Today we’re taking a break from my series of interviews with authors who write LGBTQ+ characters to chat with a friend I met through my favourite Twitter chat, #Scifihour. Please give Tommy a warm welcome!
- Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Shadow’s Talent?
When the Seekers from the planet Carnathia discover Earth in the 22nd century, they find a planet engulfed in world wide riots, with oil supplies at zero and governments fallen. The next hundred years see the rise of the Seeker class as they rebuild the world, bringing fresh oil supplies, advanced space technology and a mind power known as Talent.
Shadow Hatcher is born into an exciting world, where colonies in space are thriving but his family’s farm on Earth is struggling. He dreams of becoming a space craft pilot, but his chances are virtually zero. Until the night he witnesses a murder in the back lanes of his farm, and his witness testimony starts to bring people to his doorstep who might help him achieve his dream. If they don’t lead him even further into a dark world of murder, mind altering drugs and conspiracy first. There are secrets in Shadow’s family that would be better left buried, and certain people are intent on digging them up.
- What part of the story came to you first?
The earliest spark came from wanting to write about mind powers and telepathy. I found myself asking ‘What if someone acquired these sorts of powers when they weren’t supposed to?’ What if it was even illegal for them to have them, but an exception might be made for certain people on the quiet? I kept on changing the rules and changing what happened to Shadow until finally I had a story I liked where all the details worked.
- Your novel is set in a 23rd century England with a strict class structure. How much does this class structure resemble that of historical England?
I really didn’t think much about historical England when I wrote ST, but I guess there’s some resemblance in that the rich have a lot of influence and the poor don’t, and class is often linked to wealth, but occasionally someone transcends those class/wealth barriers and reaches places that surprise those around them.
I wanted the social structure in Shadow’s Talent to resemble today’s society more – there’s this nice idea that anyone can become anything, but in practice it’s less likely to happen for someone like Shadow than it is for someone born into wealth and privilege with a ‘good’ family name. The novel’s more about power than it is about class, because the Seekers are only the highest up the chain thanks to the power they can wield and the money that comes with it. Most people like Shadow who decide to take them on don’t come close to winning.
- How much planning did you do before starting Shadow’s Talent?
I didn’t do any planning at all, I just kept writing drafts and made it up as I went along. I knew I was in final draft territory because that’s when I did have a clear plan, even though I never wrote it down.
- Shadow’s Talent is the first novel in a series. Did you set out to write a series or did that just end up happening?
On my first outing, I set out to write an epic space opera, and I got a 300,000 word draft that was a massive jumble of ideas. Shadow emerged as my central character, and I decided the story of his life and how he changes the world was complex enough to need a series, and it would make quite a good one too.
- What is the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?
Figuring out where to put what. A lot of sci-fi involves world building, and the important details have to be revealed at the right time, but when I’m writing early drafts I’m not always sure when the right time is. Sometimes the details weight the story down, other times they’re integral to it. I make it easier by writing world-building notes. I rarely ever plan the story, but I do plan the world.
- Do you believe in writer’s block? Why/why not?
Yes I believe in it because I’ve heard enough stories of people just getting stuck or drying up, but thankfully I don’t suffer from it. There’s always an idea burning a hole in my head and I can always write something, even if I don’t end up liking it. There are certainly days when I don’t feel like writing, and can’t face another word of my story, but that’s a different problem.
- What are you reading right now?
I always have one book I’m reading on paper and one on my e-reader. Right now my hardback is ‘The Abyss Beyond Dreams’ by Peter F Hamilton, and my e-book is ‘Ambassador II – Raising Hell’ by Patty Jansen. I like reading non-fiction as well, mostly about science based stuff, and I’ve just finished ‘Physics of the Future’ by Michio Kaku.
- If you could give only one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Don’t spend too much time listening to writers giving out writing advice! Seriously, there’s so much of it out there, and there are many good writers whose advice contradicts that of other good writers. Check it all out, act as your own filter for it, but don’t let it take up all your time and don’t get too worried about what you might be ignoring. I’ve been there and got all neurotic and insecure, thinking ‘Writer or Reader X wouldn’t like this because I ignored advice X and Y.’ I really have to switch that part of my brain off sometimes and just say ‘Fuck em all because this is MY story and I’ll do what I want!’ Sometimes that’s the only way I can finish.
- What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?
I’m writing a side project called ‘Welcome to Sentago,’ set on the planet Carnathia again but not directly part of the Talent Show books. It’s the interlocking stories of a shape shifter who runs fight scams for money and a disgraced fleet officer – both live in Sentago trying to make better lives, but when they meet it ends up causing chaos.
There’s a short story I’m working on called ‘The Apocalypse Blues’ about a famous guitarist with a ticket to the world’s first colony after a meteor strike blacks out Earth’s sun for months. Trouble is a lot of people want to steal that ticket. It should come out anywhere between 15-20,000 words, so a lot shorter than anything I’ve published so far!
Tommy Muncie is a sci-fi and speculative fiction author, responsible for The Talent Show series, and published his first book Shadow’s Talent in 2014. The sequel, Ghost of the Navigator was released earlier this year. In his spare time he is an avid guitar player and likes rock music best. You can find more about his books and the science behind them at http://tommymuncie.wordpress.com and at Author Central.