Today I am taking part in the blog tour for No More Fairy Tales: Stories To Save Our Planet. I’m sharing my Q&A with the author with thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on the tour and to DA Baden for answering my questions!
Have you always wanted to write?
I always loved to read fiction, and writing was something I did for work in my academic career, but recently I’ve discovered the wonderful freedom that fiction allows and now I can’t stop.
What were your previous jobs? Have they helped you with your writing process?
I’ve been a real butterfly – admin, sales, self-employed, Avon lady, cleaner. Okay this was when my friend and I were both single parents living on benefit. We agreed to clean each other’s houses so we could enjoy that wonderful feeling of seeing mess turn into tidiness and not have to watch it get messed up again – that way instead of being single mums on benefit we were both working women with a cleaner. Then I did a belated degree and PhD (psychology) and have been researching and teaching in the area of sustainability for the last few years.
What was your inspiration for: No More Fairy Tales: Stories to Save Our Planet?
Most books with a climate theme are dystopian and focus only on problems not solutions. I wanted to read a book that showed me solutions in a positive way, with characters and plots that were engaging on their own terms, not just messages disguised as a story. So we engaged top writers to submit stories that included genuine transformative solutions, and great writing, characters and plots. I wrote three of these myself, one adapted from my first novel Habitat Man and contributed to two more. I believe if these all happened, we’d be on our way to a wonderful sustainable future we could look forward to rather than dread!
How do you construct your characters? Do they have traits of people you know?
Everyone is source material to me now. If someone in my immediate family or circle brings along a new partner/friend who I don’t take to, instead of wringing my hands in woe, I gleefully exploit their most annoying traits for my characters. Is that bad? It probably is, but it’s too much fun to resist. I used to worry like mad that they’d notice, but I’m afraid my family and friends rarely pick up a book – even mine. I was upset at first, but now I’m pleased as it’s given me a free pass to disguise my nearest and dearest in all kinds of ways. The character DevNoobyCrusher69, for example, in Climate Gamers, one of the stories in my anthology, is totally based on my son at his most arrogant teenage phase.
What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Bit of both.
How did you research? Did you enjoy it?
As well as writing some of the stories, I also co-ordinated the rest of the anthology working with a range of climate experts and experienced writers to create wonderful stories with effective climate solutions. I learnt so much as a result. The interesting thing about such a herculean task to put the world to rights via climate fiction is the divisions it reveals among all those who are striving for the same goal but come from different disciplines. The engineers love the big, bold, audacious solutions, the more impossible the better. ‘Glaciers melting? Well let’s just refreeze them! Need to build up seawalls and capture carbon? Just plant mangrove terraces.’ This has outraged the nature lovers and ecologists who say ‘how about we just stop destroying mangroves in the first place? Why spend fortunes replanting in areas where mangroves don’t naturally grow when it would be way more effective just to refuse planning permission to develop on land that has existing mangroves’ (substitute forests, peat, kelp forests, seagrass etc.as needed). The nature lovers abhor the geo-engineering approach while the engineers claim that we’re geo-engineering all the time anyway in the name of development, so why not do it on purpose and more thoughtfully? And then the social scientists pitch in with ‘what’s the point of all these carbon capture projects if we’re still consuming as fast as we can in the name of economic growth?’ A fair question – it is indeed like pulling out the plug (carbon capture) with the hot tap full on (consumption).
As editor it’s been a challenge reconciling all these viewpoints. Each story was written by a professional writer and then honed by climate experts. The stories I co-wrote myself as a social scientist, with Steve, a chemical engineer and Martin a comedy writer were an amusing but educational wrangle to determine which aspects got priority.
Who are your favourite writers? Are you influenced by them?
I like upbeat writers. Marion Keyes always makes me laugh and I adore her characters. My partner introduced me to Kazuo Ishiguro whose thoughtful lyrical style always engages me right from the start. Mark Haddon is another favourite with his wonderful quirky characters and original plots.
If you could invite three people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?
My favourite three authors above!
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?
Who would play the main character/s in a film version of The Assassin?
I am currently writing a TV version of the short story the Assassin (part of the anthology No More Fairy Tales), which is set in a Citizens’ Jury where eight people meet to debate climate solutions, one of which is an assassin. The US version I’d have Jennifer Lawrence!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Walk, write, swim, snorkel and lose myself in a great book.
What is next for you?
I run the free series of Green Stories Writing competitions and I’m looking forward to reading the finalists for the Orna Ross novel prize and also seeing what we get for our upcoming superhero short story competition. Writing wise, I have a sequel in my head to write up for Habitat Man, but am currently distracted by writing up The Assassin in script form as both a play (expected out November 2023) and TV series (wish me luck on that one)..
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.
I watched ‘Life of Brian’ again the other day. You know it still works but you could never make it these days.
Bit of an Elbow fan. Also saw James live last year and they were amazing.
No More Fairy Tales: Stories To Save Our Planet is available from Amazon.
You can follow the rest of the blog tour here: