Profession - Novelist. 'That Deplorable Boy', the second novel in my trilogy about a gay love affair in late 19th century Paris, has just come out. I'm now working on the third book

That Deplorable Boy

That Deplorable Boy

Background - I'm mainly Irish, but a life-long Londoner. So why am I writing novels about France? Well, French history is fascinating. Waves of turmoil characterised the first three quarters of the 19th century. But, in the 1880s and 90s, when my books are set, there was at last political stability and Paris, with its thriving social scene and innovations in art, literature, music and fashion, became the cultural capital of Europe. It's an exciting but perilous milieu for Max and the marquis de Miremont to navigate as they continue their forbidden affair.

Writing Routine - I try to work seven hours a day. But I am very, very slow; words do not pour out of me. I edit as I go and only move on to the next scene when I've got the scene before as right as I can make it. The first book of the trilogy,'The Second Footman', took eight years, 'That Deplorable Boy' four.

Plotting - I used to storyboard novels, but for these books, while I have boxes of research notes, I don't have a written plan, just one piece of paper showing my characters' dates of birth. It's all in my head - hope my memory lasts out till the end of the third book

Characters - I've lived with my two protagonists a long time now and if I try to make them do or say something out of character they won't let me. I did wonder at one stage if they would allow me to give 'That Deplorable Boy' the ending I was hoping for. They held me in gloomy suspense for several months, but they obliged eventually.

Writing nightmares - I frequently dream Max and Miremont are posting on Facebook and I have to work out what their posts mean and incorporate them into the novel. It's a great relief to wake up and recall that in the 1880s even the telephone was a rarity.

Research - As well as reading a lot, I look at pictures and old photographs. I like to be able to see things - detail in a room, where and how people are standing. In 'That Deplorable Boy', fencing with foils features; after hours of watching fencing videos on YouTube, I finally went and had a session with a very helpful fencing academy.

Travel - I love travelling, and research is a good excuse. I go to Paris fairly regularly. A small incident at the start of 'That Deplorable Boy' gave me an excuse to revisit Venice, and I've also been to Vienna recently, and to Baden Baden for book three.

Favourite Pastime - When I'm not cooped up with the computer, I'm happiest sitting at a café table with a double espresso talking to friends.

Least-Favourite Pastime - Day-to-day admin, like phoning call centres and filling in forms.