What are your published works, and what are you working on?
My first published work is a horror / mystery / culture-clash / coming-of age novel – The Witch’s List.
Sandy Beech doesn’t believe in witches and the supernatural. However, certain strange events occur which put his scepticism to the test: a burning book, a falling crucifix, a mysterious illness, and a fire in a convent which kills all twelve nuns. On her death bead, Bernadette, the last surviving nun, warns him to control his lusts and avoid African women. Sandy finds this difficult, since he is attracted to exotic, dark-skinned women and after his hedonistic university exchange year in Paris, marries Rocky from the Ivory Coast. Five years later, childless and with the marriage souring, they decide to visit Rocky’s home country. Sandy is drawn into a world of strange beliefs and practices: he finds out about the Witch’s List – a list of people destined to die, and is attacked by various animals starting with a ferocious dog in Abidjan. He delves further and further into the realm of African witchcraft, but the horrific truth remains obscure… The Witch’s List is the first of a trilogy.
I am currently working on the second book in the trilogy, which will follow the same main character in a different setting – mainly in North Africa.
If someone was just hearing about you for the first time what 1 thing would you want them to know?
I enjoy discovering and exploring other cultures/beliefs.I think this comes across in The Witch’s List, which is a multicultural/international mystery based in Scotland, France and the Ivory Coast.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes. I’ve always been a keen on writing – whether it be a diary, travelogues or just some anecdotes to share with friends. I am now glad to have completed a first novel and to unleash it on the wider public!
What has been the biggest adventure of your life?
It would have to be my visit to the Ivory Coast, which inspired this novel. My first wife was Ivorian and we visited her home country, in 1999. It is one thing to see poverty in developing countries on television or read about it, but quite another thing to experience it first hand, living with local people in an African village. This was one of the motivations behind writing the book, to describe the life in a small Ivorian village: the poverty and hardship, the inequalities and divisions, but also the friendliness, the solidarity, and the vitality.
What is your biggest fear?
A feeling of lack of accomplishment. I always like to be learning new skills, trying new things and succeeding on a personal and professional level.
Would you rather scare or be scared? Why?
I would rather scare – hopefully via one of my books. Horror movies sometimes give me nightmares! I go around the house checking there’s nothing hiding in any of the wardrobes or under the bed!
Who would you want with you if civilized society fell apart?
Someone resourceful like MacGyver – always able to get things to work or find a way out of a tight situation.
What 2 books would be in your bug out bag, knowing you would have to read them over and over?
“Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Tahir Shah – a magnificent voyage into the surreal world of India’s magicians and ‘godmen’.
“The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks – a great Scottish Gothic horror story.
If we were thrown into the dark ages what would you miss most?
Internet. Having information at your fingertips.
The most surprising fact about you?
I once dislocated my shoulder while playing the part of a sick old man in a play. Taking method acting one step too far!
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Valerie Lioudis is the co-author of Aftershock: A Collection of Survivors Tales available on Amazon.