Today I’m thrilled to introduce a debut author whose first novel has been shortlisted for the 2015 East Midlands Book Award. He also happens to be an Inspired Quill Press author, the last one I’ll be featuring this spring on The Dabbler, although I’m sure there are more to come.
Please give David Wilkinson, author of We Bleed The Same, a warm welcome.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, We Bleed the Same?
Danny Parque is a guy with a cushy life and a bright future but when he steps out of line it all falls apart. He is sent out as a conscripted criminal to fight for what he thought was a secure and benevolent empire, a horrific battle ends up with him captured by the very terrorists he was supposed to fear. They slowly convince him if their cause but as he begins to work for them he realises they are manipulating him too. Morality is rarely black and white and Danny tries his best to do the right thing, until finally he has to pick a side.
I have tried to take the classic Space Opera genre and give it a new perspective – very much from the point of view of someone comparatively powerless; stuck on the grinding front line between clashing powers. I have also tried to give the book a feminist undercurrent. Although the point of view is Danny’s, it is very much a story about two of the female characters he meets.
2. When did you know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?
Well, strangely, writing was never my hobby. I had written quite large reports in my career as a physicist but writing was very much “work”. When I signed up for a novel-writing workshop at the Leicester Writing School it was very much with the idea of learning how to write a novel that could get published. I honestly didn’t expect the first thing I had a go at to succeed, but it was always about producing something to put out there.
3.How did you get the idea for We Bleed The Same?
I have been imagining the “universe” in which I write since I was about five years old. Obviously there has been thirty years of refinement since then but it is amazing how few of the fundamentals have changed. There is a major story arc that I wish to tell but I needed to learn how to write first, so I needed to create a new story in the universe that was not so invested in. This story was triggered by a misheard lyric on a music album I was listening to. It started a cascade of thoughts in my mind. Within 10 minutes the basic outline was there and within a week all the major plot-points were sorted. This rapid development was facilitated by the fact that I had already done all my “world building” and so could just think about the plot. It was another two years before I started writing it, though…
4. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?
I sit down and spend about 10 minutes reading over what has come before, ostensibly to get into the flow but really just to put off the moment of beginning. Once I start, the first 15-20 minutes are a real struggle and on about a quarter of attempts, I stop in this time. Then, twenty minutes in, something magical happens and I hit the zone. Without apparent effort I will reel out about 750-800 words of good material. Then I feel tired and notice that an hour has passed since I sat down. This varies sometimes – in particularly compelling chapters I’ll be able to keep going and get down 2000-2500 words in a two-hour sitting. As I approached the end of my last novel, I went into something of a frenzy, writing whole chapters in about an hour or so. In this way I wrote the last ten chapters (20,000 words) in less than a week. That bit needed a lot of editing!
5. What is the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?
Just keeping going in grinding out the words. Getting them down has always been my biggest irritation – I am much happier developing plot. I just have to hold my nose and get on with it. The way I construct my chapters usually starts with a conversation in my head between two of the characters. When I am spinning my wheels I just go back to that conversation and write it down. I can then start moving backwards and forwards from it to create the rest of the chapter.
6. What’s your favourite part of the writing process and why?
Plotting. I do it entirely in my head and write almost no notes. This lets me do it in the shower but also driving the car or walking the dogs or any one of a hundred mundane tasks. It is always there, ticking away in the back of my mind and the wonderful thing is when revelatory story lines spring into my mind. At those moments I stop, smile and sometimes do a fist pump.
Believe it or not, I compose about 90% of my plot lines and dialogue in the shower. However, one of the key features of showers is the hostility of that environment to electronic devices, paper, ink, my glasses and so on. Therefore, I have to try and remember everything I come up with for the next time I have time to write. If I find something especially interesting or compelling I worry that I won’t remember and grab my Blackberry whilst still dripping; firing off an email of key phrases to myself. Then, a few days later, I look at this message and think, “What on earth…?”
7. Out of the many publishing houses out there, why did you choose Inspired Quill Press?
Well, primarily Inspired Quill was the one that offered me a contract. They were very up front about the realities of signing with a young, small publisher – even presenting me with a list of pros and cons of their own. The main con is that they don’t have a large advertising budget. The pros include a more collegiate approach to editing, a personal relationship with the boss and a good deal on royalties.
8. Who is your favourite modern author and why?
This may not be a particularly high-brow answer but I’d say Brendan DuBois. Partly this is because he writes a lot of dystopian/alternative history/near future stuff (which I like) but mostly because he creates damned good stories. My favourite is still the first I read, Resurrection Day, but the most recent I finished was Impact Winter. The amazing thing he achieved with that book was he had me rooting for the bad guy (well, woman). Despite the horrific plans she had and the horrible things she did I really, really wanted her to get away. Moral ambiguity always speaks to me and he certainly influences my writing in this respect, as well showing me how to keep a plot moving.
9. If you could give an aspiring author only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Just get on with. Start and keep going.
10. What are you working on right now that readers can look forward to?
It is a detective story set in the city of Engalise, which was a prime location in We Bleed the Same. Although apparently unrelated, it is actually a prequel and introduces characters who will join up with those in the first book in future stories. Although the books of the “Anjelican Saga” are linked and tell a larger tale, I will always do my utmost to make them work as stand-alone stories with no required pre-reading. At the moment the new book is called Pilakin: Falling Rubble (Jaq Pilakin being the central character) but I have started kicking around the idea of calling it The Lion Hunter. Whatever it ends up being titled, it is essentially SciFi Noir.
David Wilkinson is a physicist living in Ashby de la Zouch – a town probably best known as the setting for Ivanhoe. Writing science fiction, he learned his trade with Writing East Midlands before becoming a member of the established Leicester Writers Club. Writing science fiction in a universe he has been perfecting for decades, his stories are devoted to plot and characters. Influences range from Asimov, Niven-Pournelle and childhood science fiction through to the new style Battle Star Galactica. David also helps raise two children, is a visiting fellow at Nottingham Trent University and walks two tiny dogs. His blog can be found at https://anjelican.wordpress.com/ and you can follow him on Twitter at @anjelicanspace.
We Bleed the Same is his first novel and has been shortlisted for the 2015 East Midlands Book Award. Purchase your copy today!
Feel free to ask David any questions you might have in the comments section below!