What scares you the most?
Having to live in a world where there’s no individuality, creativity, or freedom.
It’d be easier to say, “spiders,” but I don’t think that’s really true — spiders can be kind of cool, as long as they’re not on your face or in your hair, right?
The thing is, the world seems to be pulled towards this future state where we all make decisions together, and have long, soul-destroying meetings. Maybe it’s just my few through the lens of working for the G-Men, but this consensus-based approach seems to me to be the best way to reduce creativity and innovation.
For someone who fancies himself as a bit of a storyteller, that’s a terrifying future. You know — there’s that old meme kicking around, I don’t know if it’s entirely true, but it’s like this:
1. Five people wrote “Baby” by Justin Beiber.
2. Five people wrote “We Can’t Stop” by Wrecking Ball, I mean, Miley Cyrus.
3. Nine people wrote “Imma Stop” by The Black Eyed Peas.
4. One person — Freddie Mercury — wrote “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
There’s a lesson in there somewhere. I don’t think you need to like or hate any of those pieces of music to understand what I’m talking about — consensus is a poor substitute for creativity or innovation. The end product feels dilute, less than it could be with a strong single voice.
Maybe I feel that we want to tell our own stories.
What makes you happiest?
Good time, quiet time, either inside my head or with My Person*.
* Grey’s Anatomy fans unite!
I really like being able to sit down and chew through thoughts and ideas. Sometimes it’s my characters talking to each other — I do a lot of dialogue in my head when I’m on the train, or listening to music, or whatever. But it can also be chewing through great content made by other people — the latest novel I’ve grabbed and love, or a TED talk that blows my mind.
Being with My Person is awesome. It seems we can talk for hours, and hours, and never run out of things to talk about. Sometimes we’re crazy fun, sometimes we’re serious, it doesn’t much matter. Where, or when, isn’t as important as who.
Why do you write?
Stories. I want to tell stories. Have for a long, long time — since before I was ten years old, easily.
It probably started with play acting with toys as a kid, and telling the stories about how the Evil Hairbrush was going to take over Couch Land. We lived between feast and famine from a finance perspective when I was a kid, so sometimes I had Lego scattered everywhere, and sometimes I was making up stories between heroes made of cardboard or whatever. You’ve never really breathed life into something until you’ve used a fork as a starship.
Those stories were interesting — even at a young age, they had some common themes, where there might be a group of people, and they’re trying to overcome something or someone.
I have this idea that — just maybe — I can tell exciting, interesting stories that people want to read that will also tell them a little bit about people. I don’t get why stories about being a human being have to be told in the context of dying from cancer or whatever. That’s just hard going. Wouldn’t it be cool if stories could be fun, and exciting, and still explore the human condition?
What writing are you most proud of?
Night’s Favour (http://amzn.com/B00EBNA0MU) is my first “real book” and I’m still very proud of it. I like re-reading it — sure, I find things I’d have done differently if I wrote it again, but I also like the dialogue I wrote, the action, and I like the people in there.
When I finished that book, I actually got pretty depressed for a while, because I was so enjoying my time with Val, and John, and Danny, and Carlisle, that I didn’t want to let them go. There’s another story with them kicking around in my head, and I’ve started planning it — tentatively called Night’s Fall — but that’ll be a while away yet.
I’m hoping that Upgrade, my current work-in-progress, will be better than Night’s Favour. I’ve been wanting to write it for years, but haven’t quite known how. There’s a lot of moving parts. It’s a story about Mason and Sadie, Laia and Zacharies, Harry and Carter, and they need to be able to tell you their story first.
What are you most proud of in your personal life?
It’d be a bit of a tie, really, but a lot of it circles around the phoenix-like pull back from the brink. A few years ago I hit that point where all things were bad: my starter wife and I went our separate ways, I was so fat I was the shape of an almost perfect sphere, and if I looked back at my time in life, my biggest achievement was sinking a few hundred thousand hours into video games.
Good things came from that. Bear with me.
I shed over thirty kilograms, I got a black belt in karate, I wrote a book, and I got engaged. That last one’s really important. It’s not like a set of achievements you unlock, but it’s a journey I’m really proud of for going through. I learned a bunch of things. I really like writing. Karate is damn cool, it’s rare to find a sport where you get an accolade for actually kicking another human in the head. And when you find someone who loves you despite your baggage, well, that’s a special kind of awesome.
I still play video games. Some things can’t be fixed.
What books did you love growing up?
I gobbled up anything by Eddings and Feist. Man, those guys. I read Lindholm before she was cool and became Robin Hobb. Really, lots of epic fantasy, truckloads of the stuff before I acquired some semblance of taste.
Science Fiction nabbed me when I found some authors who could do it and tell great stories rather than shitty science. I was a bit fan of Niven, especially when he hit the power combo with Barnes and wrote Dreampark — and his solo Ringworld books were amazing. Julian May.
This is where I admit I also read McAffrey. For the dragons, not the romance, okay?
A little Poul Anderson — it’s hard to keep up with that guy.
My tastes are (only a little) more diverse these days — I’m in it for the story and the telling of it. I’ll read supernatural, or crime thriller, or whatever, as long as it’s good stuff — but I still find that my real interest lies in more speculative stuff.
What book should everybody read at least once?
The Cloth Merchant’s Apprentice, by Nigel Suckling (http://www.unicorngarden.com/clothmerchant.htm).
It’s a bit of a rare book today — it’s one of my treasured paper artefacts. There are still some copies kicking around used online, and I’ve just checked Amazon — it’s out there (http://www.amazon.com/Cloth-Merchants-Apprentice-Nigel-Suckling/dp/0905664086/). It reminds me of Gaiman at his best, a story that’s gentle and startling, much like Stardust.
This book taught me that you can have adventures and romance together, and that the way a story is told is a tremendous amount of the beauty in it. The book is honest and respectful, fun and soulful in equal measure.
I will never part with it.
What do you hope your obituary will say about you?
That I lived well, that I did things that were right despite that they were hard, and that I was a good friend, husband, and human.
And that I had one foot in Heaven before the devil knew I was dead.
It’s kind of hard, though. There’s a way you’d like your life to be like, and then there’s how the world around you impacts on the edges of that. You’ve got people at work, or people in your social club.
Everyone knows that special person in HR. You know what I mean.
I’d like all those people, and my friends and family too, to think that I made the world just a little bit better while I was on it. If that was said at my obituary, that’d be enough.
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live?
I was born in the Philippines.
Yeah, I love whipping that one out. Truth be told I didn’t spend much time there — my parents yanked me back Stateside when I was about two years old, give or take, so my memories of the place are just a couple of scattered images. A garden. A few people, one of whom I was sure was my nanny. Nothing bad — it’s a place I’d like to go visit again, with full expectation that I know nothing about it.
Speaking of Stateside, I spent some of my formative years in the US, largely at the edges — Los Angeles and New York City. I remember sunny places where there’d be a jalopy with the roof cut off, and winters so cold that your face hurt.
I really don’t want to live somewhere where the air makes your face hurt. What the hell is this, Pluto?
After my folks split up, we drifted across the US for just a little while, touching down in Connecticut before heading to New Zealand. I’ve spent most of the rest of my life here in little Aotearoa.
When I got here, there were only two TV channels. There were only cartoons on a Saturday morning. That’s bullshit, plain and simple.
Despite my initial poor reaction to the backwater third world country that I thought I’d arrived in as a kid, I view New Zealand as my home. I’ve travelled to a few places, Australia of course, Japan, Italy, America a few times, and the odd resort location to drink cocktails out of a coconut.
I don’t like Fiji.
People around me still think I have a little bit of an accent, and wonder where I come from. I sometimes wonder that as well, and I like that I can lend a few different voices to my writing.
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?
Getting published, by a long shot.
Marketing, there’s some dudes out there who can help you, if you’re unable to do it yourself. Lots of companies and people exist with a special flare for this — heck, this interview here is a great example. Generous people, with a real talent for helping you get visibility? They’re out there.
Writing is probably the easiest part, for a writer. If it’s not, you might be in the wrong profession. I don’t want to come across as conceited, but this is the thing we’re doing here.
The publishing part is still shrouded in mystery. I figure I’d have a better chance of getting a deal with Tor if I did some Pagan rituals in my back garden: it’s not like the path is clear. Every so often a major publisher will throw open their doors: Angry Robot, or Harper Collins, or whatever. This is rare, though, and you’re up against a fair level of noise in that funnel to get noticed. I can just imagine some poor bastard at Angry Robot, trying to sift through the manuscripts, and in a fit of rage dumping their entire desk into the trash. If you’re that guy, I’m sorry.
To get a real shot, it feels like you need to get a good agent, and finding a good agent is just as hard a tower to climb. There’s no easy path, no three-step process, no recipe for how to bake that cake.
I suspect this is in part why I lot of people go indie. It’s not that indie makes you more successful, but with indie you get your product out there, and people can actually read it. And they can read it before one of our Earth years have passed. Fuck sake, but have you seen some of the publisher submission timelines? 6 months before they let you know if they like it, and another 18 months before it’ll be on a shelf. And a lot of contracts are really unbecoming, very biased in favour of the publisher. There’s no partnership there, no win-win, and there’s a real problem in a contractual relationship where both parties aren’t out for the equal success of the other. Publishers? If your contracts look like you’re treating your writers like cattle to be farmed, they’re going to stampede away.
Compare that to click-to-print with an indie system, and you can see the attraction. Maybe your book isn’t at your corner store, but unless your surname is King it’s probably not going to be anyway.
I digress, but yeah: publishing. I think that’s still an area needing a bit of work. And there’s tremendous opportunity here: you see companies like Penguin and Random House merging in response to market pressure. People are going to crash and burn in this new future we’re already inside. And yet: publishers are uniquely suited to be able to still serve as a robust quality gate for content, if only they shift the model significantly in the favour of win/win for authors and themselves, think about the outcome for the customer, and adopt a more rapid distribution system. Sure, I’m simplifying for the sake of a pithy paragraph, but the success stories of the next five years will be told by publishers who’ve made the shift from their traditional model.
Valentine’s an ordinary guy with ordinary problems. His boss is an asshole. He’s an alcoholic. And he’s getting that middle age spread just a bit too early. One night — the one night he can’t remember — changes everything. What happened at the popular downtown bar, The Elephant Blues? Why is Biomne, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, so interested in him — and the virus he carries? How is he getting stronger, faster, and more fit? And what’s the connection between Valentine and the criminally insane Russian, Volk?
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Genre – Action, Thriller, Urban Fantasy
Rating – R16
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