Sunday Surprise


ef35c8744d8253cb93bc3dc034cd5ce7dd630abfAnd it’s not only a Wyrd Worlds author, but also the wondrous gal who had this crazy idea of putting together this anthology! We’re already pressuring her in doing volume two… but here’s her interview! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Steph Bennion!

Where do you live and write from?

I currently live in London, in a leafy suburb a few miles south of the Thames. I have a day job, so my writing is done at home, mainly at the weekends or an occasional snatched evening. I have a love/hate relationship with London; the city provides a wealth of inspiration on cultural, political and historical issues to flavour my writing, but it’s a very expensive place to live and socially quite harsh compared to the rest of England.

When did you start writing?

I started writing and submitting short stories to various publications when I was in my teens, albeit with limited success, so I’ve been at it for almost thirty years now. I wrote my first novel around that time, which was my attempt at a humorous science-fiction adventure in the vein of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Needless to say, my book was terrible and now lives in a darkened drawer somewhere! I kept trying my hand at novels and submitting the better ones to agents and publishers, but got nowhere and came close to giving up. My first real success did not come until 2010, with the sale of an adult fantasy novella called Eve Of Redemption, which I wrote whilst taking a break from science-fiction. That royalty cheque gave me the boost I needed to persevere.

What genre(s) do you write?

ebook_hm(vh)_reducedI write mainly science-fiction, or what’s sometimes known as ‘new’ space opera, for young adults and adults young at heart! When I was younger I loved the books of Arthur C Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and the other masters of science-fiction, then later moved onto Ursula le Guin, Philip K Dick, etc. until I got to modern writers like Alastair Reynolds and Neal Stephenson. My own novels tend to centre around working-class folk who find themselves battling the consequences of upheavals caused by those in power, which is a common theme in classic science-fiction. However, Hollow Moon and Paw-Prints Of The Gods are ultimately about friendships and how people come together in times of need.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

I tend to get bits of ideas from all over the place; some might spark a train of thought that develops into a story, others may end up as background detail to fill out whatever world I’m creating. I try to credit influences where appropriate; for example, the asteroid colony ship Dandridge Cole, the ‘hollow moon’ of the novels, is named after Dandridge M Cole, the aerospace engineer and futurist who with illustrator Roy Scarfo developed the concept in books like Beyond Tomorrow. I don’t deliberately put myself in stories but I’m sure my own personality is reflected in what I write! When it comes to creating a framework on which to hang all these ideas, I’m a huge advocate for Christopher Booker’s work The Seven Basic Plots, which is a fascinating analysis of storytelling; another fantastic resource is the TV Tropes website, which is great for getting a feel for the nuts and bolts of different genres. I think it’s important to understand the reasons why people like stories and what they expect to get from one before you can successfully deliver something they really want to read. On a very basic level, I try to write books I would want to read myself.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

I try to write every weekend at minimum, but I have no specific routine. There’s various things I do, like not start a new chapter until I’ve edited and proof-read the chapter before, but that’s just part of the process. One thing I’ve recently started doing is use Calibre so I can do a final pre-publication proof-read on my Kobo ereader, rather than on the computer screen or print-outs. It’s amazing what little errors you can pick up that way.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I always outline. My novels tend to have multiple plot threads and a large cast of characters, so for me it is essential. The outlines always evolve to some degree as I write, but I find that spending time on this framework (we’re back to The Seven Basic Plots again!) does ward against writer’s block and unexpected gaping plot holes. As for speed, I’m not fast. I can sometimes write a short story in a weekend; Paw-Prints Of The Gods took two years from synopsis to publication.

Tell us about your latest book

ebook_ppotg(vh)_reducedPaw-Prints Of The Gods is a space-opera mystery set around the discovery of ancient alien ruins on a desert planet; and a prophecy that may or may not be real. Ravana O’Brien, the reluctant young heroine of Hollow Moon, finds herself on another wild adventure, this time in the company of two extra-terrestrial greys, a cake-obsessed secret agent and a mysterious little orphan boy wanted by the alien-worshipping Dhusarian Church. Their long perilous quest brings them into conflicts with cyberclone monks, homicidal giant spiders, a psychotic nurse and a god-like cat woman who knows more than she’s saying. The setting was heavily influenced by the films Ice Cold in Alex and the more obscure Moon Zero Two (the first space western!), with a smattering of sly nods to Raiders of the Lost Ark, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Phantom Menace. As in Hollow Moon, there’s also a bit of humour to break up the drama. More information and links to retailers can be found at: http://www.wyrdstar.co.uk/books/pawprintsofthegods.html.

How did the Wyrd Worlds anthology come about?

I blame Goodreads! I’m a moderator for the Smashwords Authors Group and there was a period when every other writer joining seemed to be a fantasy or science-fiction author who wrote short stories. I suggested the idea of an anthology, volunteered my services as editor and Wyrd Worlds took off from there. It was an interesting collaborative effort; we even had a competition to choose the cover before going with the one Ross came up with (Ross Harrison, another of the contributing authors – Barb’s note: interviewed here). If I may add a blatant plug (did I mention that it’s free?), the book’s web page is at: http://www.wyrdstar.co.uk/books/wyrdworlds.html. And for statistics’ sake – we’ve shifted over 800+ downloads to date!

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

With Hollow Moon, I did pursue traditional publishing. However, I found just a handful of UK agents were seeking new clients in the genre, of which only one took the trouble to reply properly to my enquiry (it was a rather nice letter, though). By this time, I’d already started writing Paw-Prints Of The Gods and had a third book in mind. Self-publishing offered a way to draw a line under Hollow Moon so that I could concentrate on taking the story forward, thus Paw-Prints Of The Gods became destined to be self-published in turn. That’s not to say I reject traditional publishing; I think we’ll see more authors making a success of dabbling in both arenas. Hugh Howey and Wool is one example, another is novelist Tanith Lee (she also wrote a couple of cracking episodes for BBC’s Blake’s 7), who has books on Smashwords.

Any other projects in the pipeline?

I’ve been working on a novella called Catastrophe Jane, set in an alternate-history version of my native Black Country during the industrial revolution. It’s in the vein of the Flashman books of George MacDonald Fraser and firmly aimed at an adult readership! This started off as a way to keep busy, after I made myself take a break from Paw-Prints Of The Gods ahead of tackling the final editing, but it’s looking like it may develop into something quite fun. Other than that, I have an early synopsis of the follow-up to Hollow Moon and Paw-Prints Of The Gods, of which I’m reluctant to say anything more at this point! Finally, I’d like to return to what we did with the recent Wyrd Worlds anthology. It was nice to work with yourself and other writers on such a project.

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

The best science-fiction inspires. For my own work, I can’t hope for anything more. However, if the BBC is looking for a new name to pen an episode or two of Doctor Who

One more thing, both Hollow Moon (normally $2.99) and Paw-Prints Of The Gods (normally $3.99) are currently on ‘reader sets the price’ offers on Smashwords and I’ve decided to carry on with this for a few more weeks, so check it out!

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  1. Reblogged this on Library of Erana and commented:
    Another of the Wyrd Worlds authors being interviewed.

    Like

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