Static at Short Stack

I’ve written about my involvement with my brother’s psychological horror short Static before, but last night the film was screened as part of Broadway Cinema’s Short Stack event. Short Stack is a bi-monthly film/networking night showcasing shorts, documentaries, music videos and much more.

I had such a good time! Static looked and sounded more incredible than ever in the fantastic Broadway Cinema and it was actually quite a thrill to see myself (I have a tiny cameo in the film) on the big screen! There was lots of other great stuff on show too; a harrowing snippet from Dead Quiet’s post-apocalyptic world and the hilarious animation Big Bad Wolf being my top picks. Documentaries The Cockle Man (the story of ‘probably the last cockle man in Great Britain’) and Two Hearts One Soul (a look at the unique relationship between Notts County and Juventus football clubs) were also fantastic – there really was something for everyone!

On top of all that it was fascinating to listen to each filmmaker introduce their film, and brilliant to chat with some other film and writing types as well. Any chance to meet up and network with like-minded people is always greatly appreciated and so a huge thanks to the organisers and to Broadway Cinema for putting on such a brilliant night!

April 17, 2017Leave a comment

Five reasons to love sci-fi!

A pretty simple post, here are five reasons to love sci-fi!

1.) Sci-fi isn’t afraid to tackle BIG issues

Sci-fi stories can be set far in the future, they can take place on distant worlds. But, really, they’re about the issues that affect us in the here and now. For example, the novel Ender’s Game depicts a futuristic, inter-planetary war between humans and ‘Buggers’ – an insectoid alien race. It’s fast-paced and action-packed, but the book is really about the ethics of modern warfare and a complex study of duplicity and culpability. That all sounds pretty heavy for a story with a ten-year-old protagonist! Ingeniously, however, the book is multi-layered. If someone wants to read Ender’s Game purely as a space-fighty, bug-sqishy space romp then they can, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

2.) Sci-fi makes for great films

Recently we’ve seen Andy Weir’s The Martian adapted to the big screen, other successful films like Gravity and Arrival, heck, Star Wars and Star Trek have even come back! I think that sci-fi does so well at the box office because its grand concepts and imagery are effortlessly cinematic. If you think of the shimmering, otherworldly wormhole in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, you may think that an animation department took some serious liberties in coming up with a bunch of polygons that ‘look cool’. But the wormhole was actually created by running data collected by real-life physicists through CGI software. Christopher Nolan was apparently so pleased with the result that he gave up on plans to come up with his own wild, filmic depiction of what a wormhole might look like and signed off on the scientific projection.

3.) Sci-fi gets people talking (and laughing)

The response to the film version of The Martian was especially interesting, some people thought it was a true story! Countless people admitted via social media posts that they thought the sci-fi blockbuster was based on actual events and everyone had a good chuckle. And it was funny, but I don’t blame the people who got confused. It’s been nearly fifty years since the moon landing, humans have a near-permanent presence in space and we’re beaming back new pictures of distant planets and comets on an almost weekly basis. The first manned mission to Mars is not that far away and I can honestly see why some people thought it might already have happened.

4.) Sci-fi is incredibly relevant

This is an exciting time for sci-fi writers. Science fiction has been around for a long time of course, but rather than guessing at random possibilities like some of the old masters had to do (and they did it superbly well), every writer is now blessed with a good sense of the direction in which space exploration is heading, the tech we’ll use to travel, and even what many planets in our solar system will be like when we get there. These notions do not constrain storytelling, they direct and refine it. They allow sci-fi writers to put characters in situations that are literally out of this world (but still totally plausible), and to explore how they respond. Plus, if someone wants to write something that’s more out there, there’s always the uncertainty of the distant future as well as what lies beyond our own solar system.

5.) Sci-fi breaks new ground

I believe the sci-fi genre is good for literary and cultural progress. Sci-fi is renowned for breaking new ground and being amongst the first genres (particularly programmes like Star Trek) to truly embrace character diversity. There are plenty of sci-fi stories that aren’t set in space as well, and that stuff so often carries important predictions and warnings about the near-future (Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror being a superb example). I absolutely love sci-fi and, if you don’t already, I think you should too!

(Note* A version of this post originally appeared on Lucy V. Hay’s author website, here.)

My sci-fi novel Anchor Leg is available via Amazon UK now.

April 3, 2017Leave a comment

(Second) Author Interview: Dan Thompson

I’ve been lucky enough to interview YA fantasy author Dan Thompson on this site before. But with the release of his new book The Golden Lyre last week, I thought it was time to check back in!

Your new novel, The Golden Lyre is the sequel to The Black Petal. How does working on a sequel compare to writing an original work?

The Golden Lyre was easier to write than The Black Petal in some respects as some of the original characters have already been established. It’s about placing them in different situations and testing them. But overall, this second instalment has been difficult. I found myself not liking big chunks of work that I ended up holding the delete button on, or extensively editing.

Holding a reader’s interest is vital when writing a series. I really hope I’ve managed to include a lot more action in this book. The chance to revisit the world we left them in at the end of The Black Petal was just as exciting for me as I hope it is for readers who enjoyed the first book.

Sequels tend to get the rough end of the stick; best known for not being as good as the first. I really wanted to expand on the mythology and universe I created for the first book so that readers could get their teeth into more.

The Golden Lyre begins with our hero Jack emerging from beneath the wings of a dead phoenix. Is there symbolism in this?

Oh definitely. I’m really glad you picked up on that. If it wasn’t for the relative safety of being hidden beneath the phoenix, then the two main characters would be toast!

Throughout the first book, the main theme throughout was getting home. Both characters wanted to return to where they came from – they didn’t ask to be thrown into the middle of a war. As they emerge from underneath the phoenix, it is almost like the phoenix has given them that second chance at trying to get home. The phoenix may be dead, but their desire to achieve their goal has been rekindled.

I really enjoy the interactions between Jack and Blake, especially when they explore and discuss their shared soul. How did you first get the idea to link the two in this way? Was it hard to fashion the dynamic?

Certainly. There are still times now where I don’t think I have quite captured what I see and know in my own mind. The dynamic is a little odd. I’ve always been fascinated with ‘past lives’. The more I looked into it, it became clear that this was really only ‘possible’ by people sharing souls. It was something that I definitely wanted to include in my work – and the two main characters were the perfect fit.

I’m so happy you enjoyed their bickering. If you remember, there was a huge chunk of the first book where they were apart. They may have shared a soul, but they didn’t really interact with one another. The Golden Lyre may be the second book, but this is the first real opportunity for Jack and Blake to get to know each other. The past life and soul sharing element will feature again in the third book.

Your knowledge of ancient mythology is breathtaking. Could you tell us a little bit about the particular myth that inspired The Golden Lyre?

Who doesn’t like a good myth? Myths, folktales, and family stories are passed down from generation to generation, and the Classical peoples loved a good story. They didn’t have books as we know them now; in fact, many ‘ordinary’ people couldn’t even read. Their stories were told orally – so they needed to be over-the-top, dramatic, and full of vivid imagery.

I’m a romantic at heart. One of the saddest and most tragic of Greek myths is one about Orpheus and Eurydice: lovers who did everything together. But Eurydice was killed. Orpheus, known as a keen music player, took his lyre and ventured down into the Underworld to reclaim Eurydice’s life. He played his lyre and persuaded Hades to release her. There was a condition though. He must lead Eurydice from the Underworld, never looking back, and constantly trusting that she will follow.

Tragically, he did look back and Eurydice was returned to death. It may seem ridiculous to our generation today, but back in Classical times, people honestly believed in the Underworld. Who wouldn’t risk going down to bring back the one person they loved the most?

It may be a *spoiler alert* for those who haven’t read The Black Petal, but as Lucia did die, Jack has the opportunity to bring her back to life in this second book. The Orpheus and Eurydice myth was perfect and I loved retelling it using my own characters.

Do you think that your depiction of Loki is your most evil character invention to date? If not, who is?

Ooooh, what a great question. I think (for those readers who have read my dystopian novel Here Lies Love) Stefan was a pretty awful and evil character. He bought and caged young women, raped them, and tortured them. You can’t get much worse than that. But Stefan is a human with human faults and human characteristics.

What I loved about rewriting Loki was how inhuman he was. He could be sarcastic and menacingly evil with a warped sense of humour. I could really go to town on making him overly flamboyant, who just loves to toy with the unfortunate souls down in the Underworld. He is known as the Trickster god in Norse mythology. He makes for a fantastic jailor, so I made him the Warden of the Underworld. Even though they are very different, I would say that both Stefan and Loki are equally my most evil characters.

Have you begun work on the third book in the series yet? Do you know exactly how the series will end?

I haven’t started writing the third and final instalment yet, but I’ve definitely started planning it. I’ve known how the series will end for some time, and even though I knew of some definite parts in the third book, I didn’t know how it would all fit together. The time I’ve spent planning and jotting over the last two weeks has certainly helped put everything together.

The third book does have a title, but I’m keeping it a secret for the time being.

Are you working on anything else at the moment? I enjoyed Ana’s Trial and would love to read more of her story.

Awww, thanks, Jack. In fact, I’ve had some great feedback and comments about Ana’s Trial. I’ve revisited the story recently as the audiobook of it is currently in production. Ana will always have a special place in my heart as her story was too hard to ignore while I was on a writing break.

I couldn’t find the enthusiasm or self-belief to write anything I enjoyed, but along came Ana and I had to put pen to paper. Her short story was what I needed to find the love for writing that I had lost.

Ana will be back, but at the moment I am concentrating on getting The Black Petal trilogy finished.

Is there a genre you’ve never written in that you would love to try? Is there one you would never write in?

Last year I started to write a story I had an idea for. I got about 15K words in and then I put it to one side. It is very different to my usual writing. It is an adult thriller and needs very concise, hard hitting writing. I usually find a quite descriptive writing style for when I’m writing my fantasy. I had reworked an old story that eventually turned into my short story thriller Hatred. Hidden. and I wanted to carry on with that kind of writing.

Self-doubt crept in though and I stopped writing it, which is terrible advice for any first time writer out there, but I needed to shelve it just for the time being otherwise I would have deleted the entire thing. I do want to finish it and it will be a goal of mine.

The Crime genre would be too daunting for me. It is a genre I rarely read. The police and detective elements would be lost on me, so I don’t think I would have enough passion to write it too. Friends have raved about JK Rowling’s recent adult novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, but as they are crime novels I haven’t managed to find enough interest to give them a try. I know that sounds quite limiting, but I think everyone has at least one genre they really aren’t fond of.

Thanks for having me, Jack. Your questions have been great and put me on the spot!

The Black Petal and The Golden Lyre are both available now.

February 20, 2017Leave a comment

New covers for Tethers and X

Just a quick note to say that Tethers and X have shiny new book covers! Do let me know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tethers is available via Amazon UK now.

X is available via Amazon UK now.

January 24, 2017Leave a comment