death’s Sweet Echo - our tenth story collection - for anyone wanting story length ghost stories and strange tales. Stillwater for novel length ghost stories, Convalescence for novella length ghost stories, and Mother Of Demons for those wanting to find out about Department 18. For thrillers I would say any of the three Enigmatic Press titles - maybe start with Let Death Begin.
Len - All of the above.
7. What are you working on now?
Mick - Tickety Boo Press (Gary Compton) are bringing out Death’s Sweet Echo in October. Samhain are bringing out the novella Convalescence in November. We are co-editing an anthology of thriller stories for ITW (with Alex Shaw) and the reading period for us starts soon.
We have Three Monkeys - the first in a new 1950’s based crime series - and three novels in our Bahamas series of thriller - Touching The Sun, Calling Down The Lightning, Raging Against The Storm - all waiting to be placed with a publisher and we would love them to get accepted soon. We don’t work with an agent at the moment - but would love to have a decent one.
I am working on a new erotic romance novella, a supernatural short story, a supernatural novella, with plans for three new thrillers, and a possible religious drama that I have had planned for many years but never felt brave enough to try and write it.
Len – Again, see Mick’s reply but, I am actually working on the next Department 18 book, tentatively titled, The Tashkai Kiss. On the back burner is the second of the Jack Callum crime novels, the first of which, Three Monkeys, is currently looking for a home with a publisher.