Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Exiles. I’m sharing my Q&A with the author with thanks to Zoe O’Farrell for inviting me on the blog tour and to Daniel Blythe for answering my questions!
Have you always wanted to write?
Yes, from a very young age. I can remember my mum taking me to the library when I was little, and it slowly dawning on me that some people had writing as their actual job! I learnt quite young (early teens) that it was a hard job to get into – I started doing quite a bit of reading of magazines and how-to books about writing, so that by the time I was 17/18 I knew how to send stuff off to agents, etc., and what the big beginner mistakes were to avoid when approaching them.
What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?
I’ve had various jobs – e.g. working abroad in a language school, working for a charity – but they felt very separate from my writing. The other things I have done in the last decade, and continue to do, are jobs I do alongside writing and which arose because of it, i.e. my school visits (400 so far), editing/mentoring and a brief spell as an associate lecturer on the Creative Writing MA at Sheffield Hallam University.
What was your inspiration for Exiles?
I wanted to write a story about a group of young people totally cut off from civilisation, and having to create their own society. The phrase I’ve used since writing it is ‘Lost meets Lord of the Flies’, although this is more shorthand for describing it to people than a guideline I used while writing it. I knew it had to be character-driven, and it very soon dawned on me that it was going to have to be set on a distant planet, in the future. The murder mystery aspect and the technology arose from that. And it’s also a bit like a western in space – The Edge is a dusty frontier town, Zach is the sheriff just about holding it all together, Ella is his ambitious deputy and Beth is the Clint Eastwood character – the ‘mysterious stranger from outta town’ who people don’t trust at first! Who is the killer? Read it to find out!
How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?
Sometimes, but I avoid overtly basing people on anyone I know. They emerge in the writing, really – they just form in my head as I write, and eventually they take up residence there and you start to think ‘so-and-so would do this’ and it becomes intuitive.
What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I think the distinction is not always helpful – people can have elements of both. I like to know where a story is going very broadly, but the finer details can be worked out as you go along.
How did you research Exiles? Did you enjoy it?
Very little actual research as it’s all made up! Even the future technology… I read up a little bit on hydroponics and water conservation and so on, and some speculative articles on how future colonies might survive, but not much more.
I enjoyed it, but it was also enormously hard work as it’s the longest book I’ve ever written. The hardest sections to write were those where I could see the action happening visually, and could have written it very easily as a script, but found it harder to make it meaningful, emotional prose. There is a scene near the end – without giving too much away, it involves Beth and a door! – which is the absolute epitome of that problem. People will know it when they see it…
Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?
A wide range across the years: Iain Banks, JRR Tolkien, Emily St. John Mandel, Julian Barnes, Penelope Lively, Terry Pratchett, Terrance Dicks, and many more… I think writers can’t help absorbing parts of the voice of every writer they read, and you hope that a synthesis of this will emerge, eventually, which will be your own voice.
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?
Probably Nigel Farage or any other leading Brexiter. I’d be worried I might end up punching him! (You probably can’t publish that!)
Who would play the main character/s in a film version of Exiles?
A cast of exciting young unknowns! Ideally directed by someone really energetic like Rachel Talalay, and filmed somewhere like Iceland.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Walk in the Peak District, read, watch TV, spend time with my family. I need a new hobby too – all offers welcome.
What is next for you?
I am working on a Middle Grade project which involves time travel and the supernatural. Lots of research about Victorian England has been necessary!
Book? Very hard to pick one as an adult, but as a child/teenager it was Lord of the Rings.
Film? I don’t have one overall.
Band/Singer? Kate Bush, Saint Etienne, New Order/Joy Division, Inspiral Carpets, Pulp, Suede…My guilty pleasure is Girls Aloud. And a lot of people where I just like one or two songs, as well! I try to listen to new music so I am not stuck in the 80s/90s. I’ve listened to a lot of Chvrches and First Aid Kit recently.
TV show? Doctor Who – is, always was and always will be, through thick and thin!
Colour? Don’t really have one. All of them!
Place? In the UK, the Yorkshire coast, and further afield, the Alps or the South of France.
Biscuit? Chocolate chip shortbread reigns supreme. I mean, how do they do it? It’s two top-tier biscuits at once.
Exiles is available from Amazon.
You can follow the rest of the blog tour here: