I was asked to contribute to the latest meme!
a. What am I working on?
I usually have a few things happening at the same time, and that’s true at the moment. My main WIP is a YA trilogy set in an alternate 1910/1911. It’s set mostly in Britain, but does head off to West Africa. The first two novels – The Girl With Two Souls and The Girl With One Friend – are written as first drafts, and I hope to write the concluding volume over winter. I think this is amongst the best work I’ve ever done; certainly from the point of view of plot and character. The main character is a fourteen year old mulatto girl who (it is thought) has two souls – on alternate days she appears as two different people. Her appalling father is the leading industrialist of the age, who has created a race of automata from his vast Factory south of Sheffield. I’m really looking forward to writing the final volume of this work, The Girl With No Soul.
In 2011 I wrote the first half of a near-future SF novel called Beautiful Intelligence. The setting for this is a race between two informal artificial intelligence research teams. Due to personal circumstances I was unable to complete the novel, but recently I’ve gone back to it, honed the written part, and prepared the concluding half. I hope to write this second half over the summer. As someone who has been interested in human consciousness, evolution, AI and related issues for decades, it has always bothered me how negligent (accidental or otherwise) some authors are with their work in these areas. There are any number of SF books where computer networks mysteriously “become sentient,” or where people “upload aspects of their consciousness or personality,” or things similarly impossible in my opinion. Beautiful Intelligence compares and contrasts this traditional view of AI with an alternate view, set amidst an exciting plot of betrayal, social decay and African cultures. Some time ago I wrote a novel called Muezzinland – Beautiful Intelligence is a volume 1 to Muezzinland’s volume 2. When I wrote Muezzinland I hoped to work on a sequel, and I think now that I will do this, writing a volume 3 to complete my tale of futuristic network/AI themes.
b. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
That’s difficult to say. I’m aware that some of my work is viewed as “challenging,” and I suppose with novels like Urbis Morpheos that is true. But it wasn’t intentionally challenging, I just wanted to write a deep, allusive, mysterious novel about environmental issues in the very far future. I also had a phase of using characters both as real people and as archetypes, and I got some flack for that – for example in The Rat & The Serpent. I think my focus on environmental issues – which was mentioned by John Clute in the SF Encyclopaedia as the reason for my lack of success! – is something that sets me apart from many other authors. I also tend to focus on socially apart, suppressed or otherwise mistreated characters – I do like a good “outsider” as a character. Often I use female characters (I much prefer to write them rather than male ones) and often non-white races. Africa fascinates me in particular. The “outsider” thing is certainly true of the disabled Ugliy in The Rat & The Serpent.
c. Why do I write what I do?
All my stuff is inspired by the real world – social injustice, environmental issues, etc. There are usually large scale and small scale beginnings. Often I’ll have an idea for a character or a scenario that takes some big theme as its focus – the environment, racism, sexism, etc. Certain aspects of these themes will form the basic theme of a book. Then there’ll be the small things, the pebbles that start the snowball. With Memory Seed, I had a couple of mental images come to me one day as I was walking around Virginia Water in Surrey – a row of moss-covered roofs going down to an ocean, and an ultra-posh brothel that was a cover for something else. For Muezzinland, I was inspired by tales of Princess Diana and her dysfunctional relationship with the Royal Family to create the Empress of Ghana and her two daughters. Unusually, Hairy London, my most recently published novel, began as the title and nothing else; and once I had that title appear in my head I began thinking about what a hairy London might be like…
d. How does my writing process work?
I write fast. I always have been able to, though it doesn’t always work like that. These days I try to write mostly in school holidays (my day-job is in education) so that I can really concentrate on writing the first draft of a novel and getting it as good as possible. I can usually do 5,000 words a day when it’s really flowing. Afterwards, I collapse from exhaustion!
As I’ve mentioned in various interviews, I suffer from writer’s volcano, which is the opposite of writer’s block. It can be tough going! It does mean however that I can have a number of books and stories out there. At the moment I have four novels out in the wild – The Girl With Two Souls, Humani (a far-future environmental/philosophical novel), Vinland (YA alternate America/Britain) and Bad King John (a children’s novel set in the Westcountry).
Now, I’m going to reverse the flow of this blog-hop by linking to…