(Some answers to things I get asked.)
What inspired you to become an author?
I liked reading, and of course my father (the author Peter Dickinson) was always banging away at his typewriter at home. At school I wrote short stories that pleased. So I just assumed that I could do it. It was a shock to find that writing novels was a lot harder than it looked.
Which authors have influenced you most?
I loved the CS Forrester novels and, of course, Tolkien. But I also liked TH White (THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING), Rudyard Kipling, Ingalls Wilder, Goodge (The Little White Horse), Buchan, MR James and Violet Needham. Oh, and Ursula Le Guin, especially her novel THE DISPOSSESSED.
Was English your favourite subject at school?
History, English and German. You don't have to have liked English to be an author, but it helps.
What would you be if you weren't an author?
I spent seventeen years at the Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet Office and NATO. If I hadn't become an author I suppose I'd still be there. But my pipe dream is to be an aid convoy driver, and steer a great big machine through exotic places carrying lots of good things to people who need them.
Do you base your characters on real people?
No. Sometimes I will borrow a face, or some quality in someone I know, as a starting point. If you are going to say that a character "has steel in them" then it helps if you've seen someone who is pretty steely, so you know what it means. But what really determines the character is the role I want them to play in the novel.
You mean you build your characters according to the story, not the story around the characters?
Er... Good question!
The honest answer is 'it depends'. Most supporting characters, probably yes. And that can be dangerous. Characters need their own life. Where does that life come from? It has to come from yourself. You have to be able to imagine yourself acting like that, even if in real life you never would.
You are a Christian. How has this influenced you?
It's the other way around. The things that prompt me to write about moral confusion, duty and sacrifice also prompt me to be a Christian. What tempts us? What is the Fall like? That's why my books resonate with these ideas. But I don't write to persuade. I ask the questions that interest me.
What's your latest book about?
WE is set, oh, about fifty years in the future on the moon of a giant planet roughly four billion kilometres away, where it's very cold and as remote and hostile as you can get. Once you're there, you're there for life. So what would it be like? And what would we be like, to go there?