M J Trow has been writing for over thirty years and hasn’t said even a small fraction of what he wants to share as yet. With over sixty books to his credit, including crime and historical fiction, historical biography, true crime and ghosting, his life is never dull and whether he is meeting real new people or imaginary ones, the living or the long dead, he doesn’t mind; it is all grist to his mill. He does relax, usually on the sixth Tuesday of every month and is lucky enough to be able to cruise once or twice a year, when lecturing takes him onto the high seas.
A ‘Jack of all Trades’ could be used to describe your writing career, why so varied?
Not actually that varied. All my books have an historical flavour and most of them, fact and fiction, deal with ‘blood ‘n’ guts’.
If you had to choose a favourite between fiction and non-fiction, which would it be?
Non-fiction – it’s stranger than fiction any time.
How do you handle the difference between solo writing and ghost writing?
There’s obviously greater freedom with solo writing. In ghosting work you have to try to recreate the subject’s ‘voice’.
You’re a talented artist too, what does it mean to be able to create your own covers?
The cover is very important and I enjoy being able to use my artist’s eye to choose the image, or create it. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but most people do. I recently saw an historical novel set in the 16th century with a 12th century crusader on the jacket – I didn’t even open it.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
The chance to leave even a little bit of yourself for posterity.
And the worst?
It’s a crowded market and you’re only as good as your last book.
Where do you write?
In the summerhouse, surrounded by books, sixties music and lots and lots of chocolate!
Is location/setting an important aspect for you in your novels?
Very. In fiction, I invariably choose a place I know well and adapt it to the situation/plot. I once invented a mad family who lived in Parabola Road, Cheltenham and now I feature in the town’s guide books!
Which 3 books would you take to a desert island?
Anything by Maryanne Coleman (who happens to be my wife). So that would be Goblin Market; Pandemonium; and the-one-currently-in-production-but-she-hasn’t-time-to-finish-because-she’s-always-typing-mine.
Which crime author do you most admire?
George Bellairs. He is very under-rated but his characters leap off the page and if the perp is sometimes a little obvious, you don’t care; the writing is why you read his books, not the clever twists and turns which seem to be the stock-in-trade of most modern writers. Sadly, like most crime writers, I can see them coming a mile off.
Which of your own books are you most proud of – and why?
I like bits of all of them, but as an entire book, I think Survivor which I ghosted for Sam Pivnik. Holocaust stories are crucially important, if only to prevent such a thing happening again.
What are your future writing plans?
I’m writing Return of the Kings with my son, Taliesin, a 35-book series which gets back to good old-fashioned historical story-telling. More of Kit Marlowe with Carol (sorry, Maryanne), more ghosting, new fiction series … After lunch, I’ll have a go at something else!
More information on Mei and his books go to -