Meet my guest today from far off England. I met Kev on Twitter. He writes science fiction and fantasy and has had trouble settling on a career. If you like what you read, please comment. Remember each comment enters you to win a signed copy of The Bull Riding Witch when it is released or a $25 Amazon gift card.
When Kev isn’t penning difficult, third person descriptions of himself for on and off-line publications, he mulls away the hours writing bestselling science fiction and fantasy novels, or watching telly, or going down the pub. Or doing the one-hundred or so other things he likes to do instead of actually writing.
1. Tell us something about how you write? i.e. are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have any weird or necessary writing habits or rituals?
I’m a ‘pantster’! Although it’s not something I mention at parties due to all the strange looks.
My technique—a laughingly inaccurate term—is the mental equivalent of waking up with a vague feeling of wanting to go somewhere but without any clue of an actual destination, how I’m going to get there (if I’m going to get there), how long it will take or whom I’m going take with me on the way.
There’s lots of other metaphors. And they all sound the same. It’s the most frustrating process which relies on my mind making connections between seemingly random events, characters and plot points. Usually with a few deaths thrown in for good measure. Add the fact that I write supposedly ‘well-crafted mysteries’ and the process becomes a hell of my own making.
The actual process?
I come up with a mystery without knowing what the solution is. I have a few islands to aim for. I start with a bang, usually with some cool action and some other ideas about set-pieces – more cool action scenes—and off I go.
During this process, I’ll meet characters, and it’s them who shape everything. I name them using an alphabetic list using everyday names like Arthur, Bill, Dave, Ada, Bella, Claire. This stops me wasting time thinking of cool names that may not suit the character before I’ve discovered who they are.
The rest is seeing where I go and hoping that the mystery will reveal itself. Yes. I use hope!
For instance, writing my space murder mystery, Vatic (calling it a ‘murder mystery’ is a vast understatement), my hero was constantly frustrated by how nothing made any sense. But that wasn’t him! It was me, voicing my own perplexed frustration on the written page.
So why do I put myself through this?
It’s for those moments when I make the connections, when out of nowhere I find a unifying thread that brings everything in the mystery together. A kind of lying in the bath Eureka moment.
2. Do you think people have misconceptions about the speculative fiction? Why do you think it is a worthwhile genre?
I suppose some people prefer the real world to be re-enforced in their reading. Maybe they want something safer and set within recognizable boundaries. I don’t like boundaries. Never did.
I read my first sci-fi at age twelve and—it was mind-blowing. A very personal experience. I was a closed-off child who found making friends difficult (nothing’s changed, haha). Sci-fi and fantasy was a wonderful escape from the real world that I couldn’t really get along with. For me, books were all I needed.
Anyone who reads my novels will immediately understand the concepts I’m working with. Lust, death, power etc. My puzzles happen to be in space—this is because out of all the many genres, science fiction is the most imaginative genre, and it gives scope to my expansive imagination.
3. Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book?
It’s called Quick-Kill and the Galactic Secret Service.
And it’s not a mystery! Hurrah! Although there are some mystery elements that cropped up during writing, which are left unresolved—meaning that if the novella goes down well, there’s scope for sequels. And besides, I couldn’t help myself.
I wanted to write a bubble-gum sci-fi. Something a little cheesy. Something fast-paced, tongue in cheek. And a short. A little holiday away from another more serious project I’d been sweating over.
It turned into an assassin story starring the eponymous Quick-Kill Jane. Written in first-person present, Jane’s character arrived almost immediately. Her voice is the one that drives the novel. It was a real, sit down and let Jane do her stuff kind of thing—and she didn’t let me down. A real joy to write—and even I was shocked by the ending. That pantster vibe again.
The novel starts off on a backwater planet in the backend of nowhere, with Jane plying her trade as an assassin and enjoying every moment of it. But things don’t go the way she expected. Haha. Leading to a series of events that even Jane, with all her driven, borderline genius capabilities, cannot escape from.
Here’s a snippet…
Amsterdam City is ahead, silhouetted against the dark night sky and lit up like an electric red thistle. The lower gravity means that it boasts some of the tallest high-rises and skyscrapers in this forgotten solar system. But the money has long-gone, leaving decades ago to invest itself in the ‘next big thing’—which happened to be space habitats.
Amsterdam is Plenty’s first and only city, its buildings mimicking the red of the surrounding landscape. The conurbation was once considered a marvel. But now? It’s nothing more than a crumbling prison, home to thirty or so million people wishing they were someplace else. No towns, no resorts… nothing. Just a few outlying industrial farms and the spaceport. The locals—who I do not count myself a member of—call it the Forgotten City. And I can’t wait to put it out of my memory.
I enter via the ring road, taking the turnoff that brings me outside Angie’s apartment. At this time of night there’s little traffic. I cast my eyes up to Angie’s windows. The lights are off and alarm bells start ringing. She should be waiting for me, all dolled up and a meal prepared. A celebration. Tonight, of all nights, she’d be there with the lights on. And she ain’t the type to throw a surprise party. Besides, she’s like me when it comes to friends… she can’t see the point. That’s why we get on so well. That, and our disinclination towards men.
The foyer is an oasis of light on the dark street. Just inside I spot Joe, the robo-doorman. He’s seen better days. His once colourful costume is faded, as is his absurd top hat. I push open the doors and head for the elevator.
The metallic face inclines towards me. The eyes sunken and slightly sad. “Are you here to see Miss Angie?” he asks in servile bass tones.
I see the gun in his hand long before he can raise it against me.
I snap out my laser and play the beam over his face, which collapses in on itself. The cooked bio-circuitry smells like a pie in the oven. Which reminds me… I’m hungry. Whoever’s upstairs waiting for me hoped Joe would to do their work for them.
I flick the laser’s beam over the rest of Joe’s twitching artificial body. He collapses into nothing more than a few whirring, metal cogs and smoking servitor modules. I never did like the condescending bastard. Good riddance. If I had my way, I’d melt all these robotic half-breeds to glass and laugh while I did it.
My next action is easy. I get in the elevator and arrive on Angie’s floor a few seconds later. I step out, make my way to her apartment and knock. I shout, “Honey, I’m home!” and sidestep a hail of bullets that turn the door into plastic shreds.
I power up the laser again and play it at head-height across the wall. It punches through the extruded pseudo-cement like, well, like a high-powered industrial laser through a cheaply-manufactured living module. I look into the smoking ruins of the room. Angie is tied up in a chair, her hair singed from where the laser caught it. Good girl, she’ll survive. Shame about her apartment. I guess I won’t be eating anytime soon.
For my attacker, it’s another story. He lies on the floor, his head a burnt mess.
4. What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after becoming a writer?
For me it’s the writing itself. The ideas that emerge from writing. That I can create something from nothing just by tapping plastic. And (trying not to be self-reverential) I’m sometimes truly amazed at the finished product. At what I’ve achieved.
I suppose to put it a single statement… I’m surprised by the magic of it.
5. Titles have always been extremely difficult for me. How do you come up with yours?
I have only one stipulation for a book title, and that there is no other book title like it out there. It must standalone in a Google/Amazon search.
Second to that is that there is no major product, band or brand that shares the same name.
Book titles either come fully formed like Vatic or Blue Into The Rip, or I agonize over them for weeks on end. Sometimes over-thinking—like I did with The IronScythe Sagas and ‘Quick-kill and the Galactic Secret Service’.
I must have had about ten different names for my latest novella. The story wrote itself, but the title didn’t. It all revolved around the name of my main character.
She started off as ‘Deadly Jane’ and became ‘Dead-Eye Jane’, Red-Eyed Jane’, ‘Can’t Kill Jane’. It went through a series of names to do with colours. What a pain. I even went onto an online random assassin name picker for fantasy games. Nightmare.
In the end, I found I liked the two ‘k’s in the centre of Quick-kill. That, and a relatively empty Google search for the same name, made me just give in and go with it. It’s grown on me, although it jarred for a few days.
6. What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
‘A writer writes’ – not sure who said that. Did anybody? I say it a lot to myself. I remember when I used to talk about writing rather than actually writing. But it’s a true adage. If we don’t write, we ain’t writers. I write for at least four hours every day. The hours increasing over time as I’ve slowly overcome the dreaded ‘procrastination’.
7. Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Do you have any other books in the works?
I’m presently writing Vatic 2 – not sure of the title yet. But it’s early days in the first draft but something will suggest itself. It will need to be a single word preferably with two syllables.
Vatic is already on his way to solve another messed up space mystery… Hoorah! Your favourite ‘Skilled’ is trapped on a berserk spaceship and in a mean, mean mood about it, so don’t get in his way!
My Sequel to Blue Into The Rip – Blue Into The Moon is presently at the ‘aaaaargh!’ stage. That’s just how I feel about it at the moment. But it’s near done.
So what does Blue get up to in part two? Well, he goes to the Moon for starters. There’s murder, a Tourney and an asteroid made out of sapphire. But the big thing is his first kiss! Yeah. It’s all happening to Blue in Phase two of cadet training.
In the next month or two, I have a story out in a Samuel Peralta anthology, Chronicle Worlds: Drifting isle. My first foray in steampunk. My story is of course a mystery! What else could it be? Very noirish. Called: Murder, Lies and No Goodbyes. No release date for this just yet. But I’ll let you all know.
Where can we find you online?
Please feel free to contact me on any of the following links. I will certainly find time to reply.
Amazon: Amazon author page
Barnes & Noble: My B&N Books
If Kev's interested you, his book can be purchased below, and remember to comment.