A Night with Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane Book Signing

What better way to kick-start this blog after a foolishly-long hiatus (possibly known as blog death), than with my report on meeting (sort of) Neil Gaiman?

Well there’s no better way, now is there?

At this point I’d like to stress I met but didn’t interview him directly – that was taken care of on stage by a man from a newspaper (I forget which one). Gaiman at one point mentioned how these days less and less fans approach him to say they themselves are writers (aspiring or otherwise), and that when they used to, he would read their stuff on planes and write postcards back to them with his thoughts and praise, (in some instances he’d have to try to find something good to say). He has (understandably) less time to do that now. Less writers though? Nah. We’re all writers. Judging by the fact that the nerd* and the girl we were chatting to in the book-signing queue were both aspiring writers, I can only conclude that there must have been more in the auditorium. A lot more.

* As a geek I do not say this lightly.

I don’t want to talk too much about the craft of writing. There are shed loads of good blogs and great magazines out there. Maybe I’ll try in the future, but I’ll not preach. I’ll blog about themes, stuff in my genre (fantasy, real life weirdness), but I doubt I’ll lay it on too heavy like I thought I needed to before. I enjoy talking stories and structure, but I can’t keep that kind of thing up, or think what to write. In my defence I would state that – “I’m just a simple man trying to make my way in the Universe.” See? Even my quotes are ripped from less than stellar Star Wars films, though in truth I enjoyed Attack of the Clones, at least the first time I watched it on my Birthday in the cinema. Why? Well I’d be lying if I didn’t state that part of the reason was because it’s Star Wars and at the time (circa 2002), it was novel to have a Star Wars film to watch in the cinema on your Birthday (I dare say it’ll be more common in the next few years).

Anyway, last Friday I had the opportunity to see Neil Gaiman for an interview and signing of his new book, The Ocean at The End of the Lane. Me and half of Bath (and beyond!), I was soon to realise. Organised by the Topping and Company bookshop in Bath and originally scheduled to take place in a church (I can only assume they realised it wasn’t big enough), a colleague bought me a ticket to see him at The Forum (a conference and concert theatre venue). I later acquired another ticket and took my girlfriend along too. My colleagues had gone to interview him before the main event (we work for an Audiobook company, and may or may not be promoting something of his soon – I’ll post a link if, er, anything comes up). I got the rather shorter straw of carrying the real ale we’d bought for him the day before as a “thank you” for turning down other opportunities to see us, in between signing three to four hundred books (by the time the night was done, he’d be sitting proud on over a thousand and I would imagine, a hefty wrist cramp to boot). I would hasten to add that – at least from our side – there was no mention of the Duran Duran biography he once wrote.

The Forum’s a pretty big place, but then Gaiman’s a pretty big deal. Any self-respecting comic book guy/fantasy geek can tell you that. There were people with hats queueing around the corner, and I mention the hats because you could tell there was something fantasic going on. The scene reminded me of what an old (Wannabe) hip sixth-form teacher had explained the Star Wars queue was like when he was a lad. And that is bloody long.

Inside we grabbed cups of tea and sat at the front of the circle, sans new book which was already being circulated as I’d decided to wait for the queue to go down first of all. I realised not-quite immediately that it would take me bloody ages to get my copy signed.

Me and Neil Gaiman
Before I leaned in for a kiss.

The man himself entered the theatre after a brief introduction by a member of Topping to the sort of riotous applause you’d expect from a drunk crowd of festival-goers welcoming their favourite rock star on stage, but Neil Gaiman is a writer and the crowd were not allowed booze (boo, hiss!) in the theatre proper. No, these people loved him for being him, a writer. They got off on his charm, quick wit and charisma alone. He is tall, with a tangle of black hair. He sits very casually, like he’s having a beer with you in a pub, not sat in front of over a thousand people. And he’s married to Amanda Palmer. If they ever have kids they’ll be damn cool kids.

Excerpts from the book formed the bookends of the evening and the way he spoke casually as he leafed through the crisp pages to reach his starting point took me back to childhood and the joy of being read to, as if he was about to read a passage and then turn the book for me to see, and there’d be a big picture of what an Ocean at the end of a lane might look like. He didn’t, but I suppose given the subject matter of the book, that would have been fitting. My girlfriend made the very valid point of how he conveys a vast range of emotions with simple description and dialogue.

So what is The Ocean at the End of the Lane actually about? It is a book about childhood and being scared. With a beautiful cover (UK) depicting the silhouette of a boy swimming down from the surface into the stars (Google it), it’s hard not to judge simply by its awesome cover. We followed an unnamed seven year old boy narrator who may or may not be reliable (I’m halfway through, and things are certainly fantastical), and spends his days buried in books around his unnamed family. Then he meets the Hempstocks and Lettie, the little Hempstock girl who has been eleven for a very long time, with her duck-pond ocean, mother and ancient grandmother (who remembers when the moon first turned up). Then, following an incident with a lodger, all hell breaks loose and his family home becomes hellish, his only refuge becomes the Hempstock’s farm house, when he can escape there. So that’s sort of it, which is sort of vague, but hey, it is difficult not to give too much away.

‘I remember my own childhood vividly… I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.’
– Maurice Sendak, in conversation with Art Spiegelman, The New Yorker, 27 September 1993

This quote, featured at the beginning of The Ocean at the End of the Lane really encapsulates the story. That, burnt toast and childhood exploration (e.g. not simply walking down the garden path, but the million ways around it).

During the interview and audience question and answer session we learned how he came up with the story – a family car his dad flogged when he was a kid as his lodger died in it, which he turned into a protracted love letter to his wife Amanda Palmer (or something like that, now I write it, I think I got the wrong end of the stick perhaps). The letter turned into a novella, the novella turned into a novel and an exercise in writing like and remembering what it is to be a child and the associated magic, confounding situations and danger. Gaiman gave long, immediate and detailed answers to both the interviewer and the line of fans asking questions. We also learnt that Ursula Monkton’s name (a character in the book) is always used in full, like Mary Poppins and (perhaps more interestingly), that the HBO script of American Gods has one, maybe two floors to climb before it gets green lit. Neil cited Alan Moore as one of his biggest influences, saying Moore had showed him that the freedom he wanted when writing was, in fact, available and the people who told him no, you can’t do that, were wrong. This particularly interests me as I’m not keen on writing one genre, I like to mix things up and even if I never make a success of things and it makes life extremely difficult, I’d rather be free and less marketable than stifled and restricted in creative endeavours. Or perhaps I really am confused.

The answers were great and so were the questions. Why was he so good at writing women? Because 50% of the population were them, silly! Doctor Who – had he been asked? No. And on a female Doctor he had no opinion, only that it would probably be great as long as she was cool, which he mentioned was the only criteria for Doctor of the Who persuasion. He discussed his love for Norse mythology – it all goes wrong for them, which he likes.

We landed up queueing (near the back, thanks to my seating arrangement), for around two hours to get the book signed. Tired fans lounged in theatre seats, heads all in the same book, waiting their turn (or maybe they had nowhere else to go). We stood alongside a Canadian girl and a guy (the nerd**) with a bunch of big fantasy name signatures scrawled on the back of his Kindle in indelible marker where I just have stickers. At one point, when we’d all been stood queuing for about an hour and a half, Mr Gaiman stepped out of his seat and away from signing, to the front of the stage to the microphone. He motioned for all to sit, and accompanied it with the words – “sit the fuck down!”, explaining that everyone would feel a whole lot better about having been stood up for so long when they did. I’d been a little worried he’d say he had to go before we reached him, but no. He would sign everything for everyone, within reason. I got a little bit weirded out – what to say? What not to say? To say anything? And a little bit puzzled – are we supposed to meet our idols? Who was this guy – so confident with himself? Such a hero to so many? Why would he care if he’d inspired me? By the time I walked up he was half-blinded from flash photography and looked pretty exhausted. I didn’t tell him I was a writer, I didn’t tell him I enjoyed his books. I figured he could put two-and-two together given I’d queued all night. I didn’t get freaked out speaking to him. I just said thanks for a great night and he said sorry about the wait. We exchanged a few more lines and I was on my way, my shiny new book had some names in it, a little ghost he’d drawn and the signature of some man I met very briefly and shared one of thousands of mini-conversations he’d endured that night. I held the book close in the Topping bag I’d been given, it was raining outside, went home and went to sleep. It had been exhausting, and in the morning I had an ocean to explore.

** again, I say this not lightly, as a geek. He knew and he was damn proud of it.

JUPITER CHRONICLES: STEAMPUNK CHILDREN’S BOOK SERIES LAUNCHES THIS SEPTEMBER!

The other day I got contacted on my Facebook page by a lady called Stacey Aragon, Community Relations and Development Assistant for Leonardoverse, home of Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Children’s Book Author, Leonardo Ramirez (- phew!). Best known as the creator of the graphic novel, “Haven”, Lenny is also launching the upcoming kids’ steampunk adventure series, “The Jupiter Chronicles” this September. Please read on for more infor on the novel and expect my thoughts on it soon!

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

 

A war has been fought and lost by the Jovians. Now the answer to their freedom lies within the Great Red Spot and it’s up to Ian and Callie to uncover its secret.Jupiter Chronicles
It is the year 1892 and Ian and Callie Castillo have had to suffer the hardships of a single parent family since their father went missing five years ago. Since then Ian has refused to use the last gift that his father left the wounded boy; a telescope that sits collecting dust in the attic. When Callie decides to peer through its murky lens it activates the device and sends the Castillo’s to the steam-powered floating cities of Jupiter to rescue their father and free the Jovians before the Martians launch their final attack. What follows is the beginning of an era that will forever be known by its strange name…Steampunk. The Jupiter Chronicles series takes flight with the first book in the series… The Secret of the Great Red Spot.

Spring Hill, TN – July 9, 2012

 

HERE’S WHAT SOME ARE SAYING:

 

Mr. Ramirez demonstrates he has truly found his talent and voice with this incredibly well-crafted book. This is the kind of book that gets the imagination moving at any age, making it perfect for children. ~Catrina Taylor, Xarrok Recommends
Captivating story which keeps you going with intense action all the way throughout the book while lending itself to frank and open conversations about absent fathers.~ Anne Rucker, Educator
“It’s Steampunk Star Wars for adventure-loving kids!” ~Ann Wilkes, Science Fiction and Other ODDyseys

 

The Jupiter Chronicles: The Secret of the Great Red Spot

 

Release Date: September 15, 2012
ISBN-13:978-0615633336
ISBN-10: 0615633331
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012909740
Available in Paperback September 15, 2012
Available for eBook (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, B&N, Stanza, Palm Doc)

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 

Leonardo Ramirez is a writer whose joy first comes from being a husband and a dad and enjoying life with his family. Every Saturday morning is Dad’s turn to make breakfast with bacon, blueberry pancakes and cheese eggs on the menu. There’s nothing better in this world than spending time with family. Then it’s off to karate where he trains and teaches as a 2nd Degree Black Belt along with his family at the American Karate Academy.Leonardo Ramirez
Lenny has been writing for 20 years with his first published work released as a graphic novel titled, Haven. With books in hand Lenny made it a point to reach out to as many events as possible with appearances at GMX where he hosted numerous panels including one with James O’Barr (creator of The Crow), Nashville Comic Con, Outer Limits Comics, Fairy Tales Bookstore, Southern Festival of Books and Author’s Circle at the Williamson County Library. He also enjoys meeting with local high schoolers about their passion for creativity and reading for elementary aged kids. His work made one of the top ten best new releases for 2010 by Gelati’s Scoop and has been featured on Comics About Girls…by a Girl Podcast as well as The Columbia Herald, Playstation Comics, Megacomics Weekly, and many others.

 

Visit this link to get the book:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/212885
This includes Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others.

Author Interview with Kay Kauffman

SN: Sisters Noire (unless otherwise indicated, interviews conducted by Ed Evans).
KK: Kay Kauffman.

 

 

SN: Could you give us a little bit of background on you?

 

KK: By day, I’m a mild-mannered legal secretary.  By night, I wrangle words (and sometimes kids).  I’ve been spinning yarns of every kind for years – I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write.  The kids I wrangle?  There are four of them.  They keep my husband and me on our toes…and occasionally out of our minds.

 

SN: Generally what genre or genres does your work fall under?

 

KK: I’ve got a novel on submission called The Lokana Chronicles.  It’s a fantasy novel, but I’ve written in other genres, too.  I’ve dabbled in horror and post-apocalypse, both of which are not things I normally write, although I do enjoy reading horror (R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street series were childhood favorites).  I’ve also taken a stab at writing chick lit, though that was mostly confined to my hormone-fueled teenage years (why, yes, it is completely normal for world-famous boy bands to be wandering around some little-bitty piss-ant country town in the middle of the night and not be swarmed by screaming teenage girls).  Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot since then, although buried deep within those early novels – you know, underneath all the many and varied layers of crap – exist a nugget of coal worth polishing someday when my kids are all grown and I might realistically expect to have an hour or two to myself in which to polish said coal into diamonds.  Or at least polish them into something more than turds, anyway. 🙂

I’ve dabbled in poetry for as long as I can remember, favoring free verse and haiku over other forms, although I love sonnets and am determined to someday master the form.  I’ve written a few pieces of (awful) music for the flute, which I used to play passably well, and I did a stint as a journalist, among other things, for my local newspaper the summer after college.  I enjoyed that, but the hours were long, the pay was miserable, and the summer was hot.  The writing and the other two employees I worked with on a daily basis were great fun, though, especially as one was one of my best friends.

 

SN: I see you have written several short stories, can you tell me about these?

 

KK: I started writing short stories in order to work on getting to the point.  Brevity and I are not friends, you see.  I wanted to make my writing stronger by eliminating some of the unnecessary words in it, so I started by trying to write short stories.  I joined Twitter as an extension of this exercise, actually, but that’s another story.

Anyway, most of my short stories have been of the chick lit variety as romance was something I was sorely missing when I began this particular experiment.  They all pretty much follow the old boy meets girl, boy screws up, boy wins girl over in the end formula, only with the boy and girl roles reversed most of the time.

Then I joined Authonomy, a writing website run by HarperCollins.  I stumbled upon a forum thread called The Alliance of Worldbuilders, which I happily joined (we’re on our third thread now because we kept crashing the servers – the first thread was over 2000 pages long by quite a bit), and one of the regulars pointed me to a weekly flash fiction competition.  Last October they did a theme for the month, which was a departure from their normal anything-goes-so-long-as-it’s-under-1,000-words policy, and that’s when I started in with the horror writing.  I think I definitely improved my horror writing skills over the course of the month, but I’m still not sure that they’re all that great.  I think I’ll stick to reading horror and leave the writing of it to Stephen King.  He seems to know what he’s doing.

 

SN: Are you writing at the moment?

 

KK: I’m not writing much at the moment, except for blog posts and the odd poem.  Right now I’m working on a major revision of The Lokana Chronicles, as I’ve had a request from someone who wants to see the full manuscript, but they want me to make some serious revisions to it first.  The revisions they want will make the story stronger, so I’m happy to make them, but it’s a lot of work and with limited writing time, it means that caffeine – in any form I can get my hands on it – is my new best friend.  I’m eager to be done with the revisions so that I can move on to a new project, although I’m not sure what that will be just yet.  I’ve been toying with the idea of doing another project within Lokana, but I’ve also been toying with the idea of reworking one of those older manuscripts I mentioned earlier, even if it does mean a major, major rewrite.

 

SN: What inspired you to start writing?

 

KK: I really don’t know.  I remember when I was in second or third grade (I’d have been about eight) that there was this really neat diary (journal) in the school book order and I begged my mom to let me get it.  She ordered it for me and when it came, I was so excited that I went straight to my room and started writing in it.  I think I wrote all of three entries in it before it got left in the window seat with a balloon that promptly melted all over it, ruining the cover.  I never did fill all the pages, but I’ve been writing ever since.

A year or so later, we were assigned to write a story in school.  We had to illustrate them and everything in these blank hardcover books – I still have mine at home.  The teacher had them available in the school library for other students to check out; it was kind of a big deal.  She evidently thought mine was pretty good for an nine-year-old because she entered it into the University of Northern Iowa Young Writer’s Workshop that year.  A year later, my mom passed away and I used writing to cope.  I found that story in a box of old things and when I read it to my kids, I was surprised by how good it was.  I mean, it wasn’t a literary masterpiece or anything – it was called The Paperpunch Monster – but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.

 

SN: Can you share a little of your work with us?

 

KK: The following is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of The Lokana Chronicles.  Vegin, the Crown Prince of Lokana, has just returned from an outlying village, where he secured the hand of the woman he loves.  His parents, however, have arranged his marriage to the daughter of a wealthy nobleman and he returns from the home of his beloved’s parents to find out what lies in store for him:

 

“I had a wonderful evening, Vegin,” Amarah replied as they entered the library.

 

Tol and Enya exchanged elated smiles at Amarah’s remark.  Her mother, Danalla, was beside herself with excitement and her father’s face shone with relief.  “You two were certainly gone a long time,” Tol said.  “Did you get to know each other?”

 

“We did, Father.  And I still refuse to marry her.”

 

“You what?” the king roared after a moment of stunned silence.

 

“And I won’t marry him, either,” Amarah declared.

 

“What?” Arkin sputtered, his voice three octaves higher than normal.

 

“You just said you had a wonderful evening!” Danalla exclaimed.

 

“And I did.  Toqarnna Vegin is very nice, but I’m in love with Tornna.”

 

“Oh, not this again,” Arkin sighed.  “Amarah, we’ve been over this a thousand times.  That boy isn’t suitable for you!”

 

“Why not?  Because he’s not a prince?”  Amarah blushed as Vegin threw her a wry grin.  “Tornna is a good man, Father, and I’ll marry none other.”

 

“Your Highnesses, I apologize most sincerely for my daughter’s impudent behavior,” Arkin said, attempting damage control as he tried to hold himself together.  “I hope it won’t interfere with our agreement.”  He shot Amarah an icy glare.  “If you’ll excuse us, I need to have a word with my daughter.”  Though he led Amarah out of the room, much of their conversation was heard inside the library.

 

Danalla, having been left behind by her husband, looked as uncomfortable as everyone else felt.  “Do excuse me,” she nearly whispered as she quickly fled the room.

 

Once she had gone, Vegin seized the opportunity to discuss his feelings.  “Clearly she doesn’t want to marry me,” he began.

 

“She’s young and foolish.  She doesn’t know what she wants,” Tol said, irritated.  This wasn’t going at all the way he had planned.

 

“Don’t be so sure of that,” Enya said, a far-off look in her eye as she recalled her own youth.  “When we married, I wanted nothing to do with you, remember?  I had the same conversation with my parents that Amarah is having with hers.  I was wrong, of course, and so is she.  After all, parents do want what is best for their children and I know she will love you in the end, dear.  How could she not?”

 

“You really think it’s best for me to marry a complete stranger who has sworn to love another?  What possible good could come of that?”

 

“But she will love you one day, darling, I know it.  After all, I learned to love your father.”

 

Tol and Vegin both gaped in surprise at the queen, who was not normally so outspoken.  Tol was the first to speak as annoyance quickly replaced his shock.  “We haven’t the time for this right now, woman!  Vegin, the future of the monarchy is at stake here and I’ll not have you toying with me.”

 

“I am not toying with you, Father.  I will not marry Amarah.  She is in love with someone else and so am I.”

 

“Yes, yes, Leto, isn’t that her name?  Who is she?  Where is she from?” Tol demanded, leaving unasked the question he was most interested in having answered.

 

“Her name is Lipei.  She is from the House of Tolhana near Tobali.  She is the most wonderful being Kiala ever put on this earth and she is the only woman I will ever marry.”

 

“An Outlier?” Tol and Enya exclaimed in unison.  “You can’t be serious!” Enya added, horrified.  “Why, they’re barely civilized!”

 

“No son of mine is marrying a filthy peasant,” Tol declared.  “They’re at the heart of all the trouble in the kingdom.  I forbid you to see that girl again!”

 

“The Outliers aren’t the ones responsible for all the trouble, Father, you are!  They’re starving to death out there and you won’t lift a finger to help them.  What do you expect them to do?  You’ve left them no other choice but to revolt and if I were in their position, I would rebel, too.  I will marry Lipei, Outlier or not, and nothing you can say or do will stop me!” Vegin declared and stormed out of the library.

 

Tol threw his hands up in fury and glared at his wife.  “He’s your son!”

 

“Funny, I was about to say the same to you,” she retorted as her husband turned on his heel and followed their son from the room.

 

SN: What aspect of the writing process do you find most difficult and what do you do to try to combat this?

 

KK: Brevity.  Packing as big a punch with as few words as possible has never been a strong suit of mine, but I’m working on it.  Editing is also hard, but it’s worth it in the end.  I’m good at editing, but most of the time when I’m working on revising a project, I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall trying to get things to work.  I’m stubborn, so I don’t like to quit until I’m sure that it’s right (I strive for perfection, but I realize that it’s an unattainable goal, so I settle for right).

To combat these difficulties, I practice.  I’ve tried to hone my “Get to the point, already!” skills by joining Twitter, where if you can’t say what you want to say in 140 characters or less, well, you’d better figure out another way to say it, son, and by writing short stories.  Writing short stories led to writing flash fiction and, after writing flash fiction, I now have trouble writing short stories with 5,000-word limits without making the story feel ridiculously drawn out.  I think my experiment in honing my brevity skills has thus far been successful.

My husband has been immensely helpful in assisting my editing process.  My aforementioned attempt at writing post-apocalypse resulted in much hair-pulling (mine, not his), but the story was ultimately better for it and it’s due to be published sometime this year by Portmanteau Press in an anthology of short fiction.  It was supposed to be out this spring, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the publication date has been pushed back.  I can’t wait to hold that shiny, pretty book in my hands and squee like a teenage girl at a Bieber concert.

 

SN: Thank you Kay.

 

You can find Kay Kauffman on –

Facebook

Twitter

Suddenly they all died, Kay’s blog.

An interview with Dawn Rodgers

SN: Sisters Noire (unless otherwise indicated, interviews conducted by Ed Evans).

DR: Dawn Rodgers

 
SN: Hello Dawn. Could you give us a little bit of background on you?
DR: I’ve been writing novels since 1988 and had some success with writing competitions, but not had enough luck to get a publisher or agent interested.  I’ve self published a poetry book called Shuddersfield which is a poetry, prose and photographic book on my local town of Huddersfield.  I’ve also written a book of new words called the Anti-definitionary.

 

SN: Please briefly explain what it is you write.
DR: I mainly write novels, poems and songs.

 

SN: Generally what genre or genres does your work fall under?
DR: I mostly write sci-fi and fantasy novels, one fantasy for children and a Gothic comedy novel.  I’m currently writing folk songs as a break from novel writing.

 

SN: You mentioned that you have run weekend writing workshops, can you explain a little more about them?
DR: The writing workshops were all day events which included writing exercises on different subjects, then reading sessions and chats during breaks where we shared food.  I’ve not done any for a while but was thinking of starting them up again if I can get a good local venue.

 

SN: What inspired you to start writing?
DR: I believe that I’ve always been a writer, but couldn’t express my imagination until I learned to write.  I wrote my first scifi story when I was 8.  Since then I’m so full of ideas that I have to write them down to get them out of my head.

 

SN: What are your favourite books/films/TV shows and have they influenced your writing?
DR: I was an avid sci-fi fan as a child (and still am!) and was influenced by fantastic TV shows (Doctor Who & Blake’s 7 and Robin of Sherwood for that mystical element) and writers such as Harlan Ellison, Storm Constantine, Tanith Lee, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  For films it would be things like Bladerunner and Logan’s Run, but I do like blockbusters too.

 

SN: Do you have a specific writing style?
DR: I must have but I’m not sure what it could be described as, except that it is very dark and descriptive.  I tend to take normal stories and twist them and I never do happy endings, it never works out like that.  New Weird is possibly what it could be called, a mixture of urban modern chaos with very old fairy tales mixed in.

 

SN: Can you share a little of your work with us?
DR: Excerpt from my SciFi novel ‘Everybodies’ –

He could still see her pale pink eyes, as she fell away from him.  She hadn’t jumped, she had just stepped backwards off the roof of the building, and even though he was only a whisper away, he couldn’t reach her.
Operative William Haych found himself lying flat, his upper torso hanging half over the edge, his arms stretched out.  He was grabbing at nothing.  He blamed it on his age slowing him down, the aches that wouldn’t go away.  Her eyes were wide open, staring up at him.  There was a calm look on her face that met Haych’s panicked stare.  The distance between them stretched.

    He closed his blue eyes and tried hard not to imagine the sound of her head cracking on the concrete far below him, but he couldn’t help himself.
The worry lines on his forehead momentarily formed deeper ridges, the folded skin knitting his grey eyebrows.  He breathed out a long sigh.
When he opened his eyes, he could see her body far below on the roof of the next building as a dot, a red smear.  He didn’t even know her name.  The Remothery vehicles were a distant flash of red.  Before long he’s be able to hear the sirens wailing, but not yet.  Operative Haych picked himself up and dusted down his grey suit and overcoat.
The roof of the building where she had landed was a long way below him.  He carefully stepped back from the edge, to let his senses regain their balance.  Around him on the roof, cooling towers, water tanks and air vents stood out like turrets on a castle.
Haych looked away from the scene below, to the city around him.  Plexity stretched out, towers and spires to the horizon in all directions.  There seemed to be no edge to it.  Million of lights, each with their own little dramas beneath them.
    Haych looked up at the sky.  The sun only showed as a dull glow in the west.  Instead of joining the clearing-up below, he waited.  The sky bruised, the light scorching the clouds as the sun set.  Stars began to appear, some of them twinkling almost as much as the Hypercars and Hoverpods that soared above, circling down towards the city Hyperport.  Dark clouds gathered around the tallest spires of the star-scrapers.  The wind picked up and it began to rain thick drops.  Every alleyway and street, parapet and tower block added to the invisible eddies that breathed air through the city.  With slow eyes on the world, Haych watched, hardly feeling the rain on his skin.  He made his way inside the building.
From a descending elevator on the side of the building Haych watched Plexity come alive in the darkness.

    By the time Haych had reached the roof where the girl had landed, it was awash with flashing lights and sirens.  An area had been cordoned off around the body where it lay.  A Hypercar vehicle suddenly descended to Haych’s level.  Red warning lights flashed and a vibrating screech sounded as an alarm.  Haych knew the sound; he had heard it almost every day since he had joined CoHOD.  Even so, his heart always jumped at the noise of the wagon that collected the dead.  He waved briefly to the driver as the Remothery vehicle set down, and watched as the officers picked up what was left of the girl.  The back of her head was a mass of blood, blonde hair and broken skull, but again, Haych had to look, had to see the darker side of the city.
They lowered her into a Plasglas tank in the back of the vehicle with great care.  One of the hygiene-suited men pulled a thick tube from the side of the vehicle and placed it into the tank.      Haych watched as a blue, semi-liquid gloop began to fill the tank, covering the body.  The CryoGel liquid was then activated, freezing solid within a few seconds.  Haych sighed and headed to the other side of the building as the vehicle took off.

 

SN: What challenges have you faced in your writing? Is there anything you find particularly challenging in the writing process?
DR: I find it very hard to reduce the essence of a novel to it’s bare minimum.  I don’t like writing synopsies or outlines because I rarely stick to them if I write them before and think that something is missing from them if I do them afterwards.  Dialogue is another challenge to me to get down on paper; unique voices.  I’ve found it difficult to sell myself to agents and publishers but each time I try I get better.

 

SN: Do you have a typical writing routine?
DR: Unfortunately not.  I’m sometimes very slack and then will do a lot of work in a very short time.  I try to balance this by carrying a notebook so if I think of anything I’ll write it down and once a year I do try to write a novel in November from all the notes that have built up over the year.  I don’t always succeed.

 

SN: What motivates you to write?
DR: I write because I feel I have to.  The ideas I get can be like a curse and the only cure is to get them out of my head by writing them down.  The strange thing is that I don’t remember everything that I’ve written when I read it back years later.  If I didn’t have my imagination then my life would be empty.

 

SN: Do you have any advice for fellow writers?
DR: Yes, keep writing things down and when you’ve finished your story or novel or poem, edit it before you send it out, then send it out and forget it and write something else.  Repeat until someone notices your work.

 

SN: You mentioned to me that you have recently written folk songs, it sounds like you are a real creative. Is your past musical, too, or is this just something you have just decided to try more recently?
DR: The song writing is a new thing.  I met a friend through a friend who re-introduced me to folk music and encouraged me to sing in public after not doing that since I had been at school (nearly 30 years before) and he was writing a song a month and I thought that it couldn’t be harder to do than poetry so i tried and ended up writing a few good songs (and some bad ones and silly ones) and then singing them myself to crowded rooms and some notable singer/songwriters taking notice and liking the songs.  I had also taken part in Huddersfield literature write an album in a day and was really happy with what the singer had done with my poem/song that it encouraged me to try it out again.  It is harder than poetry and more repetitive but more fun too.