I was born at the end of the Sixties in Arbroath, Scotland; spent my early years living in the golfing town of Carnoustie; and moved to Stroud in Gloucestershire when I was ten. My teenage years were fairly miserable – I was one of the shortest kids in my class; I had a Scottish accent nobody could understand; no matter what I did I didn’t seem to fit in. I found my escape in books and music.
Two weeks after finishing my A-levels I became a journalist. One minute I was sitting in the school gym trying to think of something interesting to write about E.M. Forster’s use of imagery in A Passage To India, the next I was being frowned at by a Welshman with half-moon glasses who looked like a monk, swore like a trooper, and had a fondness for gin. Ron Evans held up a copy of the Marlborough Times. ‘See this,’ he said. ‘Your job is to fill this up. We can’t put out a newspaper with blank pages. It doesn’t look right.’
I learnt loads from Ron. In particular, Ron was anxious I should work to deadlines. My life ended up ruled by the deadline, and how I hated it. I came to dread Wednesday mornings where Ron would be screaming for my stories, all of them needing just one more quote from someone who was in a meeting. Journalism was good to me, though. Writing requires discipline, and there’s no better place to learn that than a newsroom.
In the run-up to my thirtieth birthday I took time out to write my first novel. Four hundred pages later I had a beginning, a middle and an end. I bought a job-lot of envelopes and stamps, and began sending my masterpiece off to publishers. Inevitably, I built up an impressive collection of rejection slips. I knew I could do better so I began work on Yin Yang, a grisly little tale about a serial killer who goes around stealing his victims’ eyes. I sent out the synopsis and sample chapters, and the response was more positive: “I would be interested to see the full manuscript…”. Yin Yang provoked enough interest to make me think I might be onto something here. It would take another three books before I finally cracked it.
The Mentor came about out of necessity. Betty Schwartz, who used to be Hodder and Stoughton’s submissions editor, contacted me to say they were looking for a big British thriller and did I have any ideas. After a ton of rejections I wasn’t about to say no. So I came up with the prologue and the first chapter, and they loved it. In the end HarperCollins bought the book, however, as part of the deal they wanted a sequel. I’d written The Mentor as a stand-alone but, again, I wasn’t about to say no. When I stopped hyperventilating and was able to get some perspective, I realised I had the makings of a really good trilogy. The second Paul Aston book is The Judas, and book three is titled The Watcher.