Monday, 31 May 2010

INTERVIEW: Alex Scarrow

When you have a brother who's already an author, getting people to take you seriously for your writing is something thats always going to be a tricky.

What Alex has done however is establish himself not only in a seperate genre but with a concept thats so frighteningly realistic that the reader gets not only goose bumps but the feeling that someones walked over their grave.

Add to this not only a talent for Science Fiction but a newly established series in the Young Adult genre (Timeriders whose review can be viewed at Tatty's Treasure Chest) and you know that he's going to deliver something equally as good for readers of all ages.

Here we chat to Alex about changes, how he's adapted and what he wish he could have told himself when he was initially starting out...

Falcata Times: How would you say that your perspective has changed about selling your own work with multiple novels under your belt?

Alex Scarrow: Interesting question. When last time you interviewed me, I think I'd only just released A THOUSAND SUNS and was anxious for it to make as big a splash as possible, because my concern was that it might just be the one and only decent book I had in me. I look back now and feel mightily relieved that that wasn't the case. It's not uncommon for authors to find the biggest hurdle to be Book 2; wondering if their debut novel was merely a flash in the pan.

FT: How would you sell yourself as an author?

AS: A writer of hi-concept thrillers.

FT: How would you say that your experience of writing and publishing has changed your method's of writing?

AS: I don't think my writing has changed at all as a result of my dealings with publishers. Other than, of course, now that writing pays the bills, I'm a lot more disciplined. I write a first draft that is utterly abysmal and I would cringe at the thought of anyone slapping their eyes on. I then edit into a passable 2nd draft with feedback from my wife and my editor and a small cadre of beta readers, and then I polish to a golden sheen that fantastic 3rd draft that ends up in front of the general public.

FT: With the experience that you've gained now, what do you wish you could have told yourself when you were starting out that you now know?

AS: Series. Start with a series. Always. Absolutely. In summary....start with a series. It was difficult for me in that A THOUSAND SUNS, the book that got me published, really didn't have any series potential, so I was committed to writing standalone thrillers from the off. But...I was keen to get some sort of series on the go alongside the thrillers as quickly as possible, which is where TimeRiders came from. But...if I'd been smart, from the get-go, even before being a published writer, I should have led with something like TimeRiders.

FT: What characteristics of your protagonists do you wish that you had yourself and why?

AS: Nothing really....since I tend to like creating fallible protagonists. I like a 'hero' who stubs his toe during the chase, and whinges about it for the next five minutes. I like a hero who simply screws things up from time to time; who doesn't speak five languages and know seven martial arts; who can foil the bad guys and get the girl in the end. I'll go as far ast to say I despise books that cast the hero that way. I saw a film a couple of years ago that featured pretty much a perfect replica of the type of 'heroes' I usually have in my books; the movie was Children of Men and it was Clive Owen's character; a guy reluctantly trying to do the right thing, quite ineptly at times and totally out of his depth for the entire movie.

FT: Which of your characters are most like you and why?

AS: So...following on from the previous question main characters are all a bit like me. Obviously slightly younger, and probably fitter, but still guys who're more used to farting around behind a desk and answering emails than trading blows with bad guys.

FT: What of lifes little addictions could you not live without and why?

AS: Coffee. I used to smoke a pack a day (or more actually) but I quite 9 years ago. I do like a glass of red wine. And I do love my food.

FT: With regular trips for book tours around the country as well as to various Conventions, what is an absolute travel essential that you couldn't do without?

AS: My laptop. I tend to travel by train more than car, which presents me with perfect 1 or 2 hour slices of time to write. Bloody laptop batteries are rubbish though, aren't they?

FT: Previously you've had some problems when others have critised your work, how do you think you've changed to adapt to it or would you say that you're just the same?

AS: Really? I'm not aware I had problems with people criticizing my work. Obviously not everyone is going to like what you do. You'd be a very naive writer to expect that. Hmmm...I'm actually a little taken aback by that to try now and answer it, I guess I'm no different in my response to criticism - you get a bad review, you live with it. It really is daft to get angry if someone doesn't like what you write.

FT: On long journey's, reading is often the pleasure of choice, who's work will you grab at the airport to ensure a good journey?

AS: I still love Nevil Shute's writing; 'On the Beach, 'Requiem for a Wren' are classics for me. Stephen King's earlier books still have some magic.

FT: Out of all your novels, which is your favourite and why?

AS: I think LAST LIGHT and the soon to be published sequal, AFTERLIGHT, primarily because they're not just pieces of fiction, they're actually about an issue close to my heart; peak oil. But also because they feature characters who were inspired by members of my family. So it's very personal....and I still fill up when I read a certain chapter in each book.

FT: With everyone having thier own personal view as to who should be cast in a film version of thier work, who do you think should play your principle protaganists and why?

AS: I'd really grind my teeth if having sold the film rights to one of my books it ended up starring some pretty boy like Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise or Ashton Kercher. I'd far sooner have a Bob Peck, Clive Owen, Peter Postlethwaite, Martin Freeman, Kris Marshal (Love Actually, BT ads)...and on the Hollywood side, Joaquin Phoenix, and...and....nope that's it. Basically guys who look 'regular'.

FT: Authors are generally a superstitious lot and upon completion of novels follow a certain ritual, what is yours and how has it changed from the original?

AS: No ritual, I'm afraid No single cigar and a bottle of champers a la MISERY. It's usually a case of moving onto the next book to begin plotting. Or editing, or something.

FT: What was your impression of an authors lifestyle and status and how has that interpretation changed since you've published a number of books?

AS: I think like anyone else, I thought it would be a glamorous lifestyle full of wistful musing and fab parties. is partly, but in between the cool stuff are thousands of man-hours of tapping away on a keyboard in complete isolation. Which is about as unglamorous and depressing as it can get...hence I tend to take my laptop with me out of the house and into town to work in a cafe; at least that way I feel like I'm still part of the human race and not the last man on earth.

FT: What are the best words of wisdom or tip that you'd give to a new or soon to be published author?

AS: Listen closely... DO NOT ATTEMPT TO APE WHAT'S SELLING WELL RIGHT NOW. Got it? If you do, you'll be amongst a tidal wave of manuscripts all about the same ol' ****. The trump suit (even more so than good writing) is an original idea, or, atleast an original twist on an old idea. Seriously, by the time a concept has become mainstream (eg: Twilight, other 'Dark Romance' stuff) you've missed the boat.

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