Raquel Byrnes, Galaxy of Authors

Raquel Byrnes, Galaxy of Authors

Raquel Byrnes

‘So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned.’ ~J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan: The Fairy Tales)

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I think I was six or seven when I saw the Nutcracker Ballet with my parents and being absolutely shocked that you could be a girl with pink silk slippers and still go on adventures.  I remember wanting to have adventures of my own and started making them up and eventually writing them in notebook after notebook while growing up.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

The authors I read early on as a teen really did leave a mark on my psyche. Philip K. Dick, Matheson, Asimov for sure. I had a deep love affair with Poe during my goth years in high school. Lovecraft was a fascination for a while as well. I loved both science fiction and fantasy and that hasn’t changed. I still read and write both.

Tell me about your book.

Sometimes heroes are born ladies…

Tremblers is thetale of Charlotte Blackburn, a debutante living in post calamitous Manhattan. She’s a daughter of the new society that sprang up after a series of devastating quakes nearly decimated all of North America. Technology, specifically steam tech and mechanica, are all that protect the citizens from the terrors outside the domes. The Peaceful Union is a reformed Untied States made up of 13 ruthless governors that rule what is left of America with an iron fist.  Charlotte’s  father, a chemist, discovers the cause of a terrible sickness that is spreading across the nation creating monsters out of men, but there are powers that want to hide the truth and keep the cure to themselves. When he is abducted, Charlotte is thrust into a world of secret societies, ruthless lawmen, and unfathomable danger as she tries to save her father and stop the disease from spreading.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh my gosh…at least a dozen. I have books halfway done, books in the throes of first chapters, and an entire series that is complete, but hidden away. I have novellas and flash fiction tucked in there somewhere also.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

I don’t like anybody making decisions for me for anything.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

Charlotte Blackburn is the heroine of the story and she is memorable because she is SO not qualified for what she must do. She’s a debutante in a cloistered and safe community who lives under the protection of electric Tesla domes that keep out the ash and poisonous gasses of their ruined landscape. She has no idea what is outside of her safe world or how to deal with it. She is a relatively normal person thrust into a situation that requires extraordinary resilience and bravery.  Everything she was taught in becoming a lady is of no use and she has to rely on instinct and guts to get her through. I find those types of rise to the challenge characters so interesting.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I am a little fuzzy on that, actually. When I was sending out queries and going to conferences years ago, indie publishers were simply small publishers, not self-publishers. I still find people debating on which name to use. I met an acquisitions editor for a small publisher at a conference. They ended up offering a contract on my first three books so that is how I ended up on the traditional side of things.  I’ve met traditional authors that moved to self publishing and vise versa. It’s so fluid nowadays. More and more though, I am hearing of hybrid authors that use the best of both worlds to connect with other book lovers.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I think that is absolutely true. I have learned so much about what works for me as a reader and what throws me out of the fictional world by reading. Good books, great books, books that are very different than what you write. Its important to look at writing through the eyes of a reader.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

I think the best part of being an author is bringing my imagination to life and being able to share in those experiences with others. The worst part is the snack pounds. I am forever running off the things I munch on during my writing sessions.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I am 100% a plotter. I have outlines, charts, mind maps, character questionnaires, etc. I feel it frees me up to explore if I know I won’t leave out important beats. Pantsers fascinate me. My critique partner is one and she weaves the most amazing, detailed Regency romances with this method. It works for her, but the thought of whittling down a book that is one hundred and fifty thousand words is terrifying to me.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Oh definitely, all the time! I have names for side characters, boats, pets, even place that hold meaning for people who have read all my books. I throw in references to characters and happenings from other books and even hint at what happens after the book ends.  I love leaving surprises for my best book buddies.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I have always loved astronomy. I’m an avid sky watcher and often have get togethers to watch meteor showers or what not.  There’s a campground near my home that is next to an observatory. That is one of my favorite places. No lights or fire are allowed after nightfall and all around you are people on RV’s with telescopes pointing tracking lasers at the sky.  People wander from site to site talking, sharing food, and talking space.  Truly a great community.

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m working on a Gunpowder Fantasy set in the Civil War with monsters and magic. I’m having the time of my life!

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

Perhaps at the very beginning when the industry was just starting out that may have been true. There just wasn’t the support networks and industry resources out there for the average author. But as indie publishing has come into its own, the quality out there has skyrocketed. Some of my favorite authors are completely self-reliant from concept to cover art and the products are amazing.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

I would have to say adventure/thriller. I just seem to gravitate towards that first love. I will always be Clara, fighting against the Mouse King’s Army in a little pink dress.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

I’m not sure I would survive them. The post calamity steampunk world of The Tremblers is definitely a dangerous place, but I think I would try it if given the chance. There is so much about the spirit of innovation and wonder during that time that is so appealing.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

I would tell myself to stop trying to beat some imaginary clock to publication and just enjoy the process of writing and learning and getting to know the industry. I was so stressed about the business side early on in my career for no reason. Don’t try to understand EVERYTHING about publishing all at once… learn what you need to, when you need to know it.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I make playlists for each book with soundracks, classical music, mellow beats…anything without lyrics. I find a great piece for an airship battle or a monster chase and I play it on repeat while I write the scene. I find it really works for me.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I guess how hard it is to decide when you’re done tinkering. I never feel finished with a story. Never.

Tell me three unique things about you.

Let’s see…

1) I did karate for 5 years as a teenager. No help to me now, but it was fun at the time.

2) I am a real scaredy cat and can only watch horror movies with someone else…even though I write monsters and mayhem.

3) I am a natural introvert and quiet at parties, but if you have a seat next to me we’ll talk for hours.

Raquel, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Nik Krasno, Galaxy of Authors

Nik Krasno, Galaxy of Authors

Nik Krasno

‘Time to fill the glasses (…and then empty them).’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

I think almost everyone wishes to write a book. Usually, it’s just a momentarily thought and they don’t follow through with it. Same thing with me. I thought I’d been witnessing incredible events unfolding in front of my eyes that deserved a story. I had an outline and a few scenes. I doubt I would’ve actually written an entire book were it not for my good friend and published non-fiction author, who took a look at what I had and got enthusiastic about the idea.. So we’ve done the first book together. After that I just contracted this writing disease -:)

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Not so much consciously, however to a certain degree, I guess Oligarch has similarities with The Godfather, but –  Russian style. Irvine Welsh inspired not to stay away from grit, filth and literary mischief (and I like mischief), while Tarantino and Guy Richie evoked the desire to compete in action and grotesque.

Tell me about your series.

Big money – big risks. In order to survive Michael needs to prevail. How? Magnates would rather you never read it….

Michael (Misha) is just a little boy, when his father is prosecuted and sent away to Siberia. From a luxurious living Misha’s reduced to survival and poverty, but he vows it’s not for long.

Mikhail climbs the ladder, caring less about the means, his eyes on the target – to become rich. Very rich. The richest. Achievable? Unlikely, allowing for the opposition he confronts when reaching each next level of affluence. But money already becomes his life…

Is the Big Bang of the USSR a hurdle? More an advantage for a shady businessman like him, who never follows the rules and who soon gets into the position to impose his own.

His wealth grows, but the higher he goes, the more resistance he encounters and the farther the extent his enemies are willing to go against him.
Blood? It comes pretty soon.

Corruption? Plenty. And lots of debauchery to overcome the stress of every day struggle. That’s his story: snappy, gritty, uncomfortable, compelling. Big money, big trouble, big balls.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

Michael is a complex personage. On the one hand – a natural born swindler, a ruthless thug, a cunning businessman, cynical politician, living according to his own gangster-like code. On the other hand – a loving son and father, true friend, an idealist of a sort consumed by the constant internal struggle between greed and purpose. Long way, high toll – he becomes a billionaire. But was it really a worthy purpose?

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Me? I’m indie, but not by choice. Seeing little interest from agents and having a ready-made book crying to be released, we let it go. With the following I didn’t bother to pitch the agents. Of course, indie route offers fewer constraints from any side, but it equally demands a lot of investment in marketing to give your books some exposure and that’s something I neither know nor want to deal with. Thus, I’d rather outsource the ‘biz’ part, which trad publishers still know how to do.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The worst – you have to deal with rejection of your creation in the form of negative reviews or disinterest. That’s on emotional level. On practical, if you are an indie – marketing and stuff is really time-consuming and there is no promise that it’ll ever bear fruit. The best – ‘writing’ provides a plausibly-sounding excuse for skipping house chores-:)

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I usually have a general outline where I want the story to go, but I let the scenes flow.. Whatever works is fine, in my opinion.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Secrets – not so much, but ideas – sure. You don’t expect much from implanting them into fiction books, but I do hope some of them will trigger extra-curricular thinking effort -:)

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I hang out a lot at ‘Wealth, Writing, World’ group on Goodreads, which I’m honored to co-moderate, and that’s probably a fave pastime. It encompasses authors, readers, bloggers, but first of all – lots of cool people from various locations, with diverse background, from teenagers to 80+ years old. I enjoy and learn a lot, being its part. And there are always drinking companions online -:)

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

I depict our world, but with the purpose and hope to make it better!

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

‘Don’t do it, mate’, maybe? -:)

Nik, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Neven Carr, Galaxy of Authors

Neven Carr, Galaxy of Authors

Neven Carr

‘All families have secrets. How far would yours go to protect it?’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

It was an innate desire to write… and I soon found it to be an avenue to express my feelings particularly during difficult times: ie adolescence

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Far too many!But in my youth I have to say Stephen King was the one author that stays with me to this day. Not because of the horror. But because he just had this incredible ability to make his characters feel like real life people. I had decided if I ever wrote a book I wanted to emanate that.

Tell me about your book.

All families have secrets. How far would yours go to protect it?

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have four more to complete the series.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

What? Are you serious? Who would ban books? They have been our concreted version of history as well as the source of all our loved treasures like Jane Austen and Shakespeare and so many more.

Tell me about a principal character in your book. What makes them memorable?

She fights a twenty-year-old war, where she has been hidden from the truth of her early years, overly protected to ensure she does not remember. That is until someone close to her forgotten past is murdered. Claudia’s character grows from the helpless victim to someone who, not encouraged by her loving family, discovers she can take care of herself.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

So, so very true. Even since I have been writing, I find that when I read, it is with a different attitude. I read every word and I mean EVERY WORD. Doing so, has taught me so much.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

Best? I create!!!! Love it.

Worst?The editing. I hate it.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

All the time. I love intelligent people who just might pick up that one elusive clue

What are you writing at the moment?

The sequel to Forgotten… more like editing it.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

I guess in some cases that it is true but I honestly feel that there are many authors out there that have written great books but just haven’t been recognised yet.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Mystery/thrillers {With a dash of romance}. I love puzzle solving. It drives my husband crazy when I have figured out ‘whodunnit’ well before the end of a movie. When I get to a fork in my book, I ask myself what would the average reader expect? And then I go the OPPOSITE way.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Nothing! I feel writing replicates where you are in your life. The emotions you espouse in your book mirrors you, whether it be poems, songs whatever. However, I do believe that many people need life experiences to espouse some views well.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

How easy creating was… How difficult editing was.

Neven, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Mathew McCall, Galaxy of Authors

Mathew McCall, Galaxy of Authors

Mathew McCall

‘Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?

From an early age my mother read to me at night, all the old children’s classics and so I had a love of the narrative and storytelling before I could ever put a pen to paper. As soon as I could read and write I started writing stories, especially ghost stories. I just love storytelling, I have even done improvised performance tales. I have also written poetry and performed my own work at St David’s Cathedral.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Bradbury, Dick, Wells, King, Aspin. The list goes on…. The biggest influence on my current book series is P.K.Dick and Ray Bradbury (especially the Martian Chronicles), though my story is within the Steampunk genre, that’s only the setting. The style is taken from the Victorian/Edwardian tradition of presenting the narrative in the form of epistles; letter, journal and diary entries.

Tell me about your book.

Sometimes, one man’s courage can change the course of history.

Scratching a living out of the red earth of the newly independent Martian Colonies, an idealistic young Dandelion Farmer, Edwin Ransom, takes a stand against the powerful and evil industrialist, Eleuthère Du Maurier, who is trying to drive him off his land.

As events spiral out of Edwin’s control he encounters Adam Franklin, a man suffering long-term memory loss and haunted by nightmares of his own death.

Edwin and Adam are drawn further into violent conflict with Du Maurier’s henchmen and are forced to flee to the safety of Edwin’s father-in-law’s protection.

Professor Flammarion, Edwin’s father-in-law, is a man with a vision. Believing that mankind on Mars is on the brink of self-extinction he has brought an airship and is preparing to set off in search of what he believes to be the only hope of saving the humans on Mars; the last of the First Martians. The Professor enlists Edwin and Adam to join his eclectic group of scientists and adventurers in his perilous quest.

Set against a background of the looming threat of war between the colonies and pursued by the dark forces unleashed by the evil Du Maurier, Edwin finds himself catapulted into a nightmare adventure on the frontiers of human civilisation and beyond.

The story has an ensemble cast and unfolds through the letters, diary and journal entries of the main characters, exploring their individual personalities, experiences and points of view.

The Dandelion Farmer is complete at 135,000 words and is the first part in what is intended as a three-part series. Of course, it has all the expected Steampunk ingredients; airships, robots, mad professors, corsets, top hats, magnificent moustaches, Martians, monsters and Machiavellian evil industrialists, but it pushes the boundaries of Steampunk into mainstream Science Fiction.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have one and a half novels in an epic dark fantasy series that I have been writing for a very long time.

I am a third of the way through the second book of the Dandelion Farmer.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

Depends on the book and the subject material. If it’s deliberately offensive, purposefully racist, sexist, proliferating an intentional lie or aimed at rabble-rousing, then there may be a good reason to ban a new work from general access in schools etc. Though, on the whole I am opposed to the idea of censorship.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

The principal character is Edwin Ransom, the eponymous Dandelion Farmer. He is a biofuel grower in a late 19th century post-Imperial colony on Mars. He is a quiet, scholarly man thrust into a violent struggle against powers beyond his control. The thing that makes him memorable is the reality of his humanity and his frailty. He is an average person thrust into the headlights of an onrushing juggernaut but unlike most “protagonists” in such stories he does not suddenly become an “action hero.” That role falls to the secondary protagonist, Adam Franklin.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Self-published, because I tried the traditional process and got ignored. Steampunk is not a genre that most agents understand let alone publishing houses and mine is not the usual Steampunk, being more Steampunked Science Fiction. I gave it seven months of what I knew would be hitting my head against a brick wall, then I self-published.  I preferred the freedom of producing your own work without the input of an editor who may have no idea or interest in what I’m writing. I don’t really want someone coming to my work telling me how this or that should be without understanding my thought process or aims. Or worse, that I should be forced to explain my work to someone else.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

True. I think you have to have a grasp of narrative storytelling that comes from reading. I believe we all should read more. The only problem is with those writers who read to copy a style or read simply to “research” a genre. I have seen a number of posts on FB pages by would-be Steampunk authors asking which Steampunk books they should read to give them access into the genre… my answer is; don’t, because you will end up copying someone else’s work, badly.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

For me? I haven’t done the glad-handing or sitting at a table trying to sell a book or two at a convention or convivial, so I have mainly focused on the social media. The worst part is not meeting my readers, although I openly encourage communication.

The best part is that a story I have written is out there, people I have never met, some in other counties, are reading my story. My characters are out there, alive in other people’s imaginations.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I guess I am a plotter, as I do have a good idea of where my narrative is going, but I write on the wing. I find this allows the characters to grow and for the unexpected to occur. So really I am both.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yes. Names, allusions to places, other books, real people. It’s all there if you know your Sci-Fi, just look carefully. For instance, pay close attention to the crew names of the airship Seren Bore.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I am heavily involved in the British Steampunk community. I build Steampunk contraptions which I have won awards for and have several exhibits in the Bristol Steampunk Museum. I love making things.

What are you writing at the moment?

Book two of The Dandelion Farmer.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

I don’t think “traditional” publishing is a guarantee of the quality of the story within, I have come across some truly godawful traditionally published books. I would rather read a good story with the odd spelling mistake than a hackneyed load of polished codswallop.

What is your favourite genre to write, and why?

Fantasy and Steampunked Science Fiction. I love both as they provide great scope for imagination, I think Sci-Fi has the power to challenge every cultural preconception of our society. I love its fundamental subversiveness.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

No way. The Mars of Edwin Ransom is a terrible place, constantly wracked by warfare, a dying planet. I’d not survive for a week.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

If the words aren’t coming then write something else. Don’t use writer’s block as an excuse for not writing. Write every day if you can.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

I prefer to write in silence if I can. I’m too easily distracted otherwise.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

How the characters and the story grow beyond your original ideas. How characters you may have conceived of as incidental force their way onto centre stage. Sometimes it makes me feel more like an archaeologist excavating the tale layer by layer than someone simply creating it. Especially writing it in the form of letters and diary entries as the characters own concerns and interests can take you off into a totally uncharted territory.

Tell me three unique things about you.

Hmm…

1) I am a fully qualified grave robber (work that one out).

2) I have a passionate love for literature but could not read or write until I was 11.

3) A major regional British TV channel once had to publically apologise for my behaviour on live TV (I was only 18 after all).

Mat, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

Jon Cronshaw, Galaxy of Authors

Jon Cronshaw, Galaxy of Authors

Jon Cronshaw

‘And so it goes.’

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Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Where to start? I’m inspired by people who are trying to push the possibilities of their field — authors like William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, Charles Yu, Ursula Le Guin, Haruki Murakami, Anthony Burgess, Kurt Vonnegut, China Mieville, Paulo Bacigalupi, Junot Diaz, Connie Willis, Liu Cixin, Roald Dahl, Yoon Ha Lee, Geoff Ryman, and Ted Chiang.

Tell me about your series.

A reformed addict and a travelling showman team up to save a group of enslaved children.

My Wasteland series is a character-driven story about finding hope in a hopeless word. Abel, a reformed addict joins with a self-proclaimed wizard who travels the wastes with his show, passing off pre-apocalypse technology as items of magic and intrigue.

When they stumble across a group of children enslaved by the brutal drug gang The Family, Abel and the wizard use their ‘magic’ to mount a rescue.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have one full novel that will never see the light of day and two novels where I got to around 20,000 words and abandoned them.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

Pointless. Ideas always find a way out. The best way to kill a dangerous idea is to engage with it.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

Abel, the main character in my Wasteland series, is a reformed drug addict trying to survive in a brutal post-apocalyptic world. He lives by a code, refusing to kill, and loves to read stories from before the fall.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

I’m indie through and through. I’ve always had a DIY ethic and an entrepreneurial streak. Traditional publishing is still focused on selling things printed on pulped-up trees that were written two years ago. We all make our own paths, and I’m so grateful we live in a world where being an independent author is a viable option.)

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I read a poem, an essay and a short story every day. I usually have a non-fiction book and a novel on the go at the same time too! When I write, it’s like I’m trying to solve a series of problems — what’s the best way I can convey this emotion without saying ‘he was sad’ or what’s the best way I can give readers an emotional punch to the gut. Reading a lot gives me the answers to those solutions.

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.

The best aspect of being an author is when someone reaches out to me because something in my story resonated with them. I’ve had people contact me after reading my novella Addict of the Wasteland thanking me for the way I dealt compassionately with addiction. It keeps me motivated because I know the stories I write aren’t existing in a vacuum. The idea that someone would spend hours invested in something that came from my imagination is deeply humbling.

The worst part for me is having too many ideas for stories I want to write and not enough time to write them. I’ve got documents filled with notes and outlines for more than a dozen potential projects. I wish my mind would stay in one place and get the on with the job at hand.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I’m somewhere in the middle. I brainstorm my story and I write a series of about fifteen bullet points outlining the main drift of the story. I’ll write a short story with the character, finding their voice and understanding their motivations. Once I’ve got that, I’ll do another outline on sixty index cards — these get switched around, edited, and rewritten as I go, but I find it helpful to have goals I know I’m aiming for.

As for having an opinion on approaches, authors need to find what works for them. There’s no right answer except for the one that works.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yes. There are some inconsistencies in my world that are there by design and will make sense by the end of the third book. They’re very subtle hints, but I’ve always been a fan of books that reward a second read.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

It used to be playing video games, but I gave them up to focus on my writing. I’ve played guitar since I was 10 and I usually find myself picking away and letting my thoughts wander.

What are you writing at the moment?

I’m currently near the end of drafting my third novel, King of the Wasteland — the third book in Wasteland series.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

Some of them are. A lot of them aren’t. If readers are worried about the quality of an author, they should use the look inside feature and read the acknowledgements. If an author thanks editors and beta readers, chances are it will be a clean book. I’ve seen many traditionally published books with errors, but it’s the quality of the story that always wins out.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

No. My world is a post-apocalyptic nightmare. I don’t think I’d last a week.

If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?

Let that first novel go. It will always suck no matter how long you spend tinkering with it. Move onto the next thing and finish it.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

No, I have to write in silence. When I’m editing I listen to music. I listen to bands like My Bloody Valentine, Tool, Weezer, Queens of the Stone Age and the Stone Roses. I also find instrumental stuff helps — Bach’s works for solo cello, Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, etc.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

When you’re an independent author , you’re running a business. Getting to grips with all of the peripheral things you need to do to produce and market a book have been a very steep learning-curve. Luckily, there’s a great community of indie authors who help each other and are willing to share advice.

Tell me three unique things about you.

1) I wrote a PhD on the sculptor Jacob Epstein.

2) I have a portrait of Michael Jackson on my sitting room wall that I painted myself in the style of Jackson Pollock (Michael Jackson Pollock) — I don’t really care for his music.

3) My last guide dog was called Watson.

Jon, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

John Thornton, Galaxy of Authors

John Thornton, Galaxy of Authors

John Thornton

‘Settle for a B.’

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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing? 

I have been imagining situations and stories for as long as I can remember. Back as a small child, like fifty years ago, we would play pretend.  That was the start of my making up stories in my head.  Then as a teen I played a lot of board games and role-playing adventure games. Dungeons and Dragons, Traveller, Metamorphosis Alpha, and even some of the naval combat games like General Quarters. None of them were totally satisfying, so I would modify, combine, and invent new scenarios. Some of that was pretty wild with having space marines battling fantasy creatures like trolls and orcs and dragons. From that, I found I was drawn to a combination of vast spaceships and interior biomes.  Generational ships have been a favorite of mine since the 1970s when I read books Non-Stop, Orphans of the Sky, and especially the World and Thorinn. The World and Thorinn has been a favorite of mine since then. I started keeping notes, and “Game master” maps and such.  Those evolved into my sci-fi novels of today. I would talk about these to my children often, and my youngest daughter once said to me, “Are you going to finish this one?” and that inspired me to be more disciplined and actually finish the first novel.  Now, I am 29 books later, and working on number 30. Thanks Rachel! I finished some of my stories! Additionally, when I started to seriously write the stories, it was in large part due to a counselor who suggested I do journaling. I hate journaling, so instead I started putting my old stories down on paper and telling them.  That broke out the writing bug in me.

Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?

Yes. Damon Knight, Brian Daley (especially Doomfarers of Coromonde), Robert Heinlein’s juveniles, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and a vast trove of other authors.  Stephen King is an excellent storyteller, and so is Elizabeth Moon.

Tell me about your series.

A vast generational colony ship, lost for a hundred years, might be the only hope humanity has to survive.

In my Colony Ship Universe, the Earth suffered through a series of cataclysms including the Great Event, the 90 Hour War, and others.  During those times, a program was designed to build huge colony ships, and they would carry people on generations long voyages to other solar systems.  Seven such ships were launched, with people living in separate biomes, but also with large numbers of people in suspended animation.  The plan was to colonize and terraform the target worlds.  But all the ships were lost.  Then a hundred years later, then last remnant of humanity is surviving in Dome 17, and every other dome have failed.

The Earth is a toxic wasteland, and the last 1500 people uncover that their dome is also about to fail.  Their scientists have made breakthroughs in faster-than-light travel, and teleportation, but each has distinct limits.  FTL slight has a mass limit which hinders journeys and barely allows for a scout ship, and two occupants.  Teleportation needs a sending pad and a receiving pad.  So, the leaders of Dome 17  decide to send FTL scouts on one-way missions to where they think the colony ships are located.  The goal is to have the two-person team build a receiving pad, and then teleport all the survivors of Dome 17 to the colony ship, before the dome fails.

Each of my book series is about a team to a different colony ship.  So far I have completed three series, the Colony Ship Eschaton, the Colony Ship Vanguard, the Colony Ship Conestoga, and am working on book 3 of the Colony Ship Trailblazer series.  I also wrote a stand-alone novel called, Battle on the Marathon, which covers some of that colony ship’s story.  I have outlines, sketches, and plans for books about the other ships as well.

What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?

I am really against censorship. The written word should be allowed to be read, discussed, and freely available without banning. The only times I support a ban is on things like child pornography which is extremely hurtful to the children who are abused and traumatized in such a way. Therefore, videos and photos of child porn must be banned, but that is the only time I can think of for banning something.

Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?

In my Vanguard series one of the main characters is Paul. Paul is brutally honest about his feelings.  He whines, and complains, and wonders what he is doing throughout all eight books. In some ways, Paul is my favorite character, but now I hear my other characters yelling at me about how much I should like them as well. Paul has also gotten some reader responses who say they disliked him a lot and one said something like, “I hope something terrible happens to Paul.” I found that a wonderful connection, because I tried, while writing Paul, to just express how I would honestly feel if I were in his situations. Facing some of those things I write about, I too would be whining, terrified, and complaining.

Indie, or traditionally published – and why?

Indie.  I have not sought a traditional publisher at all. I think traditional publishing is a way that hinders authors from reaching readers. Those gate-keepers at traditional—or as I like to call them—dinosaur publishers, think they know what readers want. To me, I want readers to have the widest possible selection at a reasonable price.  Indi publishing allows for new, creative, and imaginative ideas to flourish. The traditional publishing model if far too top heavy with bureaucracy and waste.

It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?

I read a lot, but I will leave it to readers to decide if I write worth anything. One reviewer said, “Shouldn’t you have to pass a basic English class to be a writer?” and I found that amusing. I guess that reader did not care for my book. Other reviews have compared my writing favorably to Heinlein, Stephen Donaldson, and Jack McDevitt. Those reviews have boosted my self-esteem, but like my tag line says, I settle for a B. I settled for Bs and Cs in college through my doctorate degree, so why stop now?

Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why. 

The best is being able to express yourself.

The worst is editing.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?

I do both plotting and flying by the seat of my pants. I do plot out and outline my novels, and many of those outlines are decades old. Then when I execute the actually writing of the novel, the characters seem to get minds of their own and that changes out the story evolves.

Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.

I like to trap shoot clay pigeons. I do not like to hunt. I have done target shooting since I was a kid.

What are you writing at the moment?

This author interview questionnaire. Haha. The book I am working on is Terror on the Trailblazer, and I plan to be finished by Christmas 2017.

What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?

I have read too many badly written books by traditional publishers to ever believe that. They are good books, and there are bad books. Both can be found in indie or in traditional publishing. What I have yet to find is creative and new ideas in contemporary traditional publishing houses.  The dinosaur publishers seem to be sticking with Star Trek, Star Wars, and other homogenized and commercialized “proven products” which they know they will make money from.

If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?

No. The colony ships I write about are way too scary. Imagine a haunted house in deep space, and then compare that to my recliner and my home? I sure would like to see a movie made from my books. Maybe the Asylum Film Company will see this interview and contact me. Hey, producers!  Call me!

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?

No. I hate distraction like that. I either listen to music or I write. I cannot do both.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

How many other excellent indie writers are out there. Truly nice people willing to help and who write very good stories.

Tell me three unique things about you.

1) Educated as a Registered Nurse.

2) Love dogs.

3) Adore my daughters.

Sure, that does not sound too unique, and is common for other people.  But I do think my writing is unique and I hope readers do as well.  I write because I love to write, and for no other reason.

John, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!

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