When and how did you develop your awesome writing style?
Thanks. Awesome is putting it pretty generously, but I think my voice is coming more and more naturally. Words are called to mind faster.
I was pretty good at English lit. in school. Loved the dramas. Would kill people to make sure I got a good part in readings. But I bombed out of school. So I don't have any decent grades or anything like that. It's not something I've studied or intentionally developed. I think reading is the best form of study for a writer. And writing, writing, writing is the best way to practice.
I guess the trick is to just write like you talk. Keep going forward and don't look back. Fight the urge to dwell on how to best put forward an idea. Leave the thesaurus alone. Often the first way is the best way, and you can lose some integrity in over-embellishment or poetic excess. Don't force it. I think when you try and shoehorn-in fancy words, or clever verbal arrangement, it can be a departure from consistency and tone, can disturb the flow rather than add to it. I sometimes cringe at some of the stuff I've written. It's something I'm working on.
I also find that it helps to keep writing. Write through a writers block. Just write anything
. Keep the engine running. Recent news, thoughts about current events, personal history, loves and hates, arguing about religion. I guess that's why I love the forum so much. As well as all you sexy people of course.
Are you actually writing a novel? What's it about, roughly?
I can't tell you the what the central premise is. I'm paranoid that someone will see it and steal the idea. I even keep it on a USB flash drive just in case my computer gets hacked or blows up (and mostly exists as sketches and hand-written draft anyway). It's an idea that has only been touched upon in other fiction and it'd break my heart if someone else beat me to it. But I have a really good feeling about it.
It's science fiction. Or rather a dark fantasy with science fiction underpinnings. In the vein of Frank Herbert's Dune
and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
. I know it's cliche to reference other novels when describing mine, but there ya go. Even I don't quite know what the finished article will be. It's still just bones and scraps of a story. It might be post-apocalyptic. It might be dystopia. I'm not quite sure what the backdrop will be yet. I'm not sure about what happened prior. It's not important to the story right now. The characters wouldn't know, so it will be revealed to the reader (and revealed to me) if and when they discover it. It's going to play like a mythological epic, or a kind of dark, adult fairytale – an overarching plot thread, with diversions along the way, but there is no magic or psychics or voodoo crap. I know that much. It'll all be anchored in reality, albeit a fictional future reality. I know I'm describing hundreds of books that are already out there, but that's the best I can do without giving the plot away.
I have a geek crush on post-apocalypse fiction, so it'll be heavily influenced by that even if it doesn't turn out to be post-apocalypse itself. I love Mad Max, A Boy And His Dog, Le Dernier Combat, The Road, Tank Girl
, and so on. I even loved Waterworld
, and that got slated by the critics. I'm a huge fan of zombie flicks too. And of Eastern philosophy and mythology. It'll be some kind of monstrous hybrid of these things.
I've thought about doing it as a graphic novel. But then, there's something about the written word that captivates me. It's such a great storytelling medium, second only to the spoken word. Graphic novels are about the art and punchy yet simplistic storytelling. Written narrative grants you extra dimensions to the story. Thoughts, feelings, undercurrents, emotions, subtleties and affectations, memories, mood and theme, and so on.
I say all this, but I'm not actually doing much writing these days. College, work, training, procrastinating, other less glamorous shit. Life sometimes gets in the way of living. I need a holiday. I just wanna fuck off for a few weeks to somewhere remote and quiet and get some writing done. But I've been lacking inspiration recently. Struggling to get anything down in words. I find that, rather than forget a good idea, if I sketch it I have something to refer to when I come to write it. So my book is like one third written draft, two thirds storyboard and sketch. Not even nearly finished.
Who's the writer who's had the most influence on your writing style?
Hard to say. I take inspiration from so many places. My ethics on creativity are summed up here:Rule #5: Nothing is original.
Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don't bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: "It's not where you take things from—it's where you take them to." – Jim Jarmusch, The Golden Rules of Filming
I could answer who I would like to emulate
. I'd like to say Mary Shelley, but that's punching above my weight. I just don't have the vocabulary and genius for that.
I think Wilbur Smith has perhaps my favourite style insofar as who I'd love to sound something like myself. The way he can describe vivid and moving detail, action, physical drama, just takes my breath away. I still have parts of his novels in my head as actual motion picture, with full-spectrum clarity. That's how fully he can describe and encapsulate a scene. And his novels are very adult. Uncompromising human drama, clearly employing a rich personal life experience. And very violent. But also very honest and emotionally rousing. William Golding is another.
I'd also like a little bit of Frank Herbert's magic. He evokes a sense of place and 'elsewhere' in such lifelike beauty. You are living and breathing the air of his universe, hearing the sounds, smelling the aromas. He doesn't waste time with lengthy exposition. He just opens the door into another land, complete with foreign words and concepts than might not become clear until much later. This puts some readers off. Some readers like to know the background information, like to have jargon explained as soon as its introduced; "What the hell is a Kwizatz Haderach? Who the hell are the Bene Gesserit?"
But his exposition comes organically, through action, drama, dialogue of the characters as they talk off-hand, as though you're eavesdropping on a completely alien world and catching a glimpse of daily life there. I like that. It teases and tantalises me rather than spoon feeds me. Treats me like an adult rather than a child.
Fantasy authors tend to meander and get bogged down with the exposition when conveying a story. Contemporary writers tend to indulge in themselves and too much. But writers like Smith and Herbert write like a movie edit. Lean and mean. Only scenes that add something essential to the story threads. Just enough to give solid details, to spur the imagination, and plenty of room for the reader to fill in with their own colour and creativity.
With regards to the art of writing, I think the book that has had the most influence on me is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
by Stephen King. Part autobiographical, part writers guide. A fantastic insight into the process of writing and the writer mind. It's worth reading just for King's life story. As you can probably imagine from his novels, he's had a very interesting life. An inspiring life. It's great to get a glimpse into the mind of the man behind the horror.
What would your weapon of choice be in the event of a zombie apocalypse? You're only allowed one and if it's a gun, you don't have unlimited ammo. Go.
Fun question. 28 Days Later
zombies? Or Walking Dead
zombies? Are we talking about shoot-the-brain zombies, or just kill the shit out of it until it stops twitching zombies? Runners or shufflers?
A gun would be too loud (assuming zombies can hear) and like you say, ammo would be sparse (especially in UK). If I can have only one ranged weapon, it'd be a bow or crossbow. Bow is near silent, reusable ammunition, and they can pack considerable poundage. Crossbow still makes a noise, but considerably less than a firearm. Plus it'd be easy to make replacement ammo for a bow or crossbow (I used to have a small crossbow that was the perfect size to fire pencils out of). Bow is easier to maintain/repair, no chance of jamming, can double as a melee weapon in a clinch.
However, I'm a little dubious about the zombie stopping power of firearms and bows. They are dead (or insane), so they are not gonna be bothered by a few bullet holes or arrows sticking out dey ass. Guns would just draw more attention. You'd have to be a crackshot to get the head. Bows/crossbows take extra time to reload/aim. So I think melee would be better for general work and for larger crowds. I have a Miyamoto Musashi replica daito. But a long blade would be unwieldy in an urban/close-quarters environment.
I think I'd like two weapons. I'd have a hatchet in my left hand, for blocking and hooking, hamstringing, plus skull penetration. And I'd have a medium blade in my right hand, a machete or heavy leaf-blade gladius, for thrusting/hacking/slashing/killing blows. This way you have plenty of options in close-quarters. Manoeuvrability most importantly of all. Better for crowd control. You can manage the zombie, put it where you want it. Keep it away from you while having another weapon free to pick your blows.
A hatchet or gladius will do more savage, shit-wrecking, incapacitating damage to a slow moving target, whereas a bullet or arrow might just tickle it or pass through it. They are gonna be fucked without a hamstring, dead or alive.
There is also something to be said about a shield, too. The Romans had it right. Look at what police use to manage crowds. A long transparent perspex shield would be so useful in a zombie apocalypse. Or one of those smaller bucklers that could double as a punching weapon. A zombie is useless against a shield. It'll just be a flailing, gnashing, useless sack of shit against a window. And you can rain down blows at leisure.
So ideally, an Apache tomahawk and a Roman gladius/machete. A riot shield. Plus a good competition bow or crossbow to mix it up. If strictly only one single weapon, it'd be the gladius/machete. It's the most versatile single weapon.