Howdy, folks! This is Gareth L. Powell!
Gareth L. Powell is a science fiction author, copywriter and journalist from the UK. He is the author of two novels and an acclaimed short story collection. His second novel, The Recollection, will be published by Solaris Books in August this year. You can find out more about Gareth at his website.
And now for the interview!
-What is your theme song? (if your life was a movie, the song that would play the first time you appeared onscreen)
I’ve always had a fondness for ‘Paperback Writer’ by The Beatles. It’s got a great skuzzy guitar riff, and wickedly scathing lyrics.
-What’s the best writing advice anyone has ever given you?
The best advice anyone ever gave me was not to try to eat an entire elephant in one sitting! If you’re going to eat an elephant, you have to do it one mouthful at a time, and take plenty of rests to aid the digestion.
In the same way, you can’t write an entire novel in one go, so you have to break the narrative up into a series of important incidents, and then write a scene describing each incident. Some people call this process “chunking”, as it involves reducing the book to a series of bite sized “chunks”, with plenty of room left between each for recuperation and digestion. This approach also helps you focus on the key events in your plot, and how those events link together.
-Have you ever had the occasion to vehemently disagree with your editor about a change to the MS, and if so, how does that sort of thing get settled?
I have never disagreed with anything an editor has asked me to do. I have the attitude that the editor knows their own market; they know the house style of their magazine or publishing house, and the tastes of their readers. They know what works and what doesn’t because they have a great deal more experience in these matters than I have.
However good you are as a writer, there will always be small things in your manuscript that could be improved upon; rough edges that need sanding down to make the whole thing shine with a richer luster. And so I’m always grateful to an editor who has taken the time to read my work and then gone to the trouble of suggesting changes.
-How do you keep the pace and interest going when you also need to showcase your world?
This seems to be a particular problem in fantasy and science fiction, where I have read many stories which open with several pages recounting the long and tedious history of some mythical kingdom or far-flung planet. This is the equivalent of opening a stage play by having a narrator recount the biography of the main character. It can be tedious and off-putting, and while the writer may think they are setting the scene, often all this exposition does is barrage the reader with a blizzard of (often barely pronounceable) names.
If you want people to read what you write, you have to write about people. The world-building should always be secondary to the human story. If you concentrate on your characters and the interactions and relationships between them, the rest of the background will fall into place.
In The Recollection, I try to describe the world as economically as possible, using one or two telling details to suggest the larger context, rather than dumping the reader with scads of unnecessary and potentially confusing detail.
-How far/tightly are your stories planned? Do characters ever show up midplot and steal the scene? Do plot developments ever get forgotten–or become much more important than anticipated?
For The Recollection, I wrote a 3,000 word synopsis outlining the major events of the plot, which helped me stay on target as I wrote the book. It had all the major events listed, but I wasn’t completely sure how the characters would react and interact within that framework, so there was still plenty of scope for discovery as I went along.
A good synopsis (or outline) should be like the map of a foreign country: too vague and you run the risk of getting lost, too detailed and you lose the spontaneity of chance discovery.
-Do you have any non-writing-related projects going on in your life? How do you balance them with each other and with your writing?
In addition to being an author, with all that entails, I am also a self-employed freelance copywriter; a music journalist for Acoustic Magazine; a parent of two young children; and I work two days a week providing publicity and media relations for a local disabled children’s charity.
I get up each morning, get the kids dressed and give them their breakfast, and then after I’ve taken them to school, I fit my writing in between freelance assignments and CD reviews until it’s time to collect them again, and then if I’m not too tired, I might try to bang out a few hundred words in the evening after they’ve gone to bed, instead of watching television.
It can feel like a juggling act, and it takes a lot of energy and self-discipline in order to stay productive, but it’s worth it.
So! Gareth is also going to lurk and converse!
Join us in the comments section!
And visit the official Codex Blog Tour page for more interviewey goodness!