Author Interview: Stephen Llewelyn (& Giveaway)
Today is my stop on the Survive blog tour and I am pleased to welcome Stephen Lllewelyn on to the blog with a quick interview! He’s come up with some fascinating answers!
What is your favourite thing about writing books?
Wordplay: I really enjoy playing with words and sentence structures, especially if I can achieve a double meaning, a very simple example might be ‘atmosfear’. The act of writing also never ceases to amaze me; just how many ways you can tell the same tale. Whilst re-editing a supernatural short story I’d written earlier in the year, I took the liberty of feeding it to a couple of people who had read the previous version; they both asked me what I’d changed. I replied, “Only one thing – the words!” I had completely re-written virtually every paragraph. The changes gave the writing a more pleasing flow and added polish here and there, but the story remained the same. I find that fascinating.
As a musician, I suppose you could say that I’ve always been a creative type of person, but my professional career in structural waterproofing and damp proofing, gives very little outlet for this character trait. Writing is a great way to let the imagination run wild and an aid for getting a head full of nonsense (and child-like wonder at how everything works) into some sort of order on the page.
With regards to my new novel, ‘Survive’, where else could you fight to stop the resurgence of extreme fascism, in the form of the descendants of the Nazi party, whilst fleeing a whole menagerie of descendants of the mighty Carcharodontosaurus? I think that getting something as crazy sounding as those two eventualities to take on cohesion and even actually make sense is the magic of story telling. You can do anything, anywhere, anywhen; as you long as you make it believable – I love it!
Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
I think my favourite character in ‘Survive’ would be the Australian explosives expert, Captain Gleeson. He’s full of contradictory character traits and flaws. On the one hand he’s the fairly stereotypical Aussie; honest to the point of rudeness, on the other he is extremely brave and loyal to his crew. I think I’ve described it elsewhere as that ‘Anzac spirit’. A lawyer who ran away from the family business because he didn’t get on with his father, he found a new home in the army, along with a love of ‘blowing stuff up’ as he puts it. He also gets some of the best put-downs and one-liners in the book, so what’s not to like? His role is fairly peripheral in ‘Survive’ but he becomes one of the feature characters in the second book, ‘Revenge’. He’s a lot of fun to write and researching the subtle differences between Australian and New Zealander slang was also amusing.
What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Tea (preferably PG Tips). It brings out the chimpanzee in me; it’s the taste!
Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Erm… probably. I get very involved and can spend all day and night writing when I’m in the zone and get very irritated if anyone interrupts me for unnecessary things like food, sleep, the house being on fire – I just don’t care if I’m trying to work out a knotty paragraph which keeps refusing to be ordered :o)
Another bad habit I have, is writing when I probably should be sleeping – it was ever the same with music and now I have the same problem with writing in that the muse always wakes up late at night. This can be annoying. Hopefully, if I can commit to writing full time one day, this bad habit will perhaps go away… perhaps.
How do you research your books?
People are a critical component of any research – a story without characters would merely be a description, after all. I meet a lot of very different people, from differing backgrounds, during the course of business and although I try to stay away from psychopaths and genocidal maniacs, I do still see much which is both base and honourable within society. Anyone trying to survive running a small business would be in the same boat, I’m sure. I take the positive in that I believe this helps with writing varied characters across the races, ages and genders, good and bad.
Like most writers, I try to read as much as possible although I am hampered a little by being a fairly slow reader, which is at odds with the fact that I tend to write very quickly. Travelling all over the country for work, and for pleasure where I can, also generates ideas – possibly even more than reading, which often engrosses me in other people’s thoughts rather than my own. Occasionally, a specific place may even bring a whole story to life in one leap. For a writer, sci-fi is about as close to absolute freedom as it’s possible to get, as long as it’s believable. That’s how it seems to me, at least. When younger, I read mostly sci-fi and fantasy and still love the genre. However, I tend to draw most of my writing influences from reading, hearing or viewing history, palaeontology and other science articles or documentaries aimed at the ‘Ladybird book’ level of understanding which the likes of myself can grapple with! However, by drawing on such disparate sources, it is my intention to write sci-fi which doesn’t really follow any of the rules – I like that and hope others will too.
I try not to promote my own agendas and observations in the narrative if I can help it, this can be odious and if it puts me off then it probably would many other folks too. I prefer to set up arguments among the characters to explore points of view or concerns where possible. One of my peripheral aims for ‘Survive’ was to write several, very different and yet very strong female characters who could command respect, attraction or even fear without ever needing to resort to rather obvious, derogatory comments to or about men. The latter seems to be common in sci-fi and fiction writing at the moment. Strength seems to get confused with being loud, condescending and overpowering. It’s only my opinion, but I don’t believe this portrays women fairly. Without wanting to reveal any ‘Survive’ spoilers, I would trust and respect Commander Jill Baines and Mother Sarah Fellows because they are wise, brave, caring, funny and most importantly, would never leave you behind. I am very fortunate that my partner is a very strong, very intelligent woman and she keeps me on the right lines in this regard.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Total Pants! The stories really do write themselves, I’m just the autopilot flying the keyboard. I tend to have a concept in my mind with a few important calls along the journey but I let the rest take on a life of its own. I also write very fast, although I make no jokes about skid marks here! The only time I have to plan or think things through or agonise, is during the painful editing process. Editing must take me at least ten times as long as the writing because it invariably involves endless rewrites, right down to the minutiae. It goes without saying that it is never perfect and I am never entirely happy with it. Luckily, my partner is much more sensible than I am and she stops me running headlong into the territory of diminishing returns wherever she can.
If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
That’s quite a difficult question to answer. I enjoy the comforts of the modern world as we all do but I am fascinated by the past. The only problem is there are very few comfortable times in the past, fact or fiction. However, the insanely overpopulated future of mankind really does frighten me. I’m 46 and the population has doubled in my lifetime, in fact it has increased by almost a quarter during the life of my oldest dog and this terrifies me. So that said, I think I would choose personal happiness and security over excitement and choose to live in a late Neolithic world filled with beautiful, natural landscapes, before the sword brought a screaming end to peace. Perhaps I could masquerade as a wise man and teach the people there how to build better houses with a lot less damp in them? Maybe even tell scary stories about any ‘dragon’ bones they accidentally dig up! Needless to say, the pedant in me would have to organise a few English classes first, though. As this is my fictional world, I think I’d take a few creature comforts too, including: plenty of books, a guitar with a lifetime supply of strings, many, many albums and a powerful clockwork stereo for when the peace and quiet became too quiet and peaceful. Oh – and plenty of loo roll!
If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
May I pick two?
I would love to be mates with Rodney McKay from Stargate Atlantis. He’s hilariously arrogant and rude but vastly intelligent and when it really comes down to it, incredibly brave. Any fool can dive into dangerous situations but someone who really understands just how badly things can go wrong and how ill equipped he is to deal with it, is terrified by this but still goes in anyway, even if his hands are over his eyes, is a hero in my book. It would also be beyond awesome to see the stars and another galaxy too.
My second would be Uhtred of Bebbanburg. One of my many fascinations is Saxon England. Unlike the earlier Roman or latter medieval, there is little left in the landscape to show how these people lived and so it’s another of those periods where imagination can run free. Archaeologists will say that this is nonsense of course, and they would be right because there is much in the landscape to build a picture of these long gone days, but I would counter that the evidence is hard for a layman to recognise. If I were to visit this, endlessly fascinating and often shocking period of our history, who better to guide me through it than Bernard Cornwell’s Lord Uhtred? What an adventure it would be to be caught between Alfred’s Roman Christianity and the wrath and paganism of the Danes. In such a dangerous world I would like my best friend to be, possibly, one of the most dangerous men in it!
About the book
Earth: population 50 billion. Pollution, crime and scarcity are out of our control. Instantaneous travel provides hope for the terraforming of another world.
A terrorist attack. An explosion at the event horizon of a wormhole. A murder. A trail of clues, misinformation and sabotage. Nothing is as it seems as an old enemy returns from the shadows. 100 years from now, the 100 souls aboard the USS New World are thrown back 100 million years to the deadly Cretaceous Period. From there, an epic fight to save humanity begins; but first, they must survive.
A multi-national, eclectic crew; among them the good, the not so good and the no damned good at all. Loss, courage, genius and sheer bloody-mindedness bind them. NASA Captain, James Douglas, and his first officer, Jill Baines, expected a taxi run to Mars. Now they must escape a fearsome Mapusaurus pack, survive natural disasters, brutal discoveries and treachery.
About the Author
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1. Open to INTL
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4. Ends on 01/10/2018