Mulling it Over – 28/02/16 – An Interview with HL Jones

An interview is a good way to get some insight into an author and their current book. Rather than embarrass myself in front of a real person, I thought I’d “borrow” some questions from a good website and answer them myself.

The below was shamelessly ripped from http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1761180-sample-author-interview-questions and altered slightly to be relevant to me.

 

 

1. What books have most influenced your life?

Whenever I see this question, I think that it’s expected for most authors to start spilling out the classics, as if this is a kind of “shit-test” to prove their quality as a writer, but my influences are completely varied and I don’t care if they’re books not studied at universities. Any book that provokes thought is a good book as far as I’m concerned. From an early age I remember reading a bunch of Ladybird He-Man and Transformers books and thought they were amazing, then Stig in the Dump, Gumbles by S A Wakefield (had to look that one up), and of course as many Roald Dahl books as I could find. George’s Marvellous Medicine is still a firm favourite. I then fell in love with Asterix and Garfield, which probably still influences my love of animated programmes like Family Guy and South Park. Anyway, through university I read what I needed to in order to pass my exams, and then I hit a renewed love of fiction and fantasy thanks to the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. Guards! Guards! is easily my “go-to” rainy day book.

Then came a book that seriously made me realise that an author’s life was for me (and also got me a job in Waterstones); The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F Hamilton. My mother bought it for me one Christmas, I read it, then went and bought the next two and took a few days off work to finish them. It made me contemplate life, God, sex, the afterlife, and how pervasive technology is, moreso as we seem to be huddling ever closer to our phones and computers. Peter’s books are absolutely astounding, and an inspiration to the genre. And of course, there’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

2. How do you develop your plots and characters?

Slowly! I am a very visual person which is an issue when writing about a character that I cannot visualise. I find that daydreaming is a good way to find a character; I imagine the scene, the reaction to what the character is saying, and then try to match their face to a person that I know of. They say that you only dream of faces that you’ve seen, so I try to watch as many people as possible.

Plot-wise, I find humour in the real world brings about the best plots. Short stories are a quick-shot idea for a plot I’ve thought of, which then ferments into a better plot the more I think about it. Sometimes though, a plot is just a tiny story, sometimes it’s a piece of a jigsaw that begs to have other pieces joined to it.

3. Tell us about your book?

It’s about a heart-broken stoner who brings about the end of the world by realising the meaning of life. He makes a covenant with the universe; he’ll stop an alien race that will destroy time and space, and in return he’ll be sent back to the point before he “messed up” his life. It’s a book about experience; the main character’s initial life is about pining for his ex and getting high, then he’s the saviour of Earth, then he becomes the leader of the supposed greatest human minds in existence, then he’s an advisor in alien politics, and then he’s fighting the Devil itself.

4. We all need a hero! Tell us about your protagonist(s)? Was there a real-life inspiration behind him or her?

Not a singular one.  There’s a little of myself and how I used to handle heartbreak, but mostly Ragnar is a composite of friends from university and school. I thought it would be interesting to have the main character as an imperfect soul, even physically, and have his best friend as the “sports star”. Sometimes being the hero is a lot of trouble – there’s something to be said for being a support character, even if you are better-suited to be the main focus. That’s Drew’s angle in life – remain out of focus, as those in focus are usually the first to get sniped.

5. A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

Blarcrest is a composition of every politician, salesman, and asshole I’ve ever met. He is a soul-less alien that talks a good game and is brutal and lethal. Publically, I wrote Blarcrest to act similar to how Putin handles himself – a hero to his people, strong, never fazed. Behind the scenes, Blarcrest is a manic control freak. It’s also a message about the impact of control can have on a career – manage everything, leave no detail out, and you can rule the universe.

6. What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?

The world is mostly “real” with a few what-ifs thrown in. I had to do some research to see if plants can be any other colours other than green, some astrophysics too just to keep the purists semi-happy. There’s a theory that a lot of unobtainable isotopes exist in binary star systems because the formation of two suns allow for a larger variety of these exotic elements, so I played around with things such as psi-rock and time compression.

7. Sci-fi fans love techno-porn! What real-life science (or pseudo-science) did you research for your book?

There’s a lot of futuristic tech in Ragnar Blaise’s High Idea. Cloning, gene manipulation (loads of that), biological research, space travel, nukes, even travel between universal planes. That’s the beauty of sci-fi – you can make wild accusations based on fluffy science, BUT Asimov and Star Trek proved that some of these ideas can become valid.

8. What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Time, ironically. Obviously you need time to get the book written, but when you leave a novel for a while, you really struggle to get back into the plot, which then creates the possibility for plot holes and a diversion away from your original idea. I kept a spreadsheet with a list of the main and sub plots, and also a copy of the synopsis too. These maps help, but I would strongly suggest that authors never leave their unfinished work for too long.

9. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

Ragnar gets stuck on Earth for a long long time, and the universe helps him to survive the inevitable catastrophies during his stay. It was fun thinking about where to put Ragnar and how he would react, especially when the universe was trying to give him blatant hints about the next disaster coming. At one point the universe simply blows Ragnar into a hole and seals him in. I believe that life and karma does try to warn about events but not many people can read the signs.  Luck itself is simply the ability recognise the universe’s subtle hints to take action.

10. Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?

Don’t write anything by hand! I wrote a very early draft in a series of notebooks then took a week off work to type them up. It was about 40,000 words and I wanted to rip my own skin off by the end of it.

11. Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?

Don’t pine for the past, stick with your friends, don’t believe what you see, there’s always hope. There’s a lot of messages in the whole book. Oh, and aliens are real.

12. What are your future project(s)?

I’ve actually planned out the sequel to RBHI – Ragnar Blaise’s Small World. It involves traversing objects at an atomic level, with each object like its own universe. It’s strange how the macroverse looks like the microverse, with spherical elements revolving around each other, and so I thought Ragnar could go atom-hopping.

I have also written the first draft of a screenplay called IT Chimps Attack! where an in-house IT department goes apeshit after getting the bums rush from their company. It’s a homage to IT and computing, and how those in absolute power of these miracle systems could rule the world if they so chose to.

I have also wrriten out the first half of an Alien movie.  I have been bitterly disappointed by every Alien movie after Aliens, and so after watching Prometheus, thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and write one.  There’s a scene where some hunters are on a jungle island and come to a clearing.  The birdsong and jungle noises cease so they hunker down just as an alien walks through the clearing right in front of them.  This was the first scene I thought of, and I expanded the rest of the screenplay around this.

13. If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?

I currently work in IT (which is where IT Chimps Attack! came from), but I would ideally like to start my own business in an area of the UK near the coast.

14. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

Any method at all! I like to socialise and absolutely love feedback. I am starting out and still have a long way to go to be considered a true author, but if anyone enjoys my work then I promise to keep writing. If I’m ever famous enough to get recognised, I’d never turn away a fan, as long as they’re willing to sit down and enjoy a cider with me!

My Twitter is @howardjones0 and my email is hljones@hljones.co.uk

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