Thursday, February 23, 2012

10 Questions with Sci-Fi Writer John-Paul Cleary (@ConvergentSpace)

This Author Spotlight features science fiction writer John-Paul Cleary.

John-Paul has taken his extensive experience as a magazine editor and applied it to the world of creating fiction. The result is his first novel, CONVERGENT SPACE (see above), which John-Paul describes as an "accessible road movie of a book." Readers have said that CONVERGENT SPACE is full of unique and interesting characters, fascinating alien races and plenty of twists and turns.

John Paul lives just outside Aberdeen, Scotland.

1. How did you get into writing?

Writing is something I’ve always done.  I’ve even tried it as a career once, working as a magazine editor for four years.  It taught me how to write quickly and to write to order, and how to edit.

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?

Not reading.  I can’t read other books when I’m writing because I’m too easily influenced.  I start mimicking the style of the book I’m reading and suddenly I’m writing Dickens in Space!

3. What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?

I plan the whole book and write a few sentences about each chapter.  As I’m approaching a chapter I flesh out the outline – usually about 2 or 3 pages of planning.  Any less than that I start digressing and drifting off the plot, any more than that and I find my creativity is suppressed.

I write first thing in the morning – early, before anyone else is awake, 5 am preferably.  The target is always 1000 words a day, 7 days a week. I never achieve that but I’m the eternal optimist.  And it’s good to push yourself.

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”

I admire everyone who has ever put a pen to paper. I can see value in anything someone has written down, even if it’s three chapters of a book they never finished.  Everyone has something to say and it’s great to read what that is.

As for my favorites – for sci-fi it has to be Iain M Banks.  Reading his books got me back into sci-fi after I had cooled to it for a few years.

My favorite novel is The Magus by John Fowles. I’ve read it at least four times. It’s a little dated now but I love the way he messes about with fantasy and reality, and form and content.  It’s full of flaws and it leaves lots of things unanswered and I like that too. There’s no reason why stories should always tie up all loose ends. Unanswered questions make you think.

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

Outside but who’s counting?

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

Commas affect meaning, flow and rhythm so if the meaning of the sentence is the same with or without, and has the flow and rhythm then I leave it out.

7. What is your book Convergent Space about and how did it come to fruition?

Convergent Space is a dramatic sci-fi space opera.  The premise I think is quite original.  Normally space operas either have Earth at the centre of some grand federation or are about a different galaxy where Earth doesn’t feature. In Convergent Space there is a grand federation called the Renaissance but Earth isn’t part of it.  Earth is a faded power, a has-been, an outsider.  It was implicated in a terrible galactic crime that destroyed thousands of worlds and has been shunned ever since.

The story revolves around Earth’s 200-year obsession with trying to prove its innocence and thereby regain its lost status.  We pick up events when one of Earth’s space-faring investigators finally finds a clue that might just lead to the truth. 

All this happens against a backdrop of galactic war as a dark force is rising out of the ashes of the worlds most affected by the earlier catastrophe.  And both stories – the one in the past and the one in the present - eventually intertwine.

8. What’s your current writing project?

I’m currently writing the second book in the series. The outlines for the first three books were planned from the outset so that was always going to be the case.  One of my readers on Twitter also suggested a prequel – if you read Convergent Space you will see why this would be attractive. It’s not a bad idea.

The series was designed to grow in scale and concept as they progress: each bigger, wider and more ambitious than the last.  The challenge of course is to do this while making sure each story stands up on its own.  I’m looking forward to tackling that. It creates even more possibilities.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?

As I said I can’t read other books when I’m writing but I have the latest Iain M Banks on my shelf waiting.

I can read short stuff OK so I stick to the blogs of the people I meet on Twitter.  There are some real gems out there.  The talent of indie writers and other Twitterers just astounds me. My favorites recently are the short stories by @Belgerith, the poetry of @Mentalistacer and the toe-curling weirdness of @Flostp.

The funniest guy on Twitter is a guy in San Diego called @Vapid_Waste.  He’s so dry and creepy he’s like a cross between Steven Wright and the Robert De Nero character in Taxi Driver.  The only problem is I’m not 100% sure he’s trying to be funny.  I also worry that someday he might find out my address!  He only has about 30 followers but he should have 30,000. I don’t even know how I found him.  I love Twitter.

10. Who or what inspires your writing?

People initially.  People I meet, people from my past, people from history… Then my imagination takes over and transports it all off-world.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.

Convergent Space is available from:

Or you can read a free excerpt on my blog -

Thanks, John-Paul. I really like the premise for CONVERGENT SPACE. Let us know when the second book in the series is available.

Pick up a copy of Convergent Space today. And follow John-Paul on Twitter at @ConvergentSpace.

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