These are a selection of questions that I have been asked by friends and readers since I started self publishing in July 2012. This section will hopefully grow with time!
It happened in summer 2008. I was visiting my family in Mauritius, and some friends and I had gone to a neighbouring island for a day of sun and swimming. On the way back, the boat went past a sandbank with mangroves. On it was a large black marker stone painted with the number ’17’ in red. I thought, ‘There’s a story there.’ I wrote the number down in my ‘author ideas’ notebook and decided to get back to it another time. When I did, I wondered what to write about. Someone turning seventeen? That had been done a lot. Seventeen dwarfs? I couldn’t see where that was going to go except somewhere dark and sweaty with suspicious singing that would make me want to swing a mallet at somebody. Then it came to me. Seventeen deaths. What if I wrote a story about someone who could die up to seventeen times? The same day, Lucas Soul walked into my head. And he spoke. He said, ‘My name is Lucas Soul. Today I died again. This is my fifteenth death in the last four hundred and fifty years.’ From there came the concept of the two immortal races and a modern day plot for my main protagonist.
Yes. Hunted (previously Soul meaning) is the first novel in the action thriller series Seventeen. Several people have asked me whether I’m planning to write seventeen novels. The honest answer is no. Although I was originally unsure about the exact number of books that would feature in this series, I have now decided on six and have already written the final 500 words of the last book. One of these books will be a prequel about the original immortals.
The concept behind Seventeen does leave the door open for me to write about other significant events in human history where immortals played an important role and possibly introduce further characters through novellas. I have also written six short stories which link to the novels and provide interesting background on how some of the main characters met.
The earliest memories I have of a bookstore are from when I was four years old. It was a small, dusty place filled with the smell of old and new books, in the depths of Port-Louis, the capital city of Mauritius. I laid my paws, er, hands on my first Babar story book and fell in love with reading. I was also a bit of a storyteller from then on. The writing bug came when I was twelve years old. I remember the event that triggered it distinctly. I had done a creative writing essay for my English class and shown it to my father. He blasted it in no uncertain terms. The story was about a group of children who went guava picking in the forest and came across a bear that had escaped from a visiting Russian circus. My father said, ‘A bear?! In Mauritius? That’s not believable in the least!’ I replied (I was a bit precocious at that age), ‘There’s a reason it’s called a creative writing essay. And it was a visiting Russian Circus. That scenario is plausible.’
To spite him, I went and wrote a few more short stories. Then, I wrote a novel. A second novel came after that. By the time I left school, I was on my third novel.
As far as I’m concerned, there are three kinds of writers. The serial planner, who plots every chapter and verse from start to finish. The ad-hoc author, who has a ‘let’s-just-see-where-this-goes’ attitude. And the breed that falls into the middle. I’m in the latter category, the tweener as author James Scott Bell calls them. The novel always starts with a concept. This will then give birth to the principal protagonists. By the time I commit to putting fingers to keyboard, I know the ‘voices’ of my main characters, how the story starts, how it ends, the major plot points in the middle, and I have a vague idea about the title. After that, it’s all hard slog trying to get from A to Z. I normally write character biographies for my main protagonists and I’m currently using dry wipe boards to plot each novel in the series Seventeen.
I would love to say that I write every day. Considering I sometimes do sixty-eighty hour weeks and lots of nightshifts, I think I can be excused. Instead, I would classify myself as a binge writer. Short intense sessions of spewing words onto a computer screen, followed by periods of working long antisocial hours to pay the bills, and the occasional day procrastinating. When I do write, I can do so for six to eight hours at a stretch and can manage over two thousand words a day. This involves a lot of tea, the occasional coffee, and book specific playlists on my iPhone.
On the other hand, not a day goes by when I am not actively thinking about the book and potential plot scenes. This could be in the shower, on the loo, in the car, while eating, and even at work.
I write mainly in my new writing studio, which looks out over my garden. I have also written on nightshifts, on planes, and on trains. I firmly believe that a writer should be able to write almost anywhere. Well, except in a nightclub. Or during a HALO jump. Or while being chased by a pack of hungry wolves (it could happen).
Yes, I do. I did a lot of research even when I was writing the first two novels in the fantasy series that I hope to publish at some stage. Readers are not stupid. I’m a reader and when I read fantasy or sci-fi, there needs to be a modicum of the ‘possible’ or ‘believable’ in what I’m seeing in print or on the screen. Therefore, as an author, I feel it is my duty to give my readers the same experience.
To be honest, I love the research part of writing. Maybe a bit too much, actually. For example, before I wrote the Zürich fight scene in Hunted (previously Soul Meaning), I spent an entire day researching the city, what the Bahnhofstrasse looked like, and carefully examining pictures of the Hauptbahnhof. And don’t even get me started on the weapons. My paranoid mind occasionally comes up with the thought that someone (FBI, CIA, MI5), somewhere (a bunker deep under Death Valley, a meat shop in Birmingham UK) is steadily composing a list of people who keep looking up things like pistols, machine guns, and rocket launchers. Oh, and who keeps viewing Google Earth pictures and images of famous cities around the world. I nearly wet myself the day I had to do some research on explosives. Mind you, reading up on the HALO jump was cool.
When I started writing, I read that a lot of authors can get lost in the research, as in they do too much of it when they should really be writing. I have to admit, it’s very easy to do. And some authors have been accused of spewing every word of research they’ve done onto paper, thus drowning the reader with information overload. Just because the author has spent an entire day looking up things, surely all that time and effort can’t be wasted. With a few years’ writing experience under my belt and numerous feedbacks on my novels, I have to disagree. The only information that needs to go in the book is the one that is relevant to the plot. No one wants to read a whole paragraph about your character’s Sig Sauer P229 or the car that his partner drives. Just mention the gun or the car and move on.
So, now, even though I may have spent an hour and a half today figuring out where I was going to position one of my main characters’ apartment in Boston so that another character would have a glimpse of the Charles River Basin through the sitting room window, it’s going to take up half a sentence in my novel.
It’s fun doing research. But look at the clock and give yourself a time limit. And all that information you haven’t used is not wasted. Think of it as a resource and fodder for future ideas. Also, I do feel I’m a better writer from having read around the subjects I’m putting in my novels.
First off, do I believe in writer’s block? The answer is … possibly. Every author has good and bad writing days. On a day that I don’t achieve my writing target, it’s either because I’m too tired and can’t concentrate, or I’m busy still thinking about where to take the plot next. There have been times when I’ve stared at the blank screen and gone ‘Oh bummer, I don’t know what to write next.’ I try to do something more productive for the rest of that day. By the time I come back to that screen, I usually know what I want to write. If I’m still struggling, then I look at the last few pages I’ve written and try to figure out what it is that is ‘blocking’ me. Sometimes I do some serious re-editing and deleting to get things flowing again.
I intend to publish one book per year in the Seventeen series, with a projected total of six books. I am planning a spin-off novella series based in the Seventeen universe, after much demand from fans. I have just started a new novella action series called Division Eight, with the first publication launching in 2016. There is a trilogy which I want to start writing in the next six years or so. It’s a complex, epic dark fantasy story which scares me; strange as this may sound, I just don’t feel ready to attempt it yet. I’m still getting to ‘know’ the main protagonists. I also have a Young Adult science-fiction/steampunk trilogy in mind, which I will be writing at some point in the next decade, as well as a sci-fi horror novel based on my short story Void. And there’s that humorous fantasy series that got me writing again…