Sunday, January 19, 2014

10 Follow-up Questions with British Sci-Fi Writer Phillip Richards

This Author Spotlight

Phillip Richards

Author of EDEN

I don't know about you guys, but military fiction and military science fiction really get to me. There is something about it that is difficult to describe. When I come across a writer who was, or still is, active duty, and who writes about it, I pay attention. It's a glimpse into a world most of us will never know, populated by larger-than-life characters caught in larger-than-life situations. There is often something powerful to behold there as well.

So for the very first Author Spotlight of 2014, I'm pleased and honored to present British science fiction writer Phillip Richards. We spoke with Phil last year, hot on the heels of the success of his first two novels CROW and LANCEJACK. The latest book in the series, EDEN, is now available.

1. This is a follow-up interview, but for people who are not already familiar with your work, tell us what kind of books you write and what readers should expect from your stories, and what is your latest novel EDEN about?

I write military science fiction, using the genre as a means to reflect upon aspects of my service within the British Army. I have served in the army for over thirteen years, so I have a great deal to talk about, but because I am still serving I can’t really write anything factual for legal reasons that I won’t get into.

I use my military experience to blend realism with the genre, by using military doctrine to understand how concept weapons and equipment are best employed, their advantages and disadvantages, but also by understanding how it actually feels to be there and witness conflict first hand. I feel this is where I stand out amongst the crowd. In a few hundred years half of the weapons my characters employ may not exist, but war will never be viewed through rose tinted spectacles. It will always be hell.

Eden is the third installment to the Union Series, which originally started as a standalone novel. It sees the protagonist, Andy Moralee, leading a section of dropship troopers deep into hostile territory to bring about a speedy end to a bitter feud between two rival provinces before the entire planet descends into war. The conflict needs to be brought to an end, no matter the cost, and Andy is required to work alongside a militia with little sense of humanity in order to fulfill his mission.

2. What was the duration of the writing process for EDEN?

A great deal longer than expected! From the moment the idea formed within my head to the day Eden hit the shelves, I would say it took me around six months. I originally set a deadline for October, and then the release date slipped to November, until I finally published on the 23rd of December, just before Christmas. I learnt a big lesson there, I think. One of the best things about being an indie author is that I don’t need to work to timelines set by publishers, but by setting a deadline I effectively applied the pressure onto myself anyway… In the end I ignored that deadline, and I’m glad that I did even if it might have annoyed some readers. I wanted to do the job as well as I could as well as actually enjoy writing, which is why I do it.

3. When EDEN is adapted to film, and the producers ask for your dream cast, what will you say?

Well, we can but hope can’t we? I’m going to be boring here, because I’m sure everyone would love to have their favorite actors. Tom Cruise for the lead role, Leonardo de Caprio and maybe Bruce Willis… No, I wouldn’t want a film to be cast driven. I would much prefer to have fresh, upcoming actors to give it a unique and believable feel. The problem with having famous actors, in my opinion, is that they make a film appear even less believable because you know who they are, and their private lives off the film set. My work specializes in being different, as well as believable- as much as military science fiction can be- so I think it would need a fresh cast.

4. Stephen King often makes a cameo in films adapted from his work. Stan Lee is also enjoying doing so these days. What supporting role would you like to play in the film adaptation of EDEN?

Hmmm… Supporting role… now that would be funny, and weird! The main character is actually me… at least the way he thinks, talks and acts, but clearly I couldn’t be him! I wouldn’t mind being Andy’s Sergeant Major, who is a rather mean and unpleasant man to work with. I’m a platoon sergeant myself these days, so being mean and unpleasant can come pretty easy at times!

5. For a writer, word of mouth is everything. What was the last book you read that you enjoyed so much that you wanted to share it with everyone you know?

It has to be the Sharpe series written by Bernard Cromwell. I absolutely love his books, so much so that I have read many of them twice. He blends his deep understanding of the Napoleonic era with a gripping, action packed storyline. Anybody who likes my books and doesn’t mind trading magnetic rifles for muskets should read his work.

6. As of this writing, the trend in publishing is toward series novels as opposed to stand-alone books. Is EDEN part of a series? If so, where do you see the story going (ie how many books in the series)? If not, do you have a series you’ve written or plan to write, and if so, what is it? And if not, good for you. The squeaky wheel gets the grease!

Eden is indeed part of a series, though not because I chose to follow trends. Like many other military fiction novels it works as part of a series because life in the military isn’t a short, isolated incident. My own service in the army, as an example, has taken me from young terrified recruit to veteran platoon sergeant with a short temper over a period of thirteen years, and I could write and talk about my experiences for a long, long time! I don’t really know how many books I will finish the series on, but there is easily scope for another two or three. Andy Moralee has yet to promote to Corporal and then Sergeant before he catches up with me, and the war on Eden is far from finished. Then there is the uprising that simmers back on New Earth…

7. Saul Bellow said “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” Where do ideas for your books come from, and where are you and what are you typically doing when inspiration strikes?

I am almost always at work! My inspiration often comes from the men I see working around me, their thoughts, their experiences and their fears. I always think it funny when somebody says ‘soldiers would react to a situation like that’ or ‘they wouldn’t talk like that’. Some of the things that happen in my books actually did happen, and that’s exactly how they reacted!

8. Brett Easton Ellis once said, “Do not write a novel for praise. Write for yourself; work out between you and your pen the things that intrigue you.” Indie publishing phenom Amanda Hocking has said that it messed with her head a bit when she realized so many people were going to read the books she’s now writing. Now that Phillip Richards is rapidly gaining recognition in the publishing world, has an established fan base anticipating his next novel, and is being talked about in the highly-reverent third person, will reader expectation influence how and/or what he writes? Or will he hold to Ellis’ suggestion?

I totally agree with Brett. No matter how much you might want fame and fortune, no matter how driven you are, if you aren’t writing about something you care about then you will never write well, and this is most definitely true with fiction. If I didn’t enjoy writing then I simply couldn’t do it. If my readers made a suggestion- and I liked it- then I would attempt to include that suggestion, but if I didn’t like the idea then I wouldn’t do it. Readers pick their author, authors don’t pick their readers.

9. The world of Indie authors is the new slush pile. What are you going to say/do when a traditional New York publisher and/or agent contacts you and asks for a meeting?

It has been suggested to me a couple of times to contact a traditional publisher, but I haven’t yet done so. I like being an indie author. I don’t work to deadlines (except when I impose them upon myself!) and I write what I want to write without anybody apart from my editor- and maybe my mum- making any input whatsoever! It’s a very liberating experience, both for me and for my readers. As for the slush pile, how many wonderful books may have fallen into the gutter, simply because a traditional publishing house didn’t want to take the risk? In my belief it is the indie author- not the publishing house- that will keep the book industry alive.

10. Someone once said, and it may have been my dad, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Where do you want your writing career to be in five years’ time?

At the moment I still consider writing to be a hobby that I’m very passionate about, rather than a career. For the next few years at least, the army will continue to be my bedrock. I plan to use the next few years to develop my writing, to see where it takes me before I take the leap of faith and finally embrace it. After five years I will be looking to finish the Union series, if I haven’t already, and perhaps start something new. No plan survives contact with the enemy, so who knows what the future will bring…

Finally, because no artistic endeavor is a solo flight, would you care to share the names and contact info for your supporting players, namely your cover designer, editor, proofreader(s), research assistants, hairdresser, dog groomer, chauffer, maid, butler, etc?

Yes, I would like to thank my wife and my family for their love and support. I would like to thank The Electronic Book Company for their work to turn my manuscript into a finished ebook, as well as my editor, Kimberley, for her hard work just prior to Christmas. Links to my cover designer, and The Electronic Book Company can be found just inside my book front cover.

Thank you, Phil, for sharing your new book. Keep us posted on the series and on any and all future projects as well.

Be sure to visit Phillip's website

Grab a copy of CROW, LANCEJACK, and EDEN right now.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

How To Begin A New Novel

I just read a post on Nathan Brandsford's blog about the fact that he's beginning a brand new project. He's spent the last 5 years working on his JACOB WONDERBAR books and a how-to book for writers. So he knew the voice for those. But now he's writing something new and he's shitting his pants.

I've recently begun a brand new project and I have NO idea where it's going or what's going to happen. So I can relate to his performance anxiety.

So below please find my admittedly somewhat impulsive response posted on his blog beneath the 62 previous comments where no one except commenter 63 will ever see it.

How To Begin A New Novel

Just start.

Anyplace, anywhere.

Just start.

Stop whining, stop being a little bitch, stop psyching yourself out, stop writing blog posts about how to begin.

None of that matters.

It's all distraction and procrastination.

Like the late Elmore Leonard once said, "There is no secret. You sit down and you start and that's it."

Yeah, I know it's scary and yes I mindf**k myself in exactly the same ways I just lambasted. I think most writers do. Writing can be scary. Writing can be difficult. It's like flying a fighter jet or having 6% bodyfat. It's not easy. It's not supposed to be easy. If it were easy, everyone would be doing or have attained it.

That which we achieve too easily we esteem too lightly.

So, again, stop blogging and go write.

Trust in yourself and in the magical process that is creation.

You'll figure it out.

Just write for yourself first.

The first draft is for figuring out what the story is about. You can deal with all the bullshit and the marketing after that.

For now, simply have fun!!!

I'll say it again, so you leave feeling uplifted and inspired and ready to make that blank page your entertainment bitch: