Tell us about what you have written.
Paradigms is a science fantasy story set in post apocalyptic Scotland. Years after an apocalyptic disaster, the surviving people have reverted to clan life and are living off the carcass of the old world. But not everyone has forgotten the technology of the past and not everyone has forgotten the mystical secrets of the ages gone before. Propelled by an act of compassion, Malcolm, a young clansman, finds himself lost in a land of physical and metaphysical conflict that has changed far more than anyone realized. But which path is the right one? Which Paradigm is real?
What inspired you to write those things?
I have been living out in Asia for a good while now and I have been exploring many Eastern ideas such as Buddhism and meditation. At the same time, being away from my own culture has given me a new perspective on it and helped me see it a whole new way. The book, to some extent, was an attempt to marry together those two ideas and to help me understand both sides of things by tying them together in a fun adventure story.
Do you have a favorite thing that you’ve ever written?
Aside from the book, recently I’ve been been writing a lot of short fairy tales. I’ve found that they can be a lot of fun while still making a point about something in a sharp, pithy way.
Do you have a favorite character that you write about? If so, who is it, what makes it your favorite and tell us about the character.
In Paradigms there is a character called Judas, who was a lot of fun to write. He is one of those characters who is clever, direct, and more than a bit twisted. I had a good time playing with his dialogue and interactions with other characters. There is something nice about writing uncompromising characters who have the power to have their own way, even if they are not the nicest of people.
Almost every writer is inspired by someone else. Does anyone inspire you?
There are lots of people who have been a positive influence in my life and that I feel I’ve learned bits and pieces from on the way, but I don’t think there is a single person that has inspired me though.
How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?
My first clear memory of writing was in primary school. For a class we had to write a short story about someone telling a lie and I remember running with the idea. It happened at that time that there was an intern teacher with us for a few weeks and I remember her giving me a lot of praise about how imaginative the story was. It think before that point I had always thought I was bad at English because I had poor spelling and even worse hand writing. I think she helped me see that there was more to the art of English than just academic ability. I wish I could remember the teachers name so I could say thanks.
After that I did some writing on and off in and out of school but again my poor academics came back to haunt me and it because something that I liked but thought I wasn’t good at. It wasn’t really until I became an English language teacher and started building up some confidence in myself and my abilities that I decided that it was something that I could do and something that I wanted to do, even if no one wanted to read it.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever written? Why?
In the new book I’m working on, I’m writing in the first person as a sixteen year old girl – which is a bit strange. However, I think the strangest thing was probably a poem based on a Sting song called ‘Roxanne’. I’m not sure why I wrote it. It’s very different from most of the other things I have written and is a bit gritty.
Some authors have said that their parents were supportive of their efforts when young, and some have said they had to sneak around and hide. What was the case with you?
My mother has always been supportive of the different things that I wanted to do. That said, I grew up in working class suburb of Glasgow. I don’t think anybody was ever directly anti-writing in any way, but, to some extent, there is always this feeling that you should get a ‘real’ job and do some ‘real’ work. I think even when we were choosing our degrees we were asked the question, ‘what were we going to use it for?’ I think it’s part of the reason that I ended up with a computer science degree.
Who drives the story, you or your characters?
There is an element of both. I tend to have a plan of the story outlined before I start writing, but it’s amazing how different a story can end up from the plan. There were whole chapters in the last book that just seem to come out naturally as I was working.
Who proofreads and critiques your work?
The first person I always send to is my friend Laura Gaddis. I think if I hadn’t had her looking at the work when I first got started I would never have gotten the book finished and with out her continued support I would never have gotten the book published. In addition I’ve started building up a circle of reader and writer friends who help by having a look at my work. It’s funny how they all have different strengths in different areas. Some are spelling and grammar masters others are more interested in the flow of the story. Some other people who have helped me edit to date include:
Gary Welsh – Graphic artist and incidentally my cover artist.
Deborah Mantle – another writer/teacher who I work with in Japan.
Mark Harkness – An old role playing friend.
Marj – an Australian writer I met on Authonomy.
Of course when it came time to actually get ‘Paradigms’ published the professionals came out and Denise Bartlett of Gypsy Shadow publishing spent a lot of time working through the book with me.
Where do you write?
I like to write in quite tea shops and cafes. The first half of the book was mainly written in a Coffee Bean in Lippo Kawachi in Tangerang Indonesia. It’s a nice little place that looks out onto a large English book shop called Times. I’d cycle there in the afternoon and spend half the day writing before going to the local Indian restaurant with my fellow teacher Santigo.
The second half of the book and most of the editing was done in MingDian tea house in Mianyang China. It was close to the university and was a really comfortable place where a large part of the day could be spent working on the book with a cup of tea. In the tea houses you just pay for the one cup of tea and then they refill it for the rest of the day, so there is no one pressuring you to get out of the place like you can get in other places with limited seating.
When do you write – set times or as the mood moves you?
I work best around lunch time. I can spend a good few hours happily working until dinner time. The trouble I have at the moment is that there is not so much free time in my new job so work is often restricted to the weekend. That should change when I return to China in February.
If you could take a character from someone else’s book on a date, who would it be and where would you take him/her/it?
I remember having something of a crush on Jill from Katharine Kerr’s Deverry cycle series when I was in high school. I’d have to take her somewhere that her father couldn’t find us though.
If you could invite any other writer to dinner who would ask and why?
I think it would have to be Terry Pratchett. If he is half as funny or interesting as his books then I think it would be an enjoyable and perhaps somewhat surreal time.
Do you use the Internet to check facts, or the library?
Internet. I am a child of the new world.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
I work full time as an English teacher so I spend a great deal of time doing that. However, I often like to go running, cross country is best. I’m at no risk of breaking any speed or distance records in the near future though.
I also enjoy walking and hiking and have done great deal of wandering around in my time. I think one of the highest points in my life was finishing the west highland way, a hundred mile or so walk up into the highlands of Scotland. It had always been held up as something of a right of passage in my youth and it felt like a great achievement to have finished it.
At the moment I am also trying to learn Chinese. I can speak at an intermediate level although I still have a long way to go with the writing. Learning the characters is no small task as there is a different one for every word.
Do you ever have a problem with writer’s block?
I’ve never really had a problem with this, but I have suffered from what I will call a writers knot, which is where I have two or more stories in my head that want to be written and as soon as I start working on one I can’t help but think of the other.
Who’s your favorite author (other than yourself)? Why?
Herman Hesse. I was introduced to his work when I happened to find a copy of ‘Demian’ just lying in the street one day. I picked up, read it in a day (which is unusual for me) and later in the week put the book back where I found it.
There is something about his writing that is just talking straight to the soul. The stories are simple, very little really happens externally but so much happens to the characters inside.
What’s your favorite book (other than one of your own)? Why?
It would probably be Steppinwolf, Demian or Siddhartha for the same reason that I like Herman Hesse. I don’t think Demian is as good as the other two, but being my first Hesse it has a special place in my memory.
What’s the last book, other than your own, that you read and really enjoyed?
I recently read Asimov’s Cave’s of Steel which, while not life changing, was a good page turner that I really enjoyed. I’ll certainly be picking up more books from the series soon.
Some writers say that they have to write a certain amount of words every day. Do you do this? Why or why not?
For me, I don’t think this works. I find a day spent brainstorming or mind mapping a chapter or a short story is much more productive than churning out words. I do think that it’s important to set targets though for getting work done. It’s too easy to procrastinate otherwise.
If you could be any character (other than one of your own) from a book or movie who would it be? Why?
Lord Havelock Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. He is the coolest character on the disc world and he got there, and stays there, by being smart and cunning.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
For each copy of Paradigms sold, thirty percent of the author’s royalties will be donated to Book Aid international, a charity which sends half a million books to sub-Saharan Africa every year, to support literacy, education and development.
Book Aid International is a charity and a limited company registered in England & Wales, charity number 313869, company number 880754. Registered office 39-41 Coldharbour Lane, London SE5 9NR www.bookaid.org
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