Your inspiration for The Realignment Case?
I had the idea for The Realignment Case in Geneva on an unofficial, access all areas, tour of the United Nations with a friend who worked there. After passing by sleeping diplomats, peering in on hushed meetings and rearranging the country tags in the black conference room, I started imagining what would happen if I invented my own secret organisation: What sort of people would work there and what they would get up to? What if they had a powerful machine that could change the world, what they might do with that power? The Department in the novel is a mix of the UN, CERN and FIFA. Like one of those organisations it is riddled with corruption, like another, it is full of good intentions, and like another, it is stuffed full of brilliant scientists. My friend shared inside gossip about what one diplomat really put in his diplomatic pouch; it’s surprising how much made it into the novel! In the end, we eavesdropped on one meeting too many and got pursued down the corridor by security.
Where and when do you write?
I live in Whitstable so spend plenty of time commuting to London which allows me the time to write. It’s amazing how inspired I can be between the hours of 6.30 AM – 9.00 AM … and how much I can edit into shape between 16:00 and 19:00. Admittedly, I do get the odd stare from people as I have a bad habit of thumping the keys pretty hard. One time on a train back from Birmingham, I was editing a ropy first draft of the novel and a teenage girl sitting next to me was spying over my shoulder. I knew I’d struck gold when she suddenly exclaimed “that’s really good now” and had to be dragged off the train by her family at her stop.
Are you a planner or a pantser?
Both. I am a planner in the sense I will never embark of a project so complex as a novel without at least knowing the ending in enough detail to actually draft the final two chapters. So I write the beginning … and plan the end. That’s why the ending of ‘The Realignment Case’ is so strong and unexpected (if I do say so myself). But it’s in the middle where I fly by the seat of my pants. I know the destination, just not the route. I have developed a technique of using sound recordings to map out chapters which I imaginatively call ….’laying down the voice.’ I do ‘the voice’ on long drives (e.g. to my company’s HQ). It’s amazing how just brainstorming a problem aloud makes it form and creates twists and turns. The only downside to the MPV files is that these recordings are very expletive laden (i.e. when other drivers cut me up or threaten my life) and are interjected with calls from wife about “what’s for dinner?”
Do you do any research?
I usually buy a Dummy’s Guide to the subject matter (shame on me, I know!). I’m a 360 degree news junky so if I have a plot idea, I usually gather snippets from around the world on the subjects using a magpie approach. The question I ask myself is how much do I need to know to convince the average reader I know more than they do? I don’t want to blind the reader, just flash the headlights. Although, I confess to dreading the day when someone who actually knows genetic research grills me on ‘The Realignment Case’ … My get-out-of-jail card will be that the narrator is not an science expert. He’s just not, you know!
Do you read inside your genre or out when writing?
I read whatever falls into my lap, recommendations, book reviews etc. Sometimes I see the disappointment in the eyes of Sci-Fi buffs that I am not as widely read the genre as they are … it’s something I am looking to make amends on. Currently doing reviews of new titles due on the market.
On the subject of genre, how do you feel about having to fit into a particular one?
Well ‘The Realignment Case’ is a smorgasbord of genres. It’s part thriller, part sci-fi. It’s got philosophy. It’s got a rules based system on time manipulation. It’s a got a court-room drama. I love the freedom of writing cross genre. BUT … it does make it hard to sell your novel to mainstream publishers. The RC is on Roundfire but could have easily been on Zero Books. I think I have had my fun and my next novel will be easier to define. A sci-fi dystopian quest, exploring shared intimacy and loss, undercut with black comedy.
Your author heroes?
I really like China Miéville’s “The City and the City” though less so some of his steam-punk novels. At uni I loved Frank Herbert and Philip K Dick. Nowadays, I confess I am more inspired by the success other writers achieve than what they have actually written. Like you I review a lot of up and coming writers.