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From science fiction to Moorish Spain

David began his career as a science fiction writer.
David began his career as a science fiction writer. / SUR
  • David Penny: writer and author

Born in London in 1950, David Penny began writing at a tender age and was initially obsessed with science-fiction. He read avidly and wrote even more and eventually started seeing his work in amateur fanzines.

At the age of 23, a short story was accepted by Galaxy magazine - his first payment for writing. At the age of 24, his first novel, The Sunset People, was accepted for publication and David was taken under the wing of a literary agency. Three other science fiction novels followed, but David enjoyed a “dissipated and wasteful (but not wasted) youth”, doing little other than writing, growing his hair and following an alternative artistic lifestyle.

In his mid to late twenties real life intruded into his blissful state of affairs and in order to survive he sought paid employment. Following various early jobs, David became a science laboratory technician at Welshpool High School and it was here he met his wife Megan. After the couple married, David started a software business, where he worked with his wife until they both retired in 2016.

Megan has always supported her husband with his writing - although she did admit that when she read his first book, she was afraid she might not like it and was so relieved when she realised he could actually write.

Unfortunately, as the years passed, the achievement of his ambitions was not matched with monetary reward. He received just £200 in advance for each of his first four books, but none of the books earned beyond their advance.

“Fortune shone on me because I sold a paperback translation in Germany and received the astronomic sum of 500 pounds. It paid for our engagement ring,” David explains to SUR in English.

His family commitments and the need to study for an Open University degree, forced David to put his writing career aside, although the urge to create fiction remained.

Now enjoying retirement, David has started writing again after a break of four decades, but this time he has chosen to pursue an independent publishing route.

“I was traditionally published at the age of 24, when I began writing science fiction novels, before stopping for over 40 years. When I started to write again the world had changed and I discovered I could now upload my work to Amazon and see it for sale within hours,” the author says.

David lives in the small village of Dymock, close to the Gloucestershire and Herefordshire border, although he spends much of the year in the Axarquía region. He first visited Spain at the age of 16 as part of a school trip that introduced him to the Alhambra palace and the Albaicín. He did not return for more than 40 years.

He started making two or three trips a year for various research purposes, mainly in Malaga, which remains his favourite Spanish city.

“The Axarquia was a region we knew very little about until we came in search of a place to buy. We wanted somewhere away from the coast, but within striking distance, and somewhere with a real sense of Spanish culture. The Axarquía offered all of that, plus mountains, good food, and very twisty roads,” he explains.

He is currently working on the Thomas Berrington series of historical mysteries set in late 15th century Moorish Spain. The first two books in the series were awarded the Indie Brag Medallion for work of a high standard and were shortlisted for the 2015 M.M. Bennett award for Historical Fiction.

“The Thomas Berrington series came to me in one of those instant flashes of inspiration sometimes a writer is lucky enough to get,” David declares somewhat modestly.

The fifth instalment of the Thomas Berrington mysteries, The Inquisitor, which focuses on an English surgeon summoned to investigate a series of murders in Seville during the turmoil of the Inquisition, was released in January and has already received a five-star rating on Amazon.

David is currently writing both the sixth -which is set in Malaga - and the seventh books in the Thomas Berrington series. In addition, there is a prequel in the works that tells of how Thomas started his journey from England to Spain at the age of 13.

When he is not writing, David walks his beloved dog, Max, and enjoys playing the guitar.