Over the next couple of months I will be doing a series of author features on this blog and on In the Spotlight (in fact you can check out the first feature interview here).
Now why am I doing this you ask?
A great event for authors and readers alike is afoot in the virtual world. Coming this April, on the 8th, 9th and 10th, is the Brain to Books Cyber Convention. Being held on Goodreads, with adjunct events on Facebook and elsewhere, it works much like a real world convention only online. With “author booths”, panels, readings, and more, it will be a fabulous gathering for all book lovers. You can find all the details and pertinent links for the groups here: http://www.angelabchrysler.com/brain-to-books-cyber-convention-2016/
Just be sure to join both Goodreads groups if you are an author. One is for convention preparations and information, and the other is the convention site itself.
Now on with the main event, our first Brain to Books author feature.
Today I have a great interview with humorous sci-fi author M T McGuire, so enjoy...
Interview With M T McGuire
Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.
M T McGuire enjoys the real world but wouldn't want to live here full time. That's why she writes books. She grew up, or at least, got bigger, half way up a windy down in Sussex. Her home was also the first location choice for Hogwarts, in the Harry Potter films, so maybe it's not so strange that she's ended up writing spec-fic. Perhaps there's something in the water up there, apart from chalk. She used to do stand up but sat down and started to write books when she got married. She now lives in Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, with a McOther, a McMini and a selection of very silly cars. She hasn't found a way to make any of the cars fly, and none of them is fitted with ordnance like the ones in her books, but she and her team of evil scientists are working on that.
Despite being nearly 50 now, and supposedly, an adult, M T checks all unfamiliar wardrobes for a gateway to Narnia. She hasn't found one so far but she lives in hope.
Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?
My latest book, Escape From B-Movie Hell, is a standalone humorous science fiction novel about a female student who discovers that a) her best friend is a space lobster and b) that the human race is about to be wiped out in a meteor strike. The story is, basically, what happens next. Thinking about it, the blurb would probably help. Here it is.
If you asked Andi Turbot whether she had anything in common with Flash Gordon she’d say no, emphatically. Saving the world is for dynamic, go-ahead, leaders of men and while it would be nice to see a woman getting involved for a change, she believes she could be the least well equipped being in her Galaxy for the job.
Then her best friend, Eric, reveals that he is an extra terrestrial. He’s not just any ET either. He’s Gamalian: seven-foot, lobster-shaped and covered in marmite-scented goo. Just when Andi's getting used to that he tells her about the Apocalypse and really ruins her day.
The human race will perish unless Eric’s Gamalian superiors step in. Abducted and trapped on an alien ship, Andi must convince the Gamalians her world is worth saving. Or escape from their clutches and save it herself.
Why did you decide to write in the humorous science fiction/fantasy genre?
To be honest, I don’t really have a choice. I write what comes out and what comes out 99.9% of the time, is humorous science fiction fantasy. There’s also adventure, action and some clean romance in a couple of books.
If I tell you that the first book I attempted to write, when I was five, was called ‘Charles the Dragon Slayer’ that probably says it all. But I suppose it’s because I read to escape. I really don’t want to think about everyday life, I read to get away from all that so when I write I want to pimp reality to make it more interesting. Although, having said that, what I really, really like about writing humour is that you can get away with some quite hard-hitting stuff because it’s funny.
Who is your intended readership?
To quote Terry Pratchett, I write for, ‘anyone who is interested.’ I also write for me in the hope that if I like my books someone else will. So far, it’s definitely a mindset rather than an age range. My youngest fan was 9, he’s probably older now and he’d read all the Harry Potter books so he was probably pretty advanced. My oldest fan is in his 90s and there is a big mix of pretty much everyone in between.
So yes, I’m speaking to people with a certain outlook rather than a particular age range. I think that may be quite usual for humour books.
Are there particular challenges in writing for your core readership?
Yes. Trying to sell books to folks with a certain state of mind, rather than a rigidly delineated set of interests, or age band, or the like, is definitely an ... interesting challenge. I’m getting better at finding them and luckily some of them have braved signing up to my mailing list. At least now I can keep them informed on progress with my new books and if they enjoy my stuff some of them may even recommend it to their friends, which is handy. Also, on the whole, once I’ve persuaded someone to read one of my books (albeit at gun point most of the time) an insanely high number of them go on to read the rest.
What did you enjoy most about writing your book?
The one thing I’ve enjoyed writing more than anything else was not in a recent book but in the K’Barthan Series, books 1 and 2 especially, and that was the flying cars – snurds. I absolutely love cars and I have always wished mine would fly – so handy in traffic. So I wrote these amazing James Bond cars which could have dogfights and chases and... yeh... that was a LOT of fun. And baddies, I like a really, really bad baddie they are an absolute gas to write.
Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?
The way it starts is usually a news story, or a factual book. I’ll read it and think, ‘that’s an interesting idea.’ The next thing I know there are characters and a scenario and a final scene. Then I just sit down and start writing about what they’re doing. It takes a little while for them to settle, usually, and for me to write myself in and then off we go. I love just seeing what happens next. Once I get to know the characters I learn what they will and won’t do, how they react to stuff, it feels more as if I’m a fly on the wall, watching them than that I’m orchestrating the whole thing. Although I know where the end point is I tend to let the characters sort out the logistics of getting there themselves. My theory is that so long as they act true to form, and they usually do, I should end up with an entertaining book.
Where this technique gets tricky is when you’re writing the fourth book of a series which is really one huge 600,000 word story. Because by that time, remembering who has done what and with what and to whom can be a bona-fide brain-fry. I wrote the last two books of the K’Barthan series in one go and I confess for most of that time it felt as if my brain was practically bleeding out through my eye sockets. I binned at least 70,000 words where I’d gone off on a tangent or which just didn’t work. If you take into account that my latest offering is 85,000 words or thereabouts it puts it all into perspective! So it takes me a long time to write a book. And for that reason, alone, I’m experimenting with the idea of having several on the go at once. I don’t think it will extend the completion time by that much but it might make it easier to pop one out every 6 months or every year, rather than taking 18 months each.
Do you have a favourite author, or writing inspiration?
Yes there are three main flows of inspiration on the author front, the really obvious ones are people like Adams, Pratchett a dash of Wodehouse and stylistically, Bryson. Those are the styles I aspire to and the Hitch Hikers’ Guide is the work my stuff is compared to most often (which is very flattering but also very scary). I love music, all sorts. Sometimes I’ll hear a piece and a scene will appear in my head so vividly that putting it in the book is a simple case of writing it up. I also love B-Movies and crap 1960s TV like the original Star Trek and the Men From U.N.C.L.E. and all that 60s UK stuff like the Prisoner, the Avengers, the Saint and Randal and Hopkirk (Deceased). I love films, Star Wars, obviously but also the James Bond films have a big bearing on my work. I love books like the Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series but I also draw a lot of inspiration from historical novels like The Children of The New Forest, the works of Dumas and other unexpected authors like Graham Greene, HE Bates, Neville Shute and even Dr Seuss.
How do you research your books?
McOther is a robot building engineer who has had inventions patented, in the past, and now works as a lawyer specifically to assist folks who invent stuff. These guys are mostly based around Cambridge University so they are often top of their game and as well as inventing stuff, themselves, they are massive geeks and always very switched on about what their contemporaries in other parts of the world are working on.
As a result a lot of the ‘science’ in my books, it’s very soft science fiction by the way, is just concepts McOther’s clients are talking about. For example, things like charging water so it’s positive or negative, 1 or 0, and using it as the mainframe as they do on the ship in Escape From B-Movie Hell is a concept McOther brought home in a ‘hey you’ll never guess what thingwot was telling me about today...’ kind of manner. So the science starts out stacking up, in theory, anyway, but it usually doesn’t by the time I’ve had a go at it! Phnark!
Are you working on another book?
Yes. At the moment I’m thinking about the cycle of civilisation. The human race has got smart and invented loads of amazing things like technology and what happens? The ‘Christian Right’ (there’s an oxymoron if ever I heard one) and ISIL? People who threaten to throw us back into the dark ages where science is denied and it’s better for a woman stay home and starve to death than go out to buy food without a male chaperone. How come we can get so clever but still can’t grow up? It’s like we have some built in self destruct button.
Then you read stories about people finding things in coal, metal bowls and the like. How do those get there? Coal is supposed to be millions of years old, so who put those in there before humans even evolved here? Had humanoid life already evolved and died out? Was Earth an outpost for folks from somewhere else and if it was where did they go? Is it that coal isn’t really that old could we have we got Carbon Dating totally and utterly wrong? Was there some inter-galactic travelling civilisation at some point? All that stuff about wars in heaven in the bible, did we have a sister planet where the asteroid belt is now, Atlantis, which was destroyed? Is civilisation a cycle of progress and destruction? Is the chronic shortage of interesting aliens in our galaxy because we’re the last life forms left after an apocalyptic inter-galactic war?
Then, up pops an idea and the current w.i.p. begins. Mwah hahahahargh! It’s provisionally entitled ‘Space Dustmen’.
I'd like to thank M T McGuire for stopping by today, and be sure to check out her virtual booth at the convention this April.